Washington, Aug 14 (ANI): US President Barack Obama has strongly backed the building of a proposed Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero in Manhattan, two blocks away from the site of the September 11 terror attack on the World Trade Center, saying that America's commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable and "Muslims should enjoy the same rights" as believers of any other religion in the country.
"As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country." The New York Times quoted Obama, as saying.
Although, he said, he understands the emotions that this issue engenders as 'Ground zero' is a hallow ground, he insisted that people of all faiths would be treated equally in America.
"This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are," he added.
Obama made the comments at an annual dinner in the White House State Dining Room celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Last week, the New York authorities removed the final construction hurdle for the project, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg spoke forcefully in favour of it.
Meanwhile, aides to Obama have revealed that the President had always felt strongly about the proposed community center and mosque, but the White House did not want to weigh in until local authorities made a decision on the proposal. (ANI)