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President Obama Tries To Quell Mosque Comments Backlash

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Proposed Mosque Site Near Ground Zero

The proposed Mosque site near ground zero (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBS 2) — The president created a firestorm of reaction when he showed support for the Ground Zero mosque Friday night. This weekend, as CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reports, he’s clarifying his comments.

President Obama said he supports the right of Muslims to build it there, but wouldn’t say whether he thinks it is a good idea. “I will not comment on the wisdom of the decision to put a mosque there.  I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding,” he said.

Some criticize the president for turning an emotionally charged issue into an academic one. Long Island Congressman Peter King came out swinging.

“The Muslim community has absolute right to build a mosque anywhere.  The government cannot stop them.  But along with the right, they have responsibility, and the responsibility of the Muslim community is to reach out to New York, to all those families who had loved ones killed on September 11,” he said.

Retired FDNY Chief Jim Riches lost his son on 9/11 and said the controversy has nothing to do with freedom of religion and everything to do with sensitivity for those killed in the attacks.

“Historically they’ve put mosques where they’ve had their conquests and I think they’re doing that here,” said Chief Jim Riches.

But not all the 9/11 families feel that way. Tala’at Hamdani’s son also died in the attacks.

“I’m very proud of him that he’s standing by all his citizens, irrespective of their faith and race and ethnicity,” she said.

The Muslim community said its goal is and always has been to serve Lower Manhattan.

The planned center, Park51,  includes a mosque, library, fitness facilities, restaurant, and a September 11 memorial that will be open to the public.

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