Obama Says He's In Favor Of Islamic Center At Ground Zero

NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS) — There were growing tensions Friday between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Gov. David Paterson.

The mayor doesn’t like the governor’s suggestion that the ground zero mosque be moved elsewhere.

READ MORE: NYPD: Delivery Worker Stabbed To Death, E-Bike Stolen Near Sara D. Roosevelt Park

Now it appears neither does President Barack Obama.

The president came out in favor of the mosque plan on Friday, saying that Muslims had the same right to practice their religion as anyone else.  The president made his remarks at a dinner at the White House celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

“As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country,” Obama said, weighing in for the first time on a controversy that has riled up New York City and the nation.

“That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances,” he said. “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”

Mayor Bloomberg issued the following statement in response to the president’s remarks:

“Two hundred and twenty years ago this week, the Father of Our Country penned his famous letter to the Jewish Community of Newport, Rhode Island or, as he called them, ‘the Children of the Stock of Abraham.’ President Obama’s words tonight evoked President Washington’s own August reminder that ‘all possess alike liberty.’ As I said last week, this proposed mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan is as important a test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime, and I applaud President Obama’s clarion defense of the freedom of religion tonight.”

In taking a stand, the President is fighting a rising tide of opposition to the so-called Cordoba House proposed for Park Place, a short walk from where the twin towers fell, CBS 2’s Lou Young reports.

And while Mayor Bloomberg welcomed the president’s support, opponents are disappointed with his comments.

Sally Reganhard, who lost a son on 9/11, told Young the issue was not “religion or terrorism,” but rather a “total lack of sensitivity. ”

The Bloomberg-Paterson squabble picked up steam late this week. Hizzoner was apparently too polite to tell Paterson to butt out the other day, when the state’s top dog stood beside him and suggested moving the ground zero mosque.

But on Friday it was gloves off — no more Mr. nice guy, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

READ MORE: Gabby Petito Foundation Holds Fundraiser On Long Island

LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports

“The governor really does try to make our lives better but this … probably not the number one expertise that he has is in site selection, and that’s a nice way to put it,” Bloomberg said on his radio show.

Going mano-a-mano, Bloomberg trashed Paterson’s suggestion, saying giving them state land wouldn’t hold up in court.

“I didn’t understand the governor’s offer because I thought the law was you can’t give away state property,” Bloomberg said.

But Paterson didn’t give an inch.

“The governor is trying to help diffuse a situation that has become quite tense,” said a spokesman.

The developers have said they’re willing to at least talk to the governor, but some people who attended Friday worship services at the ground zero mosque said they didn’t see the point.

“It’s not just moving the mosque somewhere. There’s no mosque around. We have thousands of Muslims working around here. If there’s no mosque there’s no where to pray,” Bronx resident Sheik Barry said.

“We are citizens. We are U.S. citizens. We are allowed to be wherever we want to be to worship. I think we have the right to do that,” said Idi Idrissa of Columbia, N.J.

“It is not me to make a decision. It is not me. It is the almighty. If he wishes he can give us a place here. If he wishes he can give anywhere,” added Mirza Asab Baig of East Brunswick, N.J.

“I think that the governor doesn’t realize that the lead opposition to the mosque being where it is is a federally recognized hate group. They’re like our KKK,” said Zead Ramadan of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of New York.

Even with the involvement of the mayor and the governor it doesn’t look like this is an issue that is going to be settled any time soon.

Meanwhile, the imam of the mosque, Faisal Abdul Rauf, is setting off next week on a two-week trip to the Middle East funded by the State Department. He’ll be visiting Bahrain, Doha and Abu Dhabi.

MORE NEWS: Sharee Jones Charged With Arson, Hate Crime After Fire At Brooklyn Yeshiva

(TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)