Washington: US President Barack Obama, who strongly backed the building of a proposed Muslim community centre and mosque near ground zero in Manhattan, has defended his decision to wade into the controversy the night before, but backed off from his previous stance.
“In this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion,” Obama said when asked about his remarks at a White House dinner on Friday marking the start of Ramadan.
He did, however, insist that his defence of the organisers’ right to build the mosque did not mean he endorsed the project, Politico reports.
“I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” Obama said.
“I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That`s what our country is about. And I think it’s very important as difficult as some of these issues are that we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about,” he said.
Families of victims of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, as well as prominent Republicans, have criticised Obama for saying on Friday that he supports building a mosque near Ground Zero, Politico reports.