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Obama backs Ground Zero mosque; developer open to move

(JTA) — The developer of a proposed mosque near Ground Zero said it would consider building elsewhere a day before President Obama defended its right to build there.

New York Gov. David Paterson last week raised the idea of building the mosque on a different site, possibly offering state-owned land. Paterson does not oppose the current location

"We are open to a conversation to find out more on what the governor has in mind," the center, Park 51, said in a Twitter post Aug. 12, the New York Daily News reported.

Mosque developer Sharif El-Gamal, the CEO of Soho Properties, has said the group is interested in hearing from Paterson.

Obama said last Friday during a White House dinner in honor of Ramadan that "As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. 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.

"This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable."

Obama added Saturday that he "will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there."

Park 51, which will include a mosque as well as a 13-story Muslim cultural center, will be located at 45-47 Park Place, two blocks from Ground Zero. Jewish groups have come down on both sides of the debate.
 

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