President Obama threw his support behind a controversial proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near New York's ground zero, saying Friday 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," Obama said at a White House Iftar dinner celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The president's remarks drew praise from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who announced his support for the Islamic center last week.
Bloomberg compared Obama's speech to a letter President George Washington wrote in support of a Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island. "President Obama's words tonight evoked President Washington's own august reminder that 'all possess alike liberty,' " Bloomberg said in a statement.