WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama defended the plan to build a mosque near the site of the 2001 terror attacks in New York, telling Muslim guests at a Ramadan dinner at the White House that the nation’s commitment to freedom of religion “must be unshakable.”
Mr. Obama’s remarks came after weeks of the White House sidestepping the debate that has roiled New York and the nation since developers announced plans to build a $100 million, 13-story mosque and Islamic cultural center just two blocks from the World Trade Center site.
Opponents, particularly conservatives, have called the proposed mosque an affront to those who died in the attack by Islamist terrorists.
The president, in his prepared remarks for the Friday evening event, said, “I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.