President Barack Obama respects the view of anyone -- including top Democrat Harry Reid -- who disagrees with him over the mosque to be built near the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist strikes in New York, his spokesman said Tuesday.
Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader who is fighting a tough reelection battle in Nevada, said Monday through a spokesman that he believes the mosque and Islamic community center should be built someplace else.
"If you look at what the president said on Friday night, he respects the right of anybody -- Democrat, Republican, independent -- to disagree with his opinion on this," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton when asked about Reid's remarks regarding the mosque.
Reid "is a fiercely independent individual; it's one of his strengths as a leader of the Democratic Party. So the president feels completely fine that he might disagree," said Burton, speaking aboard the plane taking Obama to Seattle, on the northwestern US Pacific coast.
Obama on Friday said that Muslims "have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And 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.
A day later, Obama clarified that he was not commenting on "the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there," a location he acknowledged as "hallowed ground."
Republicans have denounced the planned construction on grounds that building a Muslim place of worship near the place where Islamist extremists attacked the United States is offensive to the victims of 9/11.
© AFP 2013