By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Former President Bill Clinton strongly supports Park51, the mosque and community center planned near Ground Zero, he said in an interview posted on YouTube Sunday.
"I believe people should be free to practice their faith," Clinton told Steve Grove, YouTube’s head of news and politics.
"What the Muslim group wants to do is to build a community center near Ground Zero," Clinton continued. "It’s clearly a decision for the city of New York to make. The mayor supports it and they’ve gotten the requisite approvals, so I think they ought to be able to do it."
Clinton also had a suggestion for the builders of Park51.
"Much or even most of the controversy…could have been avoided, and perhaps still can be, if the people who want to build the center were to simply say, 'We are dedicating this center to all the Muslims who were killed on 9/11,'" Clinton said.
Dedicating the center to the Muslim victims would show that "not all Muslims are terrorists," Clinton said, and it could help unite all the family members of 9/11 victims in a common cause of remembrance. Many 9/11 family members have been outspoken in opposition of the center.
"We’ve all forgotten: There were a lot of Muslims killed on 9/11," Clinton said.
Clinton’s comments were part of a larger 25-minute interview with Grove. The question about Park51 was submitted by a San Diego resident.