By Gabriela Resto-Montero
CITY HALL – Muslims have as much right to build a place of worship as any other religion, even if it’s next to Ground Zero, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in his strongest defense yet of controversial plans for a downtown mosque.
"What is great about America, and particularly New York, is we welcome everybody, and if we are so afraid of something like this, what does that say about us?' Bloomberg said Friday, according to the New York Post.
Community Board 1 approved construction of the mosque, called Cordoba House, at 45 Park Place in Lower Manhattan at a contentious meeting Tuesday where members of 9/11 victims spoke out against the project.
In response to the decision, the conservative group "Stop the Islamization of America" called for a protest June 6 at Zucotti Park.
Authorities revoked the group's permit Thursday after the city learned the event would not be a gathering for 9/11 families, as it was initially pitched, but a protest against the mosque, a person close to the permitting process told DNAinfo.
Bloomberg argued the mosque's construction is an issue of religious freedom.
"Democracy is stronger than this," he said. "You know the ability to practice your religion was one of the real reasons America was founded. And for us to just say no is just, I think, not appropriate is a nice way to phrase it."
The mosque still has to be approved by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission. Up to 1,500 Muslims are expected to worship at the building when it is completed.