Former President Bill Clinton said recently that he believes an Islamic cultural center proposed to be built near Ground Zero in New York City is an action that should go forward under the First Amendment.
"I have an almost radical view on the First Amendment, I believe that people should be free to practice their faith," Clinton said in a YouTube interview.
"It's clearly a decision for the city of New York to make," Clinton continued, adding, "I think they ought to be able to do it."
Clinton went on to acknowledge that the nature of the location makes the debate difficult and emotionally charged.
"We should be sensitive to the fact that a lot of Americans are still really hurting over what happened at Ground Zero, and that we still have security threats in the world," Clinton said, arguing that Al-Qaeda should be the real target, not moderate Muslims.
Though Clinton seemed to stand behind the legality and concept of the Park51 project, he did admit that its organizers may have stumbled in messaging the initiative.
"I think much, maybe even most of the controversy of this decision could have been avoided and perhaps still can be if the people who want to build this center were to simply say we are dedicating this center to all the Muslims who died on 9/11," Clinton said. "I think most Americans may still not know that there was a substantial number of Muslims killed on 9/11."
According to a Council on American-Islamic Relations analysis (.PDF link) of the 9/11 victims list, 32 Muslims perished on that day.