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Obama calls for religious tolerance

President Obama gave an impassioned call on Friday for tolerance and better relations between Muslims and non-Muslims at home and abroad, defending the “inalienable rights” of those who worship Islam to practice their religion freely.

He made his statements as protests and violence continued in Afghanistan, set off by the plans of a Florida preacher, now suspended, to burn Korans on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and against the backdrop of the controversy in New York over a proposed mosque near ground zero.

While Mr. Obama cast the issue in terms of American national security and the impact of assaults on Islam in this country on American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, he also said that national security was not the only prism through which the issue should be viewed.

“We’ve got millions of Muslim Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country,” Mr. Obama said. “They’re going to school with our kids. They’re our neighbors. They’re our friends. They’re our co-workers. And when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them?”

New York Times, 10 September 2010

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