By Arun Kumar
Washington, Aug 21 (IANS) The reigning Miss USA has come out against the Ground Zero mosque, saying "it shouldn't be so close" to the site of the Sep 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York.
The 24-year-old Rima Fakih, is the first Muslim winner of the Miss USA contest and is preparing for the Miss Universe Pageant, scheduled for Monday in Las Vegas.
"I totally agree with President Obama with the statement on Constitutional rights of freedom of religion," Fakih told "Inside Edition" Friday as cited by the New York Post.
"I also agree that it shouldn't be so close to the World Trade Centre. We should be more concerned with the tragedy than religion."
Meanwhile, the defiant wife of the cleric behind the planned mosque near Ground Zero has vowed to go ahead with the project-calling it a "history-making moment" in the fight against "Islamophobia".
Daisy Khan, who founded the project along with her husband, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, said the increasing opposition - which she blamed on Republicans - has only caused organisers to become more committed.
"There is too much at stake, constitutional rights, the development of the Muslims here, how the world is watching the United States. We tell people America upholds religious freedom. We should not compromise those values," she said in an interview with The Washington Post.
Khan said the organisers "will have a dialogue" with the families of 9/11 victims, but added about the mosque site: "It is private property. To walk away without taking everything into consideration would be irresponsible."
She claimed that there has been little interest in her project from Muslims outside the US, but said that might change since her husband began his tour of the Middle East.
A State Department spokesman said that Rauf might speak about the mosque during the tour.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he talks about the ongoing debate within the United States, as an example of our emphasis on religious tolerance and resolving questions that come up within the rule of law," said department spokesman P.J. Crowley.
Rauf, who has been on several State Department tours, including two under former President George W. Bush, is not allowed to fund-raise on the trip.