Indian-origin Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria has returned an award he received from the Jewish group Anti-Defamation League over its opposition towards the proposed mosque at Ground Zero in New York. Zakaria returned the Jewish group's Hubert H Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize, which was presented to him in 2005.
"I was thrilled to get the award from an organisation that I had long admired. But I cannot in good conscience keep it anymore. I have returned both the handsome plaque and the $10,000 honorarium that came with it. I urge the ADL to reverse its decision. Admitting an error is a small price to pay to regain a reputation," Zakaria wrote in a letter.
The debate about a building a mosque on the Ground Zero site has been raging in the United States for several months dividing New Yorkers, families of the victims of 9/11, civil society organisations and politicians.
This week, the project received the green light from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which voted 9-0 for the construction to begin. The following day, The American Centre for Law and Justice, a conservative advocacy group, sued to halt the construction. The Jewish group has also vehemently opposed the mosque.
"But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Centre in the shadow of the World Trade Centre will cause some victims more pain unnecessarily and that is not right," ADL said in a statement.
The plan is being pushed by Kuwaiti-born Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and will cost $100 million. Parties that oppose the building of a mosque, which will be called Cordoba House, insist this project is inappropriate since the terrorist attacks were carried out by extremist Muslims.
Abraham H Foxman, ADL National Director, wrote in a response letter to Zakaria that he was "saddened but stunned and somewhat speechless" by the decision to return the prize.
"As someone I greatly respect for engaging in discussion and dialogue with an open mind, I would have expected you to reach out to me before coming to judgment," he said.