Radio host Michael Berry reacts to complaint

HOUSTON The debate centers around a 13 story mosque and cultural center planned for a site near Ground Zero in New York City. Critics have blasted the plans as a slap in the face -- disrespectful to the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks. Supporters have said the mosque will promote diversity and tolerance in the community.

However you look at it, there is no doubt it has people talking, and those emotions spilled over during a local radio talk show.

The heated debate has grabbed national attention and at the center of some of the latest remarks is conservative Houston talk show host and former city councilman Michael Berry. It started Wednesday with a caller supportive of the planned mosque that's to be built near where the twin towers once stood. That's when Berry fired back.

He said, "I'll tell you this. If you do build a mosque, I hope somebody blows it up."

Berry's comments on the airwaves sent a wave of shock throughout the Muslim community.

Rafi Khan with the Council on American Islamic Relations asked, "What if he had said, 'I hope a synagogue gets blown up or I hope a church gets blown up?'"

The Council on American Islamic Relations released a statement condemning any calls for acts of violence against houses of worship. They've also filed a formal complaint with the FCC.

Berry released his own statement of apology saying, "While I stand by my disagreement of the building of the mosque on the site, I should not have said 'I hope someone blows it up.' That was dumb, and beneath me. … I went too far. For that, I apologize to my listeners."

Houston Muslim Mehmet Tanis explained, "Mosques are places where people are connecting with God and trying to actually be at peace."

Tanis and Khan agree a mosque near Ground Zero could be a centerpiece for dialogue, one that could ease religious rifts, following a painful tragedy for Muslims and non-Muslims, alike.

Khan said, "If anything it should be seen as a gesture of, you know, peace and kind of a message to non-Muslims in America that says, 'Hey, we're not like these people who committed these attacks. We're peace loving people.'"

But that's the crux of the argument from many conservatives here in Houston and around the nation, that such a mosque would be too close to the 9/11 attack site.

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