Indian-origin Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria has returned an award he received from the Jewish group Anti-Defamation League over its opposition towards the Ground Zero mosque.
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 USD 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 US 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 Center 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 judgement, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right," ADL said in a statement.
The plan is being pushed by a Kuwaiti-born Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and will cost a USD 100 million.
Parties that oppose the building a mosque, which will be called Cordoba House, insist this project us 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.