Retired Justice John Paul Stevens expressed support Thursday for a planned Islamic community center near the site of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, urging religious and ethnic tolerance.

“American Muslims should enjoy the freedom to build their places of worship wherever permitted by local zoning laws,” the retired Supreme Court jurist said at a luncheon where he was honored by the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation.

The 90-year-old said his experiences as a veteran of World War II, when the United States was fighting Japan, have given him insight over the years into the need to combat “invidious prejudice.”

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