National and local Muslim leaders held a one-day summit on Park 51 Monday, voicing support for the proposed mosque and Islamic community center. The group released a statement, saying its signatories "stand for the constitutional right of Muslims, and Americans of all faiths, to build houses of worship anywhere in our nation as allowed by local laws and regulations."
But in recognition of the fact that substantial public opposition to Park 51 exists, they're also calling for a "Week of Dialogue" next month, when mosques across the country would be open to non-Muslims.
The head of the Council on American Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, says he's hoping to end a cycle of hate speech and anti-Muslim violence by encouraging more reasonable discussion and interfaith dialogue.
"And that's why we're opening this to a true and open conversation among Americans on how to shape this project to reflect what America is," he said, while standing with other Muslim leaders, in front of the future site of Park 51.
Other participants in the summit included the Islamic Society of North America and the North American Imams Federation. The Week of Dialogue is scheduled for October 22nd through the 24th.
In addition to encouraging discussion, the group is calling on politicians to denounce anti-Islamic rhetoric. The issue, according to speakers, has gone well beyond Park 51 and lower Manhattan, and extends to communities across America where mosques are being opposed.