Muslim leaders from across the country gathered in New York on Monday to express their support for plans to build a mosque near New York City's Ground Zero.
Leaders from various Muslim organizations likened the people who want the mosque built elsewhere to those who insisted civil rights icon Rosa Parks give up her seat on a segregated bus in 1955.
"We 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," the Muslim leaders said in a statement delivered at the Park51 construction site in Manhattan.
The groups are urging interfaith talks in New York City to address the outcry over the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero.
During a press conference Monday, organizers said a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment has accompanied the nationwide debate over the mosque project, to be called "Park51." They have asked for a "week of dialogue" beginning Oct. 22, during which Muslims will have open houses at their places of worship in order to try to ease tensions.
Members of the Islamic Society of North America and the Council on American-Islamic Relations were among the groups represented at the press conference.
"This might indeed be another teachable moment for America," said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom, a Washington, D.C.-based group.
Developers behind the Ground Zero mosque did not attend the news conference.