New York Gov. David Paterson and Archbishop Timothy Dolan on Tuesday called for peaceful dialogue in the ongoing discussions about plans to build an Islamic community center and mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks in Manhattan.
After a meeting with Paterson, the New York archbishop told reporters at a news conference that he and the governor agreed that people needed to not "be in one another's faces, but to kind of step back and take a sane look at things."
Speaking two days after several opponents and supporters squared off near the site of the proposed project, Dolan said, "What we do not need are protests, but promoters of dialogue."
Though neither Paterson nor Dolan took a public stance on where the proposed $100-million community center and mosque should be built, both acknowledged the strong feelings on both sides.
Critics say building a mosque near the former World Trade Center site is insensitive to the nearly 3,000 people who died in the Sept. 11 attacks. Supporters cite religious freedom.
Dolan said the controversy was a "very delicate issue," and both sides had legitimate stances. "I would say this seems to be an issue where there are two goods," he said.
Dolan did not directly offer to mediate a new plan for the center, but did say that he and Paterson were willing to be "at their service" if the developers wanted to discuss the issue further.
"We're making an appeal. We're not telling anyone what to do with their rights; we don't do that in this country," Paterson said at an earlier news conference.
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has defended the project and reiterated his support at a Ramadan dinner he hosted Tuesday night. According to a transcript of his remarks, Bloomberg told his guests, "Today we are not at war with Islam — we are at war with Al Qaeda and other extremists who hate freedom."
The mayor also said that not building the mosque would compromise America's commitment to fighting terrorism.
"We would send a signal around the world that Muslim Americans may be equal in the eyes of the law, but separate in the eyes of their countrymen," he said. "And we would hand a valuable propaganda tool to terrorist recruiters, who spread the fallacy that America is at war with Islam."