The proposed Park51 Islamic community center in lower Manhattan has become an incredibly "inflamed and emotional" issue, says Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the project's chairman, in The New York Times. Despite the divisive rhetoric aimed at the project, however, the initiative's true purpose is "to cultivate understanding among all religions and cultures," not to drive us apart or disrespect the victims of 9/11. In fact, the support from leaders like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already "sent a powerful message about what America stands for, and will be remembered as a milestone in improving American-Muslim relations." But the bridge-building is far from over. I hope "all Americans" can "rise to this challenge," writes Rauf, and help close the gap once and for all. An excerpt:

We are proceeding with the community center, Cordoba House. More important, we are doing so with the support of the downtown community, government at all levels and leaders from across the religious spectrum, who will be our partners. I am convinced that it is the right thing to do for many reasons...

Our broader mission — to strengthen relations between the Western and Muslim worlds and to help counter radical ideology — lies not in skirting the margins of issues that have polarized relations within the Muslim world and between non-Muslims and Muslims. It lies in confronting them as a joint multifaith, multinational effort.

Read the full article at The New York Times