While a cacophony of extreme views has coloured the debate on the "Ground Zero mosque" and the role of the Islamic religion in America more generally, a rising crescendo of moderate opinion is equally striving to pull the country back from the abyss of intolerance and bigotry.

This week a group of religious leaders congregated in Washington to hold an "emergency summit" to condemn "the derision, misinformation and outright bigotry" targeting Muslims in the United States. A New York Times report quoted one of the leaders, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, saying, "This is not America... America was not built on hate."

The Christian, Jewish and Muslim preachers jointly affirmed, the report added, that that they were "alarmed that the anti-Muslim frenzy and attacks at several mosques had the potential not only to tear apart the country, but also to undermine the reputation of America as a model of religious freedom and diversity."

Also this week, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man at the very centre of the Cordoba House Initiative, the Islamic centre to be built two blocks away from the site of the 9/11 attacks, spoke out on the issue in an op-ed in the New York Times.

In the article, Imam Rauf said that while he was "sensitive to the feelings of the families of victims of 9/11", he would proceed with plans to build the centre because if he did not, "we cede the discourse and, essentially, our future to radicals on both sides".

His comments also came closely on the heels of sharp criticism levelled against Terry Jones, a pastor from Florida church, for promising to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks this year.

Reflecting possible international repercussions of the proposed action of the pastor, even General David Petraeus, leading U.S. forces in Afghanistan, warned this week that it would "undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence". He added that this would certainly endanger the lives of American soldiers, a sentiment reflected by comments from the White House and State Department as well.

The inter-faith congregation also denounced the radical approach of Mr. Jones, saying in their joint statement, "We are appalled by such disrespect for a sacred text that for centuries has shaped many of the great cultures of our world."

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