(Mosque article updated with additional information and commentary.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A summit of local and national Muslim leaders met to discuss the controversially proposed building of a mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero.

"We stand for the constitutional rights of Muslims, and Americans of all faiths, to build houses of worship anywhere in our nation as allowed by local laws and regulations," Imam Al-Amin Latif, president of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, told reporters Monday outside the mosque site on Park Place.

The group, which included the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Muslim Alliance of North America and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called for tolerance and condemned what they called "ethnic bigotry."

The last time the group of Muslim leaders convened for a special gathering of this kind was two decades ago with the purpose of formulating a response to the Gulf War.

"Ground Zero belongs to all Americans," said Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who pointed out that there were Muslim victims on 9/11 and Muslim first responders.

The group expressed concern over the wave of anti-Muslim sentiment that has grown in recent weeks, and called for a "National Week of Dialogue," to take place around the weekend of Oct. 22 through Oct. 24, when Muslims will hold open houses at their places of worship to promote understanding.

Last week, an eccentric chess-loving Russian named Kirsan Ilyumzhinov became the latest player to enter the ongoing drama surrounding the potential mosque building.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Ilyumzhinov, the head of the World Chess Federation, said Thursday he bid $10 million for the site where the mosque is meant to be built in lower Manhattan.

lyumzhinov said he sent a letter on FIDE's behalf to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg "with an offer to buy this land for $10 million," according to a report from the RIA Novosti news agency.

He said the land would be used for an international chess center and academy.

"We named the sum of $10 million because last week billionaire Donald Trump gave an offer of $7.5 million and we decided to outdo him," RIA Novosti reported.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump tried and failed to quell the drama surrounding the potential center. The real estate billionaire offered to buy out investor Hisham Elzanaty's stake in the development property, saying he would pay a 25% premium to whatever Elzanaty paid for his portion of the real estate partnership that controls the site.

Elzanaty's lawyer Wolodymyr Starosolsky called Trump's bid "just a cheap attempt to get publicity and get in the limelight."
Donald Trump

Critics say building the mosque in such close proximity to the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center would be insensitive to the victims and families of nearly 2,800 people who died. Advocates of the plan defend the right to build an Islamic center near the WTC site as a reflection of religious freedom.

Trump had said he was "making this offer as a resident of New York and citizen of the United States, not because I think the location is a spectacular one (because it is not), but because it will end a very serious, inflammatory, and highly divisive situation that is destined, in my opinion, to only get worse."

Elzanaty is one of eight investors involved in the 13-story Islamic center.

Trump's offer to buy Elzanaty's stake came with conditions. As part of the deal, the mosque's developers would have to promise to build any new mosque at least five blocks further away from the WTC site. The current site is two blocks north of Ground Zero.

The proposed site for an Islamic cultural center near ground zero in New York.

Trump called Elzanaty a "low level real estate guy" who was trying to "bludgeon" the American people into buying his property for far more than it was worth."

In an appearance on MSNBC he cautioned that "you're going to have riots in the streets over this situation," and said the ill will created by the situation is "incredible."

It's unclear how much control Elzanaty has over the property, which is owned by an eight-member investment group led by Soho Properties, but his response was unequivocal.

Elzanaty said he remains committed to the idea of having a mosque built on at least part of the property.

" Trump knows what the value of the building is. If he were really interested in buying the building, he would have come forward with at least $20 million," Starosolsky said.

In a pair of interviews with the AP this month, Elzanaty said he had invested in the site with an intention of making a profit and was willing to half the land for private development, and maybe all of it if a Muslim group didn't come forward with enough money to build the mosque.

Last week reports showed that the real estate developer behind the controversial mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero was being evicted from his Manhattan office for failing to pay his rent.

Sharif El-Gamal, who runs real estate firm Soho Properties that is heading the proposed building two blocks away from the World Trade Center site, received an eviction notice last month after failing to pay $39,000 in back rent, the Daily News reported.

El-Gamal was warned in July and given until mid-August to pay up, according to Manhattan Housing Court records. When the August deadline passed, management company Royal Crospin filed the eviction notice.

Royal Crospin has sued Soho Properties before. Last year it sued for nearly $89,000 in back rent, agreeing to a $56,000 settlement with El-Gamal's firm.

The debate over whether to build the proposed mosque and Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero raged on as the U.S. marked the 9th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the proposed Islamic center, said he hadn't expected such controversy surrounding the project. If given a chance to do it over again Rauf said he would not have proposed building the mosque and cultural center so close to Ground Zero.

"I would never have done it" had he anticipated the controversy, he said in an interview with Christiane Amanpour that aired Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "I'm a man of peace. I mean the whole objective of peace work is not to do something that would provoke controversy."

The imam said he feared moving the mosque's building site now would cause a backlash in the Muslim world.

"My major concern with moving it is that the headline in the Muslim world will be Islam is under attack in America, this will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment, this will put our people -- our soldiers, our troops, our embassies, our citizens -- under attack in the Muslim world and we have expanded and given and fueled terrorism," he said.

On the 9th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, rival protests occurred near the Ground Zero site; one in support of the proposed Islamic community center and one against it.

President Barack Obama, speaking at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, spoke out against interfaith conflicts.

"They may seek to exploit our freedoms, but we will not sacrifice the liberties we cherish or hunker down behind walls of suspicion and mistrust. They may wish to drive us apart, but we will not give in to their hatred and prejudice," he said.

"As Americans we are not, and never will be, at war with Islam.

"It was not a religion that attacked us that September day it was al Qaida, a sorry band of men which perverts religion."

Should the Islamic center near Ground Zero take Donald Trump's offer and move elsewhere?

-- Yes, it's offensive to have it that close to the World Trade Center.
-- No, it should remain and serve as a testatment to the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Miriam Reimer.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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