NEW YORK (CBS 2) — After months of keeping quiet, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is responding to criticism about the proposed Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero.

In a New York Times op-ed article, he writes about funding for the project and healing relations between religions.

After weeks of anger and angst over what is supposed to be a place of religious peace, New Yorkers are hearing for the first time from the spiritual leader who believes it is appropriate to build an Islamic community center and mosque two blocks away from the World Trade Center site, CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey reports.

“Let us commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 by pausing to reflect and meditate and tone down the vitriol and rhetoric,” Rauf wrote in an op-ed for the Times adding, “I am very sensitive to the feelings of the families of victims of 9/11.”

Jim Riches lost his firefighter son on 9/11 and was insulted by the opinion piece written by Rauf.

“I’m outraged by his article. I think he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s got anti-American rhetoric all over it and now he’s trying to act like Mr. peace maker. Well I don’t buy it,” Riches said.

But some advocates for the mosque say Rauf is right on in his tone and approach.

“He made a clear call for justice and religious freedom. It’s a basic, simple issue of religious freedom. It should not even be a question in the 21st century,” Bill Doares of the International Action Committee said.

Meanwhile, people on both sides of the mosque issue are gearing up for Saturday. Thousands are expected to march on the ninth anniversary of the attacks on America. Police are gearing up too.

“We have no reason to anticipate violence at these demonstrations, but obviously there’s the potential at any demonstration,” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.