The State Department has confirmed that Feisal Abdul Rauf - who wants to be the imam of a mosque at Ground Zero - is taking a State Department funded trip to the Middle East to foster "greater understanding" about Islam and Muslim communities in the United States. "He is a distinguished Muslim cleric," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. "I think we are in the process of arranging for him to travel as part of this program, and it is to foster a greater understanding about the region around the world among Muslim-majority communities." Rauf is reportedly going to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar.
What a load of hooey.
We know a lot of rabbis, some ministers and a few priests. We would be appalled to have the government of the United States, which by law favors no religion, sending a rabbi to Israel - or the former Soviet Union or France or Argentina, where there are communities of Jews - to talk about how Jews live in the United States. Having a priest travel to the Vatican, Honduras, Ireland or the Philippines to describe the lives of American Catholics would be outrageous. Likewise, ministers to Sweden.
What business is it of the American government to send a Muslim to Muslim-majority countries to talk about Islam? How offensive is it to think that the American government is using American tax dollars to fly a non-government person around the world to promote the activities and lifestyle of a particular religion? Better to send a non-Muslim American government official to talk about American religious freedom, cultural diversity and the virtues of the secular, democratic state.
To the speculation that Rauf will engage in fund raising for the proposed mosque at Ground Zero, Mr. Crowley said, "That would not be something he could do as part of our program," he said.
We're so relieved. And we're so sure he will do only as the American government desires.
But Debra Burlingame, a 9/11 family member told The New York Post, "'We know he has a fund-raising association with Saudi Arabia,' ... noting that the Saudis have contributed money to underwrite programs by the American Society for Muslim Advancement, a not-for-profit that Abdul Rauf runs with his wife and that is one of the sponsors of the Ground Zero mosque. 'He's going to the well, and how can they say they do or don't know what he's doing?'"
To be entirely clear, JINSA believes Ground Zero is a battlefield cemetery - the site of a battle for the liberal democratic state. We oppose the building of a Muslim sectarian monument there because regardless of what its supporters say, it will be widely understood in the Muslim world as a battlefield monument in the name of Islam.
Does the State Department really think Rauf (who said in English that the United States bears responsibility for 9-11) will tell the Saudis, Bahrainis and Qataris that he is building a monument to cultural understanding, interfaith relations and peace in New York because America is a good, safe and decent place for Muslims as long as they understand the secular, democratic nature of the United States? And that he doesn't want their money because Americans will fund the mosque?
And how will the State Department know?