By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Paltalk News Network
NEW YORK - Even as he complains that controversy over the Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero is being politicized, the imam behind the project is stirring things up during a goodwill tour to the Middle East.
Speaking to The National, a newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, Feisel Abdul Rauf repeated his claims that the opposition here is politicized - adding that it had become a debate about Islam in America.
His words are certain to further stir up the controversy here in the United States.
Rauf has been positioned by supporters as a Muslim leader who embraces ecumenicism. He is a member of a New York organization that encourages improved relations between faiths in this multi-cultural city.
But his opponents have been quick to point out that some of his comments stray from that theme. That he was quick to blame America - for example - for the 9/11 attacks.
While he condemned the attacks as un-Islamic, Rauf, in a 60 Minutes interview 19 days after the attacks, said, "I wouldn't say that the United States deserved what happened. But the United States' policies were an accessory to the crime that happened."
It's one thing to defend the cultural center against opponents - some (but clearly not all) of whom are decidedly bigoted. But Rauf should choose his words carefully when being interviewed in the Middle East. Especially while on a goodwill mission for the State Department.
The last thing he should do is anything that could be interpreted as encouragement for rage against the United States in the Muslim world. Rauf knows as much as anyone that it doesn't take much to enrage some in the Muslim community - and that there are those who are all-too-willing to act upon that rage.
His comments in Dubai were imprudent at best - reckless at worst. He has the right to his cultural center near Ground Zero. But not by doing exactly what some of the protesters are - fanning the flames.
Passions are heated enough in the United States. The last thing an imam on a goodwill tour should be doing is helping them spill over into the Middle East
Host - News Talk Online
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