Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the Ground Zero mosque, was interviewed by Soledad O’Brien September 8 on CNN. Here are excerpts from the interview with my comment after each:
O’BRIEN: You’re just back from the Middle East. You’ve been gone for about two months. And you’ve been pretty quiet about the controversy that has been raging about the proposed structure right near Ground Zero. Comment: Uh, Soledad, that “structure” is an Islamic mosque. Your very first comment shows that this interview will be full of disinformation – on both sides.
RAUF: …the United States, we are the only global superpower today. What happens here has enormous impact over the rest of the world. People all over the Muslim world admire America, love America, take America as an example in many, many respects. And the status of Muslims in America and how American Muslims speak to these issues and how America engages with its Muslim community has global ramifications. Comment: Don’t you just love how Rauf is suddenly such a patriotic (naturalized) American citizen. We, we, we… “Muslims admire America”? Oh, go on…. Just recently the drudgereport had a picture of Afghans burning our American flag which they do all over the Muslim world. The Islamic world is very separate from America. Don’t paint us all cozy. That is a false tactic that you are using only for this debate.
RAUF: …to use and to establish a center that would be the space for a vision that I’ve had for over a decade, or 15, almost 20 years, which is to establish a space which embodies the fundamental beliefs that we have as Jews, Christians, and Muslims, which is to love our god and to love our neighbor, to build a space where we’ll have a culture of worship. And at the same time, get to know each other and to forge personal bonds because that’s how society, how community, is built, and how we can create something that will snowball to push back against the radical discourse that has just hijacked the discourse in our country and in much of the world. Comment: So why not fuel that peaceful discourse by moving the mosque. Because the mosque is just inflaming the discourse. Period. End of story.
RAUF: … I need to remind the audience that this story (about the mosque) first broke last December in The New York Times... And no one objected. This controversy only began in May. And it began as a result of some politicians, who decided to use this for certain political purposes. And this is when it began to snowball, Soledad. Comment: When the mosque was first proposed, there was much opposition, contrary to Rauf’s assertion. He is lying here and repeats that lie throughout this interview.
RAUF (speaking of the politicization of the mosque issue): This is very dangerous and tragic for two reasons. Reason number one is that it goes against the fundamental American principle of separation of church and state. This concept of separation of religion and politics or church and state has a wisdom behind it. And the purpose behind it is not to politicize religion. Because when you politicize religion, it is dangerous. Comment: Modern-day Islam is the most politicized religion in the world. In fact, Islam today is largely a violent political movement with a religion attached to it. And this mosque is a blatantly political provocation.
RAUF: If we move from that location, the story will be that the radicals have taken over the discourse. The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack. And I’m less concerned about the radicals in America than I’m concerned about the radicals in the Muslim world… And if we do move (the mosque), it will strengthen the argument of the radicals to recruit, their ability to recruit, and their increasing aggression and violence against our country. Comment: So if America does not allow the mosque at Ground Zero, this is an “attack” on Muslims? This is utterly shocking and preposterous and a malicious use of inflammatory language. And if the mosque is built somewhere else, the radicals will attack us? That is a direct threat. This guy is a manipulative provocateur through and through. It is his brand of Islam itself that is the dangerous force here.
RAUF: We would like to have a memorial in this center for 9/11 families. Congregations and our ministry and our communities. And it is part of our intention. This is why we’re reaching out to 9/11 families. We would like to have a memorial in this center for 9/11 families. Comment: Spare us, sir. We have plenty of ways to remember 9/11. We don’t need your memorial. Really. This is more smoke and mirrors.
RAUF: Because the idea, Soledad is to establish something like a Muslim “Y.” You have the YMCA was created 130 years ago to improve relationships between what was then called the American Protestant religions, by having young men and young women — of course, it was separate at the time, YMCA, YWCA, come and, you know, bond by doing sports together and other programs together. It’s become a worldwide phenomenon. Comment: Then put the YMIA someplace else. Like 23rd Street. Next to the YMCA.
O’BRIEN: But doesn’t the controversy that has happened now work against that? Isn’t that exactly the opposite of what you’re striving for? RAUF: In some ways, yes. But in some ways, it also is a silver lining here… It give us an opportunity to speak about this subject in a manner that is sober, in a manner that is coherent, to look at what we are all about as Americans, to look about what it means to be Muslim in America, to look at how we are going to put back this genie of clash between the West and Muslim world back into the bottle. Comment: To be Muslim in America should mean that you seek to abide by our infinitely higher Christian standard of decency and civility than there is in Muslim nations. Like moving the mosque out of respect for those who died on 9/11. Don’t forget, imam, that it is your followers who are coming to live in our country.
O’BRIEN: There are plenty of Muslims, as I’ve been doing research, who have said this debate does not help us. This debate makes things more dangerous for us. This debate hurts us, what’s happening at Ground Zero. RAUF: There is no doubt that this has become such a situation. And I’m deeply sensitive to that and very concerned about that. And, you know, had I known this would happen, we certainly would never have done this. Comment: Yeah, right… This mosque is an outright, intentional confrontation.
RAUF: As I mentioned, because if we move, that means the radicals have shaped the discourse. The radicals will shape the discourse on both sides. And those of us who are moderates on both sides — you see Soledad, the battle front is not between Muslims and non-Muslims. The real battle front is between moderates on all sides of all the faith traditions and the radicals on all sides. The radicals actually feed off each other. And in some kind of existential way, need each other. And the more that the radicals are able to control the discourse on one side, it strengthens the radicals on the other side and vice versa. We have to turn this around. Comment: This is moral equivalence, i.e., anyone who opposes the mosque is equal to Islamoterrorists. This guy has learned well from the American left to divide people. He is a very devious figure. Just look at his conniving eyes and his cold persona. He looks and acts very suspiciously.
RAUF: There is a certain anger here, no doubt. But if you don’t do this right, anger will explode in the Muslim world. If this is not handled correctly, this crisis could become much bigger than the Danish cartoon crisis, which resulted in attacks on Danish embassies in various parts of the Muslim world. And we have a much larger footprint in the Muslim world. If we don’t handle this crisis correctly, it could become something which could really become very, very, very dangerous indeed. Comment: Yes, because again, Muslims wish to live in the West with its vastly higher standard of living than Muslim nations. But they cannot tolerate the free speech aspects of our advanced political culture, and will take any cue to instigate violence. In fact, they held a violent demonstration in Afghanistan even before the Florida pastor had burned any Korans.
O’BRIEN: There are so many people who say, so if you’re saying it was a mistake, then why can’t you get out of it and not do it? RAUF: Because we have to now make sure that whatever we do actually results in greater peace, not in greater conflict. Comment: This is another threat out of several in just this interview. This guy is really deceitful and menacing.
O’BRIEN: Why do you think this structure’s causing all this controversy now? RAUF: Well, there’s a certain amount of anti-Islamic sentiment in this country. O’BRIEN: Why now? RAUF: And we have seen it in the attacks upon mosques in various parts of the country in the last several weeks. Comment: No, sir, there was one construction site where one bulldozer was burned, not “attacks” plural. Yet since Sarah Palin’s Christian church was actually torched in an arson fire in December 2008, the America media have mostly buried the story.
RAUF: We need to make sure this doesn’t dominate the discourse between us, because Americans believe fundamentally and in a very fundamental and strong way about freedom of religion, about separation of governments and churches, separation of church and state, which means that the powers of the government should not be used to coerce people to believe in any one religion. But it should be used to defend and protect religious rights and freedoms. Comment: Go read all the web stories about Christians and Christian churches being attacked year after year in Islamic nations, which are the most dangerous places in the world for non-Islamists.
RAUF: …(in a 60 Minutes interview) I was describing the fact that United States had actually worked with the Taliban, cooperated with the Mujahadin. The Mujahadin were VIPs in the Reagan White House administration. And Osama bin Laden was something that we — the United States cooperated with in fighting the Soviet Union. Comment: So now he has to go and blame Reagan. CNN certainly will appreciate that.
RAUF: …It is part of my responsibility as a bridge builder to speak the truth about what’s great about America, what we’ve done right, and what our less glorious moments [are.] And many people feel that the Iraq adventure, for example, has been one of our less glorious moments. Comment: Yes, where we have sought to spare 24 million Iraqi Muslims from decades of atrocities, like we also did in Kuwait and Bosnia, at great cost to America.
RAUF: In the Muslim world, there are many people who have been vocal and we have been very vocal against extremists. Comment: There are few Muslims who are vocal against extremists. Because extremists now control much of Islam. Most others else lives in fear.
O’BRIEN: Engaging and dialogue and getting to know each other. Right now, it’s kind of a screaming match in front of a store front. RAUF: Because the radicals on both have taken over the discourse. Comment: Repeat – we Americans who oppose the mosque are not radicals.
RAUF: Mayor Bloomberg was quoted as saying that he believes that the day after election day, this story will go away. Comment: Sorry, sir, it isn’t going away. This is not a political issue. It is a moral issue. And such issues do not come and go with elections.
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