Controversial US cleric plans `outreach` trip to Arab world
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Last Updated: Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 20:15
New York: A controversial cleric, who is pushing for the construction of a multi-million dollar mosque near the site of fallen Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre here, is making a "outreach" trip to Arab countries to promote a deeper understanding about Islam.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is set for a month-long "outreach" tour, courtesy of the State Department, to Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain and Qatar to foster a greater understanding and outreach around the world.

"He is a distinguished Muslim cleric," said PJ Crowley, State Department spokesperson.

"I think we are in the process of arranging for him to travel as part of this programme. And it is to foster a greater understanding and outreach around the world among Muslim majority communities," he added.

Crowley noted that the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau at the State Department sent people from Muslim communities in this country around the world to help people overseas understand our society and the role of religion within our society.

"But there are strict procedures as to the kind of activity that occurs during the course of this travel. I think this is exactly what we’ve presented it as," the official said.

He said we’ve done this "many, many times with many leading figures since over the past few years."

First reported on Forbes online, the cleric plans a month-long "outreach" visit to the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar, courtesy of the State Department.

Some Arabic and US media outlets have reported that this could be an opportunity for the cleric to fund raise for the Islamic Centre and mosque when he goes abroad.

The New York Post wrote that the trip raises "concerns that taxpayers may be helping him with the controversial project's USD 100 million fund-raising goal."

During the past months, a conservative faction of the American society and polity have opposed the building a mosque on the Ground Zero site.

This project has divided New Yorkers, families of the victims of 9/11, civil society organisations and the public throughout the country and led to protests against constructing mosques in other parts of the US.

Crowley, however, underlined that the fundraising is not something Imam Rauf "could do as part of our programme."


First Published: Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 20:15

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