Controversial US cleric plans `outreach` trip to Arab world

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."

PTI



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

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