Washington: In the midst of the controversy, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the organiser of the planned Muslim community centre and a mosque in Ground Zero in Manhattan, is undertaking taxpayer-funded trip to the Middle East to spread good will and "Americanise" Islam.
According to The New York Post, appearing in public for the first time in weeks, the Imam said at a mosque near Bahrain`s capital of Manama that he wants to "Americanise" Islam.
Speaking about the uproar over his planned mosque and community centre, he said, "This issue of extremism is something that has been a national-security issue -- not only for the United States but also for many countries and nations in the Muslim world."
Rauf claimed that this particular trip has a great importance because all countries in the Muslim world as well as the Western world are facing a major security challenge.
However, some of the imam`s American critics expressed their fears that he is using the State Department-sponsored trip to raise money and rally support in the Muslim world for the mosque.
"I think there is no place for this. Can you imagine if the State Department paid to send me on a trip anywhere?” Reverend Franklin Graham, questioned.
The trip is reportedly estimated to cost USD 16,000 and is funded by the State Department`s Bureau of International Information Programs.