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Feisal Abdul Rauf’s Balancing Act in Mosque Furor – NYTimes.com

23 Aug 2010

Feisal Abdul Rauf’s Balancing Act in Mosque Furor – NYTimes.comAnnotated – See excerpts (bulleted) after my comments in the Read more.

Good background on Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the “ground zero mosque”.  Some friends have been asking me about the leaders of the “ground zero mosque” and their views and statements about extremist Islam, terrorism, etc.  I think this article gives a good picture of this imam.  I would recommend you reading the whole article – not just my excerpts below.

tags: Islam mosque ground zero interfaith dialog interfaith relations interfaith

  • He watched his father, an Egyptian Muslim scholar, pioneer interfaith dialogue in 1960s New York; led a mystical Sufi mosque in Lower Manhattan; and, after the Sept. 11 attacks, became a spokesman for the notion that being American and Muslim is no contradiction — and that a truly American brand of Islam could modernize and moderate the faith worldwide.
  • a host of allegations have been floated: that he supports terrorism; that his father, who worked at the behest of the Egyptian government, was a militant; that his publicly expressed views mask stealth extremism. Some charges, the available record suggests, are unsupported. Some are simplifications of his ideas. In any case, calling him a jihadist appears even less credible than calling him a United States agent.
  • He attended Columbia University, where, during the Six-Day War in 1967 between Israel and Arab states like Egypt, he talked daily with a Jewish classmate, each seeking to understand the other’s perspective.
  • He consistently denounces violence. Some of his views on the interplay between terrorism and American foreign policy — or his search for commonalities between Islamic law and this country’s Constitution — have proved jarring to some American ears, but still place him as pro-American within the Muslim world. He devotes himself to befriending Christians and Jews — so much, some Muslim Americans say, that he has lost touch with their own concerns.
  • One critique of the imam, said Omid Safi, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, was that he had not been outspoken enough on issues “near and dear to many Muslims,” like United States policy on Israel and treatment of Muslims after 9/11, “because of the need that he has had — whether taken upon himself or thrust upon him — to be the ‘American imam,’ to be the ‘New York imam,’ to be the ‘accommodationist imam.’ ”
    Akbar Ahmed, chairman of Islamic studies at American University, said Mr. Abdul Rauf’s holistic Sufi practices could make more orthodox Muslims uncomfortable, and his focus on like-minded interfaith leaders made him underestimate the uproar over his plans.

  • When the 1967 war broke out in the Middle East, Mr. Tolksdorf said, Mr. Abdul Rauf reacted calmly when Israeli students tried to pick a fight. A classmate, Alan M. Silberstein, remembers debating each day’s news over lunch.
    “He was genuinely trying to understand the interests of American Jews — what Israel’s importance was to me,” he said. “There was a genuine openness.”

  • After 9/11, Mr. Abdul Rauf was all over the airwaves denouncing terrorism, urging Muslims to confront its presence among them, and saying that killing civilians violated Islam. He wrote a book, “What’s Right With Islam Is What’s Right With America,” asserting the congruence of American democracy and Islam.
  • Those opponents repeat often that Mr. Abdul Rauf, in one radio interview, refused to describe the Palestinian group that pioneered suicide bombings against Israel, Hamas, as a terrorist organization. In the lengthy interview, Mr. Abdul Rauf clumsily tries to say that people around the globe define terrorism differently and labeling any group would sap his ability to build bridges. He also says: “Targeting civilians is wrong. It is a sin in our religion,” and, “I am a supporter of the state of Israel.”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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