The pro-Sharia, anti-free speech Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf begins his tour on the dhimmi dime. "'Ground Zero' Imam Starts US-Paid Middle East Tour," by Theunis Bates for AOL News, August 20 (thanks to Twostellas):
(Aug. 20) -- The Muslim cleric behind the planned "Ground Zero" Islamic center is in the Middle East, sent by the State Department on a trip intended to smooth relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world while adding to the uproar back home.
A day after arriving in Bahrain, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf told The Associated Press today that he hopes his tour would draw attention to the need for America and the Middle East to battle fundamentalism together.
"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," he said after leading Friday prayers at a mosque in Bahrain's capital Manama. "This is why this particular trip has a great importance, because all countries in the Muslim world -- as well as the Western world -- are facing this ... major security challenge."
What does he mean by "extremism"?
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, executive director of the Cordoba Initiative, greets worshippers inside a Muharraq, Bahrain, mosque. Rauf, the imam leading plans for an Islamic center near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York, is on a U.S.-funded outreach tour to Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to talk about religious tolerance in America.
Rauf also plans stops in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Details about the imam's plans in each country have not been released by the State Department, although spokesman P.J. Crowley said Rauf would be giving a series of lectures on religious co-existence and life as a Muslim in America. He added that the imam might also discuss the Islamic cultural center that the cleric's organization, the Cordoba Initiative, plans to build in lower Manhattan, two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he talks about the ongoing debate within the United States, as an example of our emphasis on religious tolerance and resolving questions that come up within the rule of law," Crowley said.
Of course, this is not an issue of religious tolerance, but Crowley is Obama's man.
Rauf's government-funded trip has come in for intense criticism from opponents of the so-called Ground Zero mosque. Earlier this week, Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Peter King of New York expressed outrage that the State Department was funding a figure they consider to be a radical. (Rauf has been criticized for refusing to openly condemn the Palestinian extremist movement Hamas).
"It is unacceptable that U.S. taxpayers are being forced to fund Feisal Abdul Rauf's trip to the Middle East," their statement read. "The U.S. should be using public diplomacy programs to combat extremism, not endorse it."
The trip is expected to cost the State Department about $16,000.
However, this isn't the imam's first government-sponsored tour of the region. He traveled twice to the Middle East during the George W. Bush administration and once earlier this year....
Bush shouldn't have sent him out, either.
The State Department also tried to dismiss concerns that Rauf might use the tour to raise funds for the mosque. "This is what we tell anyone who participates in one of our expert trips: They're there to provide perspective on behalf of the United States, and they're not to engage in personal business as part of the program that they're participating in," said Crowley. "He has agreed to that."
And who's checking?