NYC MOSQUE: The eye of the storm: Introducing Feisal Abdul Rauf

Introducing, Faisal Abdul Rauf , he is the eye  of the storm, he is the man behind the Cordoba House, the Mosque/Community Center planned for Lower Manhattan two blocks from Ground Zero.

Activist and Author,Mr Ruft is 62 years old (1948) and was born in Kuwait.  He has lived the in the a United States for more than 40 years.   He graduated from Columbia University and has a degree in physics.

His father  Muhammad Abdul Rauf (d-2004) assisting in the creation of the  Islamic Cultural Center of New York in 1991. 1991.

Rauf has written three books on Islam and its place in contemporary  Westen society, including What’s Right with Islam, which was later printed in paperback with the changed titleWhat’s Right with Islam is What’s Right with America. Rauf has been imam of Masjid al-Farah at 245 West Broadway in New York City’s Tribeca district since 1983.

iman - Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 :

  Imam \I*mam"\, Iman \I*man"\, Imaum \I*maum"\, n. [Ar. im[=a]m.]
     1. Among the Mohammedans, a minister or priest who performs
        the regular service of the mosque.
        [1913 Webster]

     2. A Mohammedan prince who, as a successor of Mohammed,
        unites in his person supreme spiritual and temporal power.
        [1913 Webster]

Rauf worked to build bridges between American society, the American Muslim community and the wider Muslim world. In 1997, he founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement  a civil society organization aimed at promoting positive engagement between American society and American Muslims. The organization is now headed by his wife.

The programs at Cordoba Initiative (CI) are designed to cultivate multi-cultural and multi-faith understanding across minds and borders. In the ten years since our founding, the necessity to strengthen the bridge between Islam and the West continues to prevail. Cordoba Initiative seeks to actively promote engagement through a myriad of programs, by reinforcing similarities and addressing differences.

Cordoba House in Lower Manhattan

Park51, originally named Cordoba House, is a planned $100 million, 13-story, glass and steel Islamic community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan.  The facility’s design includes a 500-seat auditorium, theater, performing arts center, fitness center, swimming pool, basketball court, childcare area, bookstore, culinary school, art studio, food court,an September 11th memorial, and prayer space that could accommodate 1,000–2,000 people. The center would replace an existing 1850s building that was damaged in the September 11 attacks, located two blocks (about 600 feet,) from the former  World trade center site although it would not be visible from the future memorial.

In July 2009, the real estate company and developer Soho Properties  led by Sharif El-Gamal, purchased the building] initially planning to build a condominium complex at the site. In partnership with Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf s Cordoba Initiative, the owners instead decided to pursue the idea of an Islamic community center to be headed by Rauf.

Plans to build Cordoba House were noted in December 2009, at a location that was already in use for Muslim worship. The plans were reviewed by the local community board in May 2010, at which time they attracted some national media attention. The project’s organizers state that it is intended to be “a platform for multi faith dialog. It will strive to promote inter-community peace, tolerance and understanding locally in New York City, nationally in America, and globally, and have stated that it is modeled on the noted Manhattan Jewish community and cultural center, the 92nd Street. The project’s sponsors explained that the original name of the center was meant to invoke 8th–11th century Córdoba, which they call a model of  peaceful coexistence between Muslims,Christians,and Jews.

The proposal triggered an intense nationwide controversy, with opponents of the project objecting to its proximity to the site of the September 11 attacks, its scale, sources of funding, or expressing concern that the project’s name was intended as a reference to the Islamic conquest of the Christian city of  Cordoba Spain.

9/11  Comment on 60 Minutes Sept 30 2001 (excerpts from the interview)

Bradley: When the suspects in the September 11 bombings were identified as Muslims, people who follow the teachings of Islam, President Bush went to great lengths to point out that the overwhelming majority of the world’s more than one billion Muslims are decent, law- abiding citizens. How then is it that a religion that promises peace, harmony, and justice to those who follow the will of Allah can have in their midst thousands committed to terrorism in the name of Allah? Tonight we’ll try to answer that question. Every Friday afternoon at 1:00 p.m., Imam Faisal Abdul-Raouf leads an Islamic prayer service at the al-Farah mosque. This is not in Cairo, not Baghdad, not Riyadh. This mosque is in downtown New York City, just 12 blocks from where the world trade center once stood, where the U.S. government says Muslims perpetrated the worst act of terrorism in our country’s history. This area had been cordoned off by police because it was so close to ground zero, so until Friday, imam Faisal and his congregation had been unable to pray here. How do you feel as a Muslim, knowing that people of your faith committed this act, that resulted in the loss of 6,000 lives?

Faisal: It’s painful. When this thing first happened, everybody in the community said, “Oh, God, let this not be a person from our faith, tradition, from our background.”

Bradley: What would you say to people in this country who, looking at what happened in the Middle East, would associate Islam with fanaticism, with terrorism?

Faisal: Fanaticism and terrorism have no place in Islam. That’s just as absurd as associating Hitler with Christianity, or David Koresh with Christianity. There are always people who will do peculiar things, and think that they are doing things in the name of their religion. But the Koran is… God says in the Koran that they think that they are doing right, but they are doing wrong.

Bradley: There are now more than six million Muslims in the United States, more than the number of Episcopalians, or Lutherans, or Methodists, or Presbyterians. Islam is now this country’s fastest-growing religion. After Friday’s service, we talked with some members of the al-Farah mosque. So the average American, if you say “Islam,” what do they think?

Bradley: And throughout the Muslim world, there is also strong opposition to America’s foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East because of its support of Israel and economic sanctions against Iraq.

Faisal: it is a reaction against the US government politically, where we espouse principles of democracy and human rights, and where we ally ourselves with oppressive regimes in many of these countries.

Bradley: Are you in any way suggesting that we in the United States deserved what happened?

Faisal: I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but united states policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.

Bradley: You say that we’re an accessory? How?

Faisal: Because we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.

Bradley: And throughout the Muslim world, there is also strong opposition to America’s foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East because of its support of Israel and economic sanctions against Iraq.

Faisal: it is a reaction against the US government politically, where we espouse principles of democracy and human rights, and where we ally ourselves with oppressive regimes in many of these countries.

Bradley: Are you in any way suggesting that we in the United States deserved what happened?

Faisal: I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but united states policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.

Policies What Polices what do you mean?

The right wing has made a lot of hay over 2005  remarks Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf made regarding the U.S. having “more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida” due to U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq, which, he claimed, led “to the death of over half a million Iraqi children.” However, Rauf’s comments are far from being controversial or evidence of, as Fox News claims, Rauf’s “extreme views.” No one argues that the child mortality rates rose in Iraq while the country was subject to U.N. sanctions, and it is far from disputed that the sanctions were on some level responsible for the rise. And numerous Islamic scholars and experts — including the 9/11 Commission — have noted that these sanctions were particularly unpopular in the Muslim world and that extremists used the sanctions as one reason to mobilize against the U.S.

In 1999, UNICEF released a report showing that “[c]hildhood mortality clearly increased after the Gulf conflict and under UN sanctions in the south/centre of Iraq,” the areas of Iraq outside of the northern Kurdish region. While there is dispute about just how much of the rise in childhood mortality is attributable to the U.N. sanctions versus Saddam Hussein, even the U.N. Security Council acknowledged that the sanctions were at least partially responsible. In a 1999 report, the Security Council Panel on Humanitarian Issues stated: “Even if not all suffering in Iraq can be imputed to external factors, especially sanctions, the Iraqi people would not be undergoing such deprivations in the absence of the prolonged measures imposed by the Security Council and the effects of the war.” In an August 1999 press release, then-UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy cited this statement as a “partial explanation” for her estimate “that if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a while during the eight year period 1991 to 1998.” Rauf was presumably citing this estimate in his 2005 remarks.

Religious and humanitarian groups were widely opposed to the sanctions and the U.S.’ policy in Iraq.

For instance, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops harshly criticized the U.S. “as the chief proponent of sanctions” in a November 15, 1999, statement, calling for the U.N. to “terminate promptly the economic embargo against Iraq”:

After more than nine years of unparalleled and unmerited suffering, it is long past time to end the economic embargo against Iraq. Too many have suffered for too long. Efforts to mitigate the suffering inflicted by sanctions, namely the oil-for-food program, are important but insufficient. The comprehensive sanctions against Iraq have long since ceased to be a morally acceptable tool of diplomacy, because they have inflicted indiscriminate and unacceptable suffering on the Iraqi people. They violate a fundamental principle of engagement in conflict — states may not seek to destroy a government or a military by targeting the innocent. It is incumbent on the United Nations Security Council and the United States, as the chief proponent of sanctions, to terminate promptly the economic embargo against Iraq.

The grounds for strong international action were and are justifiable: reversing and deterring aggression against neighboring states, protecting domestic minorities, and preventing the development of weapons of mass destruction. But even honorable causes may not be defended with immoral means. Such is the case of embargoes that contribute to untimely death, chronic illness, and reduced life-expectancy among innocent civilians.


Our concerns with U.S. policy toward Iraq are not limited to the embargo. We remain deeply concerned about the ongoing air strikes against Iraq. The moral justification of such attacks is, at best, unclear, yet the risks to Iraqi civilians are real. We urge a halt to this form of low-level warfare. It is time for a new approach to Iraq. We cannot turn a deaf ear to the suffering of the Iraqi people or a blind eye to the moral consequences of current U.S. policy. It is time to end comprehensive sanctions against Iraq, halt the ongoing air strikes, and find morally acceptable alternatives to contain the aggressive actions of the Iraqi government.

As our prayers are with the people of Iraq who are victims of their own government and of international policy. We pray also for U.S. and other world leaders as they struggle to match moral means and moral ends.

And Islamic scholars and experts — including the 9/11 commissioners — have cited these sanctions as a motivating factor of Islamic extremism against the U.S. In a 2002 essay on “U.S. Foreign Policy in the Muslim World,” Islamic scholar Meqteder Kahn wrote that “Al-Qaeda’s success lies in its ability to find local sympathizers,” noting that one of the “[r]adical Islamic grievances against the United States” was “[t]he human tragedy caused by the sanctions against Iraq.” Khan cited this as one of the “issues” that “are finding global resonance among Muslims regardless of their ethnic origins or social class,” and argued, “It is this resonance among ordinary Muslims everywhere that has prompted some radical elements to align with the anti-Americanism engendered and fostered by al-Qaeda and its associates.” The 9/11 Commission noted that Osama bin Laden “appeals to people disoriented by cyclonic change as they confront modernity and globalization,” by, in part, “stress[ing] grievances against the United States widely shared in the Muslim world.” One of those “grievances” bin Laden speaks of often is “the suffering of the Iraqi people as a result of sanctions imposed after the Gulf War.”

So other than debating with Rauf the extent to which the sanctions were responsible for the rise in Iraqi childhood mortality rates, what, exactly, is so controversial about Rauf’s 2005 remarks? Fox has declared Rauf’s  comments to be evidence of the “imam’s extreme views.” Steve Doocy declared that “[i]t doesn’t exactly sound like this guy … is that pro-America.” Pam Geller and the Drudge Report have taken Rauf’s comments out of context to falsely paint him as a terrorist sympathizer. Fox’s Megyn Kelly was outraged, as was her guest Andrea Tantaros, who suggested  that Rauf could have “a very backwards ideology; that he is not as tolerant as he or the left-wing media claims that he is, and he is using this [Park51] as an act of provocation, as an act to divide, or, worse, a 9/11 victory lap.” Guest-hosting The O’Reilly Factor, Laura Ingraham and her guest Liz Cheney assailed Rauf as “at best, completely disconnected from reality,” according to Nexis transcript.


In his book “What’s Right With Islam Is What’s Right With America,” Mr. Abdul Rauf writes:

“The truth is that killing innocent people is always wrong — and no argument or excuse, no matter how deeply believed, can ever make it right. No religion on earth condones the killing of innocent people, no faith tradition tolerates the random killing of our brothers and sisters on this earth. … Islamic law is clearly against terrorism, against any kind of deliberate killing of civilians or similar ‘collateral damage.’ ”

The book also includes a copy of the fatwa, a religious ruling, issued by senior Middle Eastern Muslim clerics that called the 9/11 attacks un-Islamic. The ruling, requested by the United States military’s top Muslim chaplain, gave permission to Muslims in the United States armed forces to fight in the war in Afghanistan.

In the book, the imam also elaborates on an argument that may make some Americans uncomfortable but has been put forward by many mainstream American analysts: that terrorism is viewed differently by different populations and that understanding those various views, whether or not one agrees with them, is central to resolving disputes.

“In the West,” he writes:

“Terrorism is usually defined by the acting party’s intent to harm innocent people. If a suicide bomber intentionally takes the lives of innocent people, he is obviously guilty of terrorism. By contrast, if the United States and its coalition forces drop bombs on the wrong buildings in Baghdad (or any other city) and the bombs kill hundreds or thousands of innocent people, including many women and children, we define this as collateral damage, not terrorism. We draw this distinction because we had no intent to kill civilians. …“By contrast, however, many Muslims in the Middle East look primarily at the result of our actions. … The result is a common view in the Middle East that the U.S. is perfectly willing to kill innocent civilians when it suits America’s goals.”

The imam applies the same analysis to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

“Israel points to the intentional repeated killing of innocent civilians as obvious proof that the Palestinians are guilty of terrorism — and the horrible images of bomb victims cannot be denied. Palestinians, however, counter that the overall number of civilians killed is higher on their side, and they rage with equal passion against Israeli terrorism.’ ”

“Imam Feisal is an American who takes his role as a citizen-ambassador very seriously. He is frequently requested by the U.S. State Department to tour Muslim majority and Western countries to speak about the merits of American ideals and Muslim integration into Western society. At the request of the F.B.I after 9/11, he provided cultural training to hundreds of F.B.I. agents.”

Sources: Wikipedia, New York Times, Media matters, Toronto Sun,