Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

Who is Feisal Abdul Rauf?

 October, 2010

At the time of this writing the debate about the now world-famous planned Cordoba mosque, (renamed 51 Park Place) near Ground Zero, two blocks away, is raging furiously.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is the mastermind behind the plan to build a $100 million mosque and Islamic centre near the spot where nearly 3000 were murdered on 9/11. He presents himself as a moderate who wants to build bridges to non-Muslims, and he reasons that building this mosque would serve that purpose.

In a letter to Mike Huckabee, the group behind this planned  mosque wrote that this is  ?a project to honor those who were harmed on September 11. It is a project to proclaim our patriotism to this country and to stand side-by-side all men and women of peace.?

A Not-so-Veiled Threat

The problem that Rauf, the main spokesperson for this project, encountered is that a large majority of the American public is not persuaded. He has warned that if the opponents would win the day - stopping this building project - that would send a message to the Muslim world that America is becoming anti-Muslim and violating its own constitution. That in turn would further inflame the Anti-American attitude among Muslims. He explained:

This is why Americans must not back away from completion of this project. If we do, we cede the discourse and, essentially, our future to radicals on both sides. The paradigm of a clash  between the West and the Muslim world will continue, as it has in recent decades at terrible cost.  It is a paradigm we must shift. 

His calculated language, intended to convey that he himself does not favour terrorism, still gets this message across: If you do not allow us to go ahead with this project, Muslims will have just reasons to step up terrorist attacks on America.

What kind of threat is that? What are we missing in this most open and tolerant country where the authorities have gone out of their way to accommodate the demands of Muslim organizations. Where billions of dollars have been spent to prevent future terrorist attacks; where new plots continue to be uncovered; where honour killings still occur; where 13 soldiers  were killed by a Muslim officer who  betrayed his pledge of allegiance to the country he promised to serve; where some need full-time body guard protection against Islamist terrorists. Others are told by the FBI that it is helpless to protect them if they are targeted by a fatwa that gives Muslims the ?right? to kill American citizens. This list goes on.

The Missing Context

In my view what is missing in Rauf?s reasoning is context. The real context here is the clash of civilizations that is poorly understood in the tolerant, now largely secular West.  Many among the media, academic, and political elite do not take seriously the reality that all over the Muslim world, and now in many mosques and other places of learning in the West, radical imams spout an unrelenting message of hatred toward the infidels, especially the Great Satan.

How does a man like Rauf, a cleric born in Kuwait who has lived in the U.S. since his teens, fit into that picture. He has denounced terrorism  and claims that Islam?s core teachings are compatible with American democracy. He told the French L?Express in 2003: ?We have the chance to create here a new Muslim identity, to modernize the theology. America is an opportunity for Islam.?

What does this kind of verbiage really mean? To figure that out you need to understand this in the context of his many other statements.

Rauf has claimed that ?America has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaeda.? Shortly after 9/11, he stated: ?American policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.? He also said that ?Osama bin Laden is made in the U.S.? ?The U.S. and the West must acknowledge the harm they have done to Muslims before terrorism can end.? He refused to acknowledge that Hamas is a terrorist organization, explaining that terrorism is a ?very complex? issue. (On September 8, 2010, he admitted on CNN that ?Hamas has committed acts of terrorism.?)

In June  2009, Rauf wrote in support of the 1979 revolution in Iran led by Ayatollah  Khomeini, establishing a totalitarian theocracy that has ruthlessly suppressed all opposition. He has advised President Obama  to say that his administration ?respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution ? to establish a government that expresses the will of the people;  a just government, based on the ideas of vilayet-i-faqih, which establishes the rule of law.

Vilayet-i-faqih means ?the guardianship of the jurist,? meaning that the imams are acting in the name of Allah and serving as guardians of the people. This idea makes clear that Islam is not just a religion but also a political ideology. Wherever this unholy merger exists, there is certain to be no freedom, as in Iran.

Unravelling Orwellian Doublespeak

Although Rauf claims that Islam and  American democracy are compatible, his endorsement of the totalitarian regime founded by Khomeini puts him squarely on the side of those who are determined to change America into a sharia-friendly country. In an article for the Jordanian  newspaper al-Ghad, entitled  ?Sharing the Essence of our Beliefs? he explains why Islamic movements with political agendas carry  religious names, such as Muslim Brotherhood.

?I answer them this?that the trends  towards Islamic law and justice begins in religious movements, because secularism has failed to deliver  what the Muslim  wants, which is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?. The only law that the Muslim  needs exists already in the Koran and the Hadith.? Elsewhere Rauf acknowledges the all-inclusive character of Islam:

The Shari?ah thus covers every field of law ? public and private, national and international ? together with enormous amounts of material that Westerners would not regard as law at all, because the basis of the Shari?ah is the worship of, and obedience to, God through good works and moral behavior. (See Ibn Warraq, ?The Two Faces of Feisal Rauf,? National Review OnLine, Sept 14, 2010, p.5)  

Rauf wants to have it both ways: claim that Islam is compatible with American law, and then argue that the Koran and the Hadith cover every field of law and are  therefore superior to all man-made law. Logic and history tells us that these two positions are irreconcilable. This is not just some harmless academic debate, but at stake is the difference between a free and open society and one in which  religious fanaticism sets the tone ? with momentous implications for entire nations.

To make a totalitarian society look attractive, it needs to be presented as something it is not. This is what Rauf is doing in his tireless efforts to ?bridge the gap? between the free West and one ruled by Islamic law. Those are not the actions of a bridge builder and a truth speaker, despite the New York Times? claim that  Rauf has spent a life time trying to ?reconcile Islam with America and modernism.?

We are still left with a huge conundrum: Why would the U.S. State Department entrust this man to represent America, at U.S. taxpayers? expense, to the Muslim world? The answer must lie in the unprecedented claims President Obama made in his speech to the Muslim world in June 2009 in Cairo. There he vowed to make ?a new beginning between the United States and Muslims.? He also said that ?partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is?. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United Sates to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.?

Such a claim gives a whole new slant to the presidential oath of office, especially considering the absolutist claims of Islam about the relationship between religion and politics.