...that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a worldly, progressive American Muslim who is praised as an advocate for interfaith dialogue?
Not a lot of people seem to know that, especially because he landed in the spotlight for remarks that implicated U.S. foreign policy in the 9-11 attacks....
(excerpt from the 60 Minutes transcript)
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: Bin Laden and his supporters were, in fact, recruited and paid nearly $4 billion by the CIA and the government of Saudi Arabia in the 1980s to fight with the mujahadeen rebels against the former Soviet Union, which had invaded Afghanistan. After the Soviets pulled out, the Saudis, our best friends in the Arab world, our staunchest ally during the Gulf War, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the newly-formed Taliban regime, and then felt that bin Laden and the Taliban were out of control. Bin Laden's faith is a strict, puritanical form of Islam called Wahhabism, which was founded in the 18th century in Saudi Arabia, and is now that country's predominant ideology....
I've read a lot of articles that call the Imam a radical, but he's more grounded in reality than most of our leaders in charge of interpreting the Middle East. As part of my Race and Ethnic Studies major (yeah that's a thing) I learned about victim responsibility, which I understood as the unfair and insensitive expectation that victims "chill out" and stop taking offense to things they perceive as threatening. There is a responsibility to victim-hood, though. Americans need to be aware of the history of radical Islam and understand why the West is targeted. The influence of this Imam would be very beneficial for that reason.
I also think that if any Muslim who sees 51Park as a monument to Islamic triumphalism actually entered an Islamic center that contained a 500-seat auditorium, theater, performing arts center, fitness center, swimming pool, basketball court, childcare area, bookstore, culinary school, art studio and halal food court and someone said, "this is for you," well....it almost sounds like a pitch for a reality series, but if it demonstrated the impact of community, resources and opportunity on a purportedly evil human being, it just might shake America's subconscious desire to keep Islam incompatible and primitive.
A faith-based community center modeled after a YMCA or JCC? God, no. That building was better off abandoned....
Additional reading: Hard Hat Pledge