The State Department plans to send Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man at the center of plans to build a mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, on a visit to the Middle East.
According to The Associated Press, Rauf, who has been on two separate State Department-sponsored trips, will visit three Middle Eastern countries to discuss Muslim life in America and to promote religious tolerance.
In a CNN article, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, “We have a long-term relationship with him.” He added that, “His work on tolerance and religious diversity is well-known, and he brings a moderate perspective to foreign audiences on what it's like to be a practicing Muslim in the United States."
Crowley said the trip is one of about 1,200 similar programs to send experts abroad and that last year the State Department had 52 trips specifically focused on promoting religious tolerance. According the transcript, the trip is being handled by the International Information Programs office.
Some members of Congress have announced their opposition to the trip. Reps. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Peter King, R-N.Y., released a joint statement saying government funding of the trip is “unacceptable.”
In the statement, the Associated Press writes that Lehtinen and King said Rauf had suggested in at least one interview that the U.S. is to blame for the Sept. 11 attacks. The representatives said that taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to pay for the trip.
They also said, “The State Department’s selection of Feisal Abdul Rauf to represent the American people through this program further calls into question the administration’s policy and funding priorities.”
Should the U.S. send the imam who is promoting building a mosque near ground zero to the Middle East?