Thursday, August 12, 2010

Imam Leading Efforts To Build Ground Zero Mosque Will Be State Department Speaker In Middle East

At Tuesday's State Department daily press briefing (full text), Assistant Secretary Philip Crowley discussed the travel of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, leader of the group planning to build the controversial mosque near Ground Zero in New York City, as part of the State Department's International Information Program.  On the government-sponsored trip, Feisal will visit Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE to discuss Muslim life and religious tolerance in the United States. The Department sends some 1200 speakers a year overseas on all sorts of topics. Last year 52 of the programs focused on religious tolerance in the U.S. This is Imam Feisal's third trip under the program since 2007. Crowley said that Feisal's "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." The State Department bans its speakers from engaging in fund raising on State Department trips. Crowley insisted that the Administration has not taken a position on the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero, but it did post the remarks on religious tolerance delivered by Mayor Michael Bloomberg (see prior posting) on a State Department website aimed at foreign audiences. (See prior posting.)

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