Smearing Rauf As A Terrorist Sympathizer.

Rudy Giuliani weighs in on the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy:

"It sends a particularly bad message, particularly (because) of the background of the Imam who is supporting this. This is an Imam who has supported radical causes, who has not been forthright in condemning Islamic (terrorism) and the worst instincts that that brings about.

[...]

"I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are."

The obvious response is that to the right, what defines a "decent Muslim" is a Muslim who does not believe Muslims should be entitled to the same rights as other Americans. Second, the notion that Imam Faisal Rauf has "supported radical causes" and "not been forthright in condemning Islamic terrorism" doesn't seem to be true.

Conservatives point to this exchange between Ed Bradley and Rauf on 60 Minutes shortly after the 9/11 attacks to suggest Rauf sympathizes with terrorists:

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.

Whether you agree with this statement or not, criticism of American foreign policy doesn't amount to "support" for terrorism, or Ron Paul would be under investigation for expressing similar views. Rauf's detractors also tend to ignore this statement Rauf made in the exact same interview:

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.

Likewise the "failure to denounce Hamas" exchange has been overblown into "support" for Hamas. This is what the New York Post reported he said months ago:

"I am a peace builder. I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary or as an enemy," Rauf said, insisting that he wants to see peace in Israel between Jews and Arabs.

This does not constitute an endorsement of Hamas' violent methods -- and as Robert
Wright
points out, condemning
Hamas in the same unequivocal terms as say, a writer at the Weekly Standard
would hamper Rauf's moderating influence on those who might really be
inclined to support Hamas. Sometimes fighting religious extremism means
empowering Muslim leaders who reject violence but might not share the
same political views as conservative American political figures, rather than discrediting them by insisting they swear loyalty
oaths every five seconds. Not that condemning Hamas in no uncertain terms would satisfy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, or the writers who influence them, since they see
Islam as "not a religion" but an "ideology" that "strives for
authoritarian control of every aspect of human life."

As for the funding for the project, according to the developer, Sharif el-Gamal, the funding
for the center hasn't even begun yet, but they have pledged to "refuse
assistance, financial or otherwise, from any persons or institutions who
are flagged by our security consultants or any government agencies." There have been charities in the past that have funneled money to extremist causes, but investigation of such matters are best handled by the Treasury Department, not crazed freelancers chasing Islamophobic conspiracy theories and pointing crooked fingers at every observant Muslim in sight. The Cordoba Initiative hardly seems like a likely candidate; as Matt Duss points out, the FBI said Rauf "had helped agents reach out to the Muslim population after Sept. 11."

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