Imam Rauf and Religious Liberty

As the Ground Zero Mosque controversy remains an emotional issue, new information has surfaced about the Imam who is the primary promoter of its presence close to the WTC site. All is not as advertised.

Feisal Abdul Rauf has been described as a Muslim moderate, yet he basically blames American foreign policy for 9/11 and refuses to acknowledge Hamas as a terrorist organization. If this is the face of moderate Islam, there is little hope for peaceful resolution of differences.

Good journalistic work [rare nowadays] has now uncovered even more about his dealings with people who depend on him and with his honesty.

First, it turns out Rauf is a slum landlord. Tenants in his apartments describe the living conditions as awful. They say he does nothing to correct the problems. He’s in it for the money, apparently, not to help others.

Second, as reported in the New York Post and highlighted at National Review, he’s willing to lie to get tax breaks:

The leader of the Ground Zero mosque got hugely valuable tax-exempt status for a Muslim organization he founded after claiming as many as 500 of its members prayed daily in a small, one-bedroom Upper West Side apartment also listed as his wife’s residence, The Post has learned.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf sought “church status” — an official IRS term for a house of worship of any religion — for the American Sufi Muslim Association, or ASMA, in 1998. The feds granted the request.

“Church status” is more than just an exemption — it means never having to pay taxes, file returns or reveal the sources of a congregation’s money or how it’s spent, according to the Washington-based Investigative Project on Terrorism, which discovered the group’s startling claims on the IRS form it filed seeking the special status.

Unless you really believe that 500 people are praying daily in his one-bedroom apartment of 800 square feet, you have to conclude that he’s a world-class liar.

Now, I understand the point people make when they say we are a nation that honors religious liberty. Without that, we would be in bad shape indeed. But when someone like Imam Rauf wants to push his religious liberty, opening a mosque close to Ground Zero when the type of people he supports are responsible for the 9/11 act of war, it’s legitimate to question his motives, at the very least. And for many, the erection of that mosque has the appearance of a victory monument.

Does freedom of religion really mean we have to accept this Islamic center/mosque, particularly when he is free to build anywhere else he chooses? The governor of New York has offered to discuss an alternative site; Rauf refuses to consider it. Why?

Are you aware there is a church that was destroyed on 9/11, and it has never received permission from the city government to rebuild? Yet there is no such restriction on Rauf and his dream.

A little equity, please?

There are excellent reasons to deny permission to build this mosque on that site, but this might be the best one: