The State Department has handed out overseas nearly 3,000 copies of an Islamic book written by Ground Zero mosque promoter Feisal Abdul Rauf, an imam who asserts publicly that America has killed more Muslims than al Qaeda.
The department is now sponsoring Feisal’s fourth trip as a special U.S. emissary to the Muslim world. He made two trips in 2007 during the Bush Administration and one earlier this year to Egypt. Feisal is now visiting Bahrain, Qatar and U.A.E. at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of $16,000.
A State spokeswoman told HUMAN EVENTS that Feisal is “an American Muslim voice to the Middle East.”
Feisal’s trips are not only speaking engagements, but, in effect, book tours.
The State Department acquired 3,000 copies of Feisal’s What’s Right with Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West at a cost of nearly $10,000, under what is called the Cairo Regional Book Program.
A State Department official told HUMAN EVENTS that the publisher initially donated 1,000 books in 2008. Embassies asked for more, prompting State to buy 2,000. State handed out 300 books during his visit to Egypt last January and is giving out more during the current three-country tour.
“Imam Feisal’s book was one we translated,” a State official told HUMAN EVENTS. “There are tons of different books we hand out.”
The official mentioned, as examples, the Civil War novel Cold Mountain, and a book on the Wright brothers.
The State official said the department does not consider Feisal’s book or similar publications as religious books, so there no issue of violating the Constitution’s edict on separation of church and state.
“We don’t characterize them as religious books per se,” the official said. “I know it’s an issue of semantics. But we would consider a religious book to be something like the Koran and the Bible. We look at these as books on religion or books about religion. It’s certainly not limited to any one religion.”
Feisal’s The Cordoba Initiative is leading a drive to build a mega-mosque and Islamic education center in the shadow of New York City’s Ground Zero.
The plan has stirred protests nationwide and split the Democratic Party as congressional elections near.
It has also put the spotlight on Feisal, the proposed mosque’s imam. His ties to State have provoked questions as to why the Obama Administration is promoting him as a Muslim moderate and elevated him to the status of special overseas diplomat.
His book may talk of how the West and Islam can coexist but his utterances repeat the propaganda of Osama bin Laden and other extremists, calling into question whether his out-reach to Middle Easterners will aid America or demonize it.
Feisal argues that America has killed more Muslims than al Qaeda and cites reports on how the West’s embargo on President Saddam Hussein’s Iraq killed thousands.
Feisal spares criticism of Saddam, a convicted war criminal executed by the new democratic government in Baghdad. The reason the U.S.-led embargo was put in place is because Saddam ignored virtually all the terms of a United Nations ceasefire.
Feisal has blamed America for creating al Qaeda by asserting that U.S. foreign policy helped recruit terrorists.
But to Foggy Bottom, which is in a furious effort to conduct outreach with Muslims, Feisal is the perfect envoy.
Asked what message in the book State endorses, the official said, “The department feels that the book presents readers with a moderate interpretation of Islam and a picture of how Islam is practiced in America that at the time was not commonly known among Egyptians.”
In each country Feisal visits, the embassy sends a representative to monitor his talk. State said it did not have transcripts of what is said. Some speaking events are open, others are conducted in private.
In announcing the trip earlier this month, spokesman P. J. Crowley said, “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. And our discussions with him about taking this trip preceded the current debate in New York over the center.”
Republicans Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Peter King of New York put out a joint statement condemning the choice of Feisal.
“It is unacceptable that U.S. taxpayers are being forced to fund Feisal Abdul Rauf’s trip to the Middle East,” the two said. “Abdul Rauf has cast blame for 9/11 on the U.S., and even refuses to call Hamas what it is—a foreign terrorist organization. This radical is a terrible choice to be one of the faces of our country overseas. The U.S. should be using public diplomacy programs to combat extremism, not endorse it. 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.”