Two New York politicians — Representative Peter King and Rick Lazio, a candidate for governor — are ginning up opposition to the project, as is the Weekly Standard.Their strategy is to ask dark questions about the motivations behind the project (known as Park51 because of its address on Park Place). Those motivations reside in an imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement, the project’s co-sponsors. So far as I can tell, Rauf is a good person who genuinely wants to build a more peaceful world. (I met him briefly last year at a venue where we had both been asked to give talks about compassion — his from an Islamic perspective, mine from a secular perspective. Here’s the talk he gave.)
But if you think Rauf’s good intentions are going to keep him safe from the Weekly Standard, you underestimate that magazine’s creative powers. Its latest issue features an article about Park51 chock full of angles that never would have occurred to me if some magazine had asked me to write an assessment of the project’s ideological underpinnings. For example: Rauf’s wife, who often speaks in support of the project and during one talk reflected proudly on her Islamic heritage, “failed to mention another feature of her background: She is the niece of Dr. Farooq Khan, formerly a leader of the Westbury Mosque on Long Island, which is a center for Islamic radicals and links on its Web site to the paramilitary Islamic Circle of North America (I.C.N.A.), the front on American soil for the Pakistani jihadist Jamaat e-Islami.”
Got that? Rauf’s wife has an uncle who used to be “a leader” of a mosque that now has a Web site that links to the Web site of an allegedly radical organization. (I’ll get back to the claim that the Westbury Mosque is itself a “center for Islamic radicals.”)
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