Yes, fresh from denouncing America on national television as a place rife with “hate of Muslims,” a place so Islamophobic that “it’s beyond Islamophobia,” Daisy Khan, co-planner of the Ground Zero mosque project, will soon be hopping a plane at taxpayer expense, courtesy of the State Department, to jet from New York to the United Arab Emirates and deliver to the Emiratis her views about Muslim life in America.
This is what the State Department calls “public diplomacy” — a program that enlists about 1,200 Americans each year to fly with plenty of leg room to foreign lands and tell folks over there what it’s like to live in America. You might think a lot of these junkets would by now be redundant, in a world so interconnected that the Fort Hood shooter took cues from an imam in Yemen. But then, the web just doesn’t have the zing of international business class and $496 per diems.
For Daisy Khan’s circle, State’s public diplomacy program is a boom industry. (So are a lot of things for Khan & partners right now, subject of my latest column, Cashing In On Ground Zero). Khan’s husband and “bridge-building” partner, the man behind the Ground Zero mosque, Imam Feisal Adbul Rauf, is already on a more extensive State Department tour. After stops in Bahrain, where he has just been, and Qatar, where he will be this week, Rauf will meet up with Khan in the UAE, from Aug. 29-Sept.2. His trip will cost U.S. taxpayers $16,000. Hers will cost $12,000.
(Hmmm. I flew out to the UAE this spring, spent more time there than they plan to, spent another two weeks in Turkey, stayed in some very pleasant hotels, hired cars, ate well, and somehow it all came to significantly less than Khan’s trip alone… next time, I’ve got to get this right. Or maybe someone ought to take a closer look at the State Department budget?)
If you want slightly more detail about the Rauf-Khan trip to the UAE, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi has posted an announcement on its web site . But don’t get your hopes up that you’ll learn anything there about who Rauf and Khan will actually be seeing, as they build their “people to people” ties. Most details of these public outreach trips are kept secret from the American public.
Anyway, there you have it — for all those American taxpayers who caught Daisy Khan’s Sunday rant on ABC TV’s “This Week,” don’t bother looking for her on the U.S. talk shows next Sunday. She’ll be checking into an Abu Dhabi hotel, on your dime, to share her views with a Middle Eastern audience.