The Ground Zero Mosque Developer: Muslim Brotherhood Roots, Radical Dreams
The prospective developer of a $100 million, 13-story mosque 600 feet from Ground Zero presents himself as a Muslim moderate (1). Yet Kuwait-born Faisal Abdul Rauf also boasts of his issue from an “Egyptian family steeped in religious scholarship” (2). Indeed, Feisal Rauf's Muslim Brotherhood provenance, radical by definition, is as authentic as it gets.
Rauf's father, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Rauf (1917-2004) -- an Egyptian contemporary of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna -- conveyed to Feisal his family's long tradition of radicalism, which he acquired at Islam's closest equivalent to the Vatican, Al-Azhar University. The elder Dr. Rauf studied and taught there before fleeing Egypt in 1948. That year, Feisal Abdul Rauf was born in Kuwait.
Feisal Rauf has planned for some time to further develop his father's U.S. Islamic expansionism. In 1990, Rauf opened the tiny al-Farah Mosque at 245 West Broadway in lower Manhattan. Area residents did not even notice the mosque until 2006, when the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) refused to license a new bar on the same block and started yanking others' liquor licenses (3).
Rauf attended grammar school and high school in the UK and Malaysia, according to his biography. He probably first lived in America only in 1965, at age 17, when his father moved from Malaysia to New York to plan and head the Islamic Cultural Center (not built until the mid-1980s) (4). Rauf then obtained a BS in physics at Columbia University (5). In 1971, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Rauf's father headed the Islamic Center on Massachusetts Ave (6). His father, buried in Suitland, MD, at the for-profit Washington National Cemetery, also founded three Malaysian Islamic studies programs, including the International Islamic University of Malaysia (7).
Rauf's early UK education and familiarization with American popular culture and values made him an acutely adept practitioner of Islamic taqiyya -- deceptive speech and action to advance the interests and supremacy of Islam (8). To further that Islamic advancement, Rauf in 1997 established the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA). His Kashmir-born wife Daisy Kahn, an interior designer by profession, has run the organization since 2005 (9).
Rauf then began cultivating new spheres of influence. In about summer 2002, Rauf started lecturing on Islam at the 750-acre southwestern New York campus of Chautauqua Institution, a 136-year-old non-profit where religion director Joan Brown Campbell took Rauf under her wing. Under the rubric of the “Abrahamic” faiths, a convenient cover for Rauf's Islamic activities, Campbell subsequently named him the prospective head of a Muslim house now planned on campus by another Rauf brainchild -- the 501(3)c organization Muslim Friends of Chautauqua. Rauf also befriended Karen Armstrong, the former British nun and devotee of Islam.
In summer 2002, as a “theologian in residence,” Armstrong advocated for the Muslim Brotherhood -- as if the father of all Islamic terrorist organizations was a progressive charity:
[The MB] set up a wonderful welfare program before it was suppressed. ... Factories where Muslims could work, had time for prayers, had vacation time, insurance, [learned] labor laws, [provided] clinics, they taught people how to treat sewage, drainage, and it was always the religions response to try to help modernity to give to the ordinary people the benefits of modernity in an Islamic setting that made sense to them and made things more balanced (10).
In 2003, Rauf befriended leaders of Denver's Aspen Institute, including former executive director and four-term Aspen mayor John S. Bennet. In 2004, under ASMA auspices, Rauf organized a meeting of 125 young Muslims and formed Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow. With Bennet's help, he co-founded the Cordoba Initiative in Aspen, purportedly to “improve” Muslim-West relations (11). Rauf gets funding from a variety of other liberal organizations, including, for example, Gloria Steinem's Ms. Foundation.
However, Rauf directly contradicted his conciliatory behavior with a firebrand interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. Terrorism, he stated, will end only when the West acknowledges the harm it has done to Muslims: