Where exactly is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the $100 million Ground Zero mosque project? I keep asking because weeks after he stopped answering any questions about his “Cordoba House” plans, there is still no answer.
By now, there is information in Rauf’s silence. He launched his Ground Zero mosque and Islamic center project in the name of “dialogue,” “outreach” and “bridge-building” in lower Manhattan. In doing so, he trampled on raw feelings, and set off a divisive debate. Rauf’s apparent dismissal of public questions as not worth his time, while he travels to the Middle East on U.S. taxpayer money, suggests enormous contempt for the American public.
Rauf dropped out of sight weeks ago, and as far as I can discover, he hasn’t answered any questions from the press since Reuters spoke to him by phone on July 22nd. (When I surprised him at his office in Malaysia on July 30th, Malaysian time, after his New York office said he was traveling and unreachable, he got right back off the phone to return to an “important meeting,” and then referred all further questions back to his office in New York.)
So, as far as I can discover, it’s now almost four weeks since Rauf last took any questions from the U.S. media or public. All we really know at this point is that after spending time in Malaysia (Did he go anywhere else? Who knows?), Rauf is due right around now to be meeting and greeting in some of the petro-dollar capitals of the Middle East — as part of a multi-week Ramadan “public diplomacy” tour hosted by the State Department, courtesy of the U.S. embassies in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
If Rauf is there for “public diplomacy,” or “bridge-building,” or “outreach,” or whatever we’re calling such junkets these days, then what is his day-to-day schedule? Who is he meeting with? Where is he right now? Why should both Rauf and the State Department be treating the details of his “public diplomacy” tour as something to be kept secret from the American public?
Apart from confirming the destinations to which his taxpayer-bankrolled tickets will take him, and where taxpayer money will cover his hotels and his per diems, the State Department in Washington has refused to provide any details. Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain told me that Rauf is expected there Aug. 19, and will stay for “a couple of days.” But none of the other embassies he’s visiting were willing to say anything on the record, and I have yet to find a jot of information about his current trip on any of their web sites.
Most telling: From Rauf, self-proclaimed “bridge-builder,” there has been no word. His Cordoba Initiative foundation has been tweeting and blogging and posting away about assorted endorsements of his Ground Zero mosque project. But of Rauf’s taxpayer-funded travels to the Middle East, there is no news. No chatty missive from the imam about who’s on his dance card in Doha, or Manama, or Dubai, or Abu Dhabi. No updates on how or where or from whom he is now expecting to procure the $100 million for his Cordoba House. Nor is there any detail about the itinerary of his wife and partner in Islamic nonprofits, Daisy Khan, for whom the State Department has arranged her own taxpayer-funded junket to Dubai and Abu Dhabi this same month.
It’s easy to lose sight of the imam’s vanishing act, because his name is everywhere. Just about everyone from the Palestinian terrorists of Hamas to President Barack Obama has been busy talking about Rauf’s $100 million Ground Zero mosque project. Obama weighed in Friday evening at a White House Ramadan dinner, and then sorta kinda tried to weigh back out over the weekend. The Cordoba Initiative, on its blog, is playing up his remarks as an endorsement. The New York Post reports that a Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar, is thrilled about Rauf’s mosque project. And we all know by now that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been cheering it on, and doesn’t care where the money comes from.
But where is Rauf? Has anyone had a sighting? What was he doing for weeks in Malaysia? Who was at that “important meeting” in his Kuala Lumpur office? What is he doing right now in the Gulf (if, indeed, he is now there)? What will be the choreography of his reappearance when he finally deigns to return to New York? And what does his choice of this lengthy communications blackout tell us about his respect — or lack of respect — for the American public?