The Imam Has Landed ... So When Does He Phone Home?

In making the rounds of the Middle East oil capitals, as Rauf meets for the secret discussions State has arranged with his nameless interlocutors, what account is he giving of the controversy and in some cases the anguish he and his Cordoba House/Park 51 partners are causing right now, back home in America? Is he still in the business of telling his audience, as he did less than three weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, Islamist attacks, that "in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the U.S.A."?

Whenever Rauf does finally deign to re-insert himself in person into the U.S. debate, it could entail some interesting footwork on his part. A big question by now is why this self-described bridge-builder would treat the American public with such staggering contempt. Having provoked a raging debate, Rauf for weeks now has removed himself from the reach of all questioners, and disclosed nothing about his doings and his plans for a lengthy summer sojourn abroad -- some of that on the U.S. taxpayers' tab.

When he does resurface, I'd wager it will be with an interview or remarks given to a reporter too friendly to ask real questions -- something along the lines of the supreme puff-piece that the Wall Street Journal's news pages ran on Aug. 2, in which the reporter spoke with Rauf's wife, Daisy Khan, and apparently asked not a single question about money, nor about why Rauf himself had vanished from public view. Or perhaps Rauf's return will be handled by an outlet such as the New York Times, as naturally and unthinkingly as the Times handled his disappearance. Remember the article Aug. 10, in which a New York Times reporter also interviewed Khan, and somewhere around the 14th paragraph mentioned, in passing -- as if it were quite normal to have the leader of the project drop out of sight, no further questions needed -- that "Imam Feisal is in Malaysia and could not be reached for comment for this article." Really? He could not be reached at all, not even by his cheering section at the New York Times? Why not?

Or maybe, as Rauf makes his rounds of Gulf petro-dollar domains, an item will slip out here and there in the local press -- in which, for the first time in weeks, the imam himself pipes up. Whatever Rauf finally does to break radio silence, the protracted and bizarre information blackout in which he has already indulged -- with all its implied scorn for the questions and anxieties of the American public -- is a sorry portent of how he might manage his "bridge-building" $100 million mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero.