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The Multiplying Mysteries of Creating an Islamic Center Near Ground Zero

You've read about the plans of a small foundation called the Cordoba Initiative to build a  whopping $100 million Islamic center near Ground Zero. There are many reasons to question whether this project for a "Cordoba House" should go forward. Some involve the symbolism of the plan, and the aims of the imam carrying the standard for this project, Feisal Abdul Rauf -- Imam Feisal, to his followers -- a man of Egyptian descent, born in Kuwait, with offices in New York and Malaysia.

For a good rundown on why New York authorities might want to rethink their approval of this project, here's a recent article by my colleague, Andrew McCarthy, former prosecutor in the case of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Andy writes on "Rauf's Dawa from the World Trade Center Rubble," including a look at a "special non-commercial" version of Rauf's book on America and Islam, with Muslim Brotherhood connections that Rauf probably did not advertise to the Manhattan community board that approved his Cordoba House project.

New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg has come out in favor of building this Islamic center (well, the Cordoba Initiative is describing it as an Islamic center with "prayer space"; some are describing it as a mosque with a lot of amenities attached). But it's not clear that Bloomberg has done his homework. For questions Hizzoner really ought to get answers to, another of my colleagues, Cliff May, has written a column framed as an open letter to Bloomberg -- it's summarized and linked on Powerline. There's plenty more that makes interesting reading, including a Pajamas Media piece posted in March by Alyssa A. Lappen, on "The Ground Zero Mosque Developer: Muslim Brotherhood Roots, Radical Dreams."

I'm a latecomer among reporters looking into this story, but I recently took a closer look at the amounts of money involved, and the media reports that Rauf keeps stonewalling questions about his funding. On Thursday morning, I called Rauf's New York office, at the Cordoba Initiative, and was told that until at least the end of August he was "traveling," that he was "out of the country," that he was "unavailable," and that he was "not feeling well."

I asked for a phone number, and was told that Imam Feisal simply could not be reached -- which, in an era of global mobile phones, seemed a pretty neat trick.

So, on a hunch about the erstwhile ailing, traveling, unavailable imam, I picked up the phone Thursday night -- morning in Malaysia -- and called his office in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Not to leave you in suspense, but if you want to read more about it, here's my column on "Where in the World is Imam Feisal?" One thing's for sure. The more one looks, the more the questions just keep multiplying.