Ron Radosh

Imam Rauf and the State Department:The Truth About our Man in the Middle East

On his Pajamas Express blog today, my PJM colleague and friend Michael Ledeen dug up an old article from Imam Rauf, revealing that he not only endorsed the 1979 Iranian revolution creating an Islamic theocratic state, but then turned around and advised President Obama to respect the Iranian regime’s guiding principles.

Writing in Slate, Christopher Hitchens made precisely the same point. “The more one reads through his statements,” Hitchens writes, “the more alarming it gets.” Like Ledeen, he quotes  the same passage written by Rauf in the Huffington Post back in June 2009. Explaining the so called “rule of law” espoused by Rauf, Vilayet-i-faquih, Hitchens writes:

Vilayet-i-faquih is the special term promulgated by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to describe the idea that all of Iranian society is under the permanent stewardship (sometimes rendered as guardianship) of the mullahs. Under this dispensation, “the will of the people” is a meaningless expression, because “the people” are the wards and children of the clergy. It is the justification for a clerical supreme leader, whose rule is impervious to elections and who can pick and choose the candidates and, if it comes to that, the results. It is extremely controversial within Shiite Islam. (Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq, for example, does not endorse it.) As for those numerous Iranians who are not Shiites, it reminds them yet again that they are not considered to be real citizens of the Islamic Republic.

Rauf’s “rule of law,”  Hitchens points out,  is “the most extreme and repressive version of Muslim theocracy.” Ledeen and Hitchens are absolutely correct. So the question must be asked: what is the Department of State doing sending this radical Muslim theocrat — who falsely poses as a moderate — on a tour of the Middle East purportedly to explain the principles of American democracy abroad and win new friends for the United States?

Of course, as Hitchens also notes, anyone who points out the truth is now accused of “Islamophobia.” That term is the equivalent of yelling Red-baiting at those who told the truth about Communism in the ’50s. Just look at this week’s issue of Time, with its cover asking whether Americans are Islamophobic, and the cover story essentially answering that in the positive.

And today, Pamela Geller — whose website I find full of some preposterous conspiracy theories that can too easily be used to discredit her —  proves that on occasion she can be right too.  (Take notice, Frank Rich, who in Sunday’s New York Times writes that the attacks on the proposed Ground Zero mosque on Fox News and in the New York Post were all inspired by Geller, whom he calls a “rabidly anti-Islam blogger best known for claiming that Obama was Malcolm X’s illegitimate son.”) Will Rich now cite the real evidence that Geller has uncovered, including the official text and recording of a speech presented by Imam Rauf in Australia in 2005?

Given at The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, Rauf showed himself to be the anti-American that he is and revealed his basic support of radical Islam.  The imam was introduced as a man who “preaches a message of peace and understanding between peoples” from his current mosque which is twelve blocks from Ground Zero.  But when he steps up to speak, the message he delivers is something quite different.

We tend to forget, in the West,” Rauf says, “that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non Muslims. You may remember that the US-led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations. And when Madeleine Albright, who has become a friend of mine over the last couple of years, when she was Secretary of State and was asked whether this was worth it, said it was worth it.”

Islam, the imam claims, “does not need a Reformation.” Speaking only a few days after the Islamist bombings in London in 2005, he obfuscated, casting  doubt on who was responsible, while it was well known by then that radical Islamists living in London had been responsible. He does the same dance in regard to the Madrid bombings.

He is less sanguine when answering who was responsible for terrorism in Iraq. You guessed the answer: the United States. First, Imam Rauf asks his audience how many of them had seen Michael Moore’s “documentary” Fahrenheit 911. Watching an Iraqi woman screaming after finding that her house was bombed, the imam tells the audience that “I found myself weeping.” He then comments:

How do you tell people whose homes have been destroyed, whose lives have been destroyed, that this does not justify your actions of terrorism. It’s hard. Yes, it is true that it does not justify the acts of bombing innocent civilians, that does not solve the problem, but after 50 years of, in many cases, oppression, of US support of authoritarian regimes that have violated human rights in the most heinous of ways, how else do people get attention?

Imam Rauf has a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem.  It is not the two-state solution supported by the United States, Israel, and the Quartet.  No, he believes that the “one-state solution is a more coherent one than a two-state solution.” In other words, a unitary Arab state in all of the old Palestine Mandate, the end of Israel as a Jewish state, with a Jewish minority living under the control of radical Islamists who will treat them as dhimmi.

So why, one must ask, is the State Department sending this radical cleric to represent the United States, and why is the mainstream media continually reassuring us that he is a reasonable patriotic American and a good representative of moderate Islam? The answer may be partially found in the interview conducted this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program. Joe Scarborough and guests asked questions of Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley. You can see his interview here.

When asked whether or not the United States was in favor of “regime change” in Iran, Crowley first answered: “That’s a matter for the Iranian people.” While he acknowledged there were some “questioning circumstances” in the recent election that returned Ahmadinejad to power, Crowley indicated no support for Iranian opponents who were being arrested or killed, and expressed no  dissatisfaction with the actions of the current government. Instead, he emphasized that “we are prepared to engage” with Iran and to “have conversations” with its representatives. U.S. policy, he asserted, was to try “to forestall” an arms race in the region. He said nothing about sanctions or even a military option kept in reserve should the regime move closer to achieving the bomb. He ended by saying that of course, the Israeli-Arab conflict had to be ended and that would encourage Iran to take the right steps.

When the questions then turned to Imam Rauf, Crowley responded that this was his fourth trip for the State Department, the second this year which added to the two that took place in 2007. The State Department’s work with Rauf, he noted, preceded the mosque controversy. Rauf toured in a program that also included Catholic priests, Jewish rabbis and Protestant ministers who helped foreign audiences “understand religion in our society.” Then he offered this clincher:

“Rauf is a moderate Muslim figure here in the United States” who preaches “religious tolerance throughout the world.” Crowley went on, when asked whether or not Americans should trust Imam Rauf, that “we send 1200 people” on these tours, and “50 of them are clerics.” We don’t expect they will agree with U.S. policy.” But they are all people with “broad experience” and thus help foreign audiences “understand the United States.”

So we have our answer. Rauf is the Obama administration’s and the State Department’s man in the Middle East, sent to assure his audiences that the US will be sensitive to their needs, and is ever ready to appease them in the interests of “peace.”  We do all this, while the imam  tells his audiences quite the opposite.  Like them, he wants the destruction of Israel, rationalizes terrorism and accuses the United States of real terrorism against Muslims, while seeking to have  his fellow Americans accept the Islamic theocracy as the regime he says is favored by the people of Iran.

How much longer can the fiction be maintained that this man behind the proposed Ground Zero mosque is a moderate and a man of peace?


Today, if there was any doubt that the liberal elite has decided to go all out on behalf of Imam Feisal Rauf,  there is much evidence to show this is indeed the case. First, on today’s Morning Joe program, co-host Mika Brzezinski spent most of the morning fulminating about how the right-wing was opposing freedom of religion, and preventing a good moderate imam from having the chance to build the mosque he deserves.

But most upsetting was the position taken by Richard Haas, chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Bush advisor during the last administration. On the same program (I could not find the clip or transcript as yet on the web), Haas praised Imam Rauf and his wife Daisy Kahn as the epitome of “moderate” Muslims who want to “Americanize Islam” and build an Islamic faith fully integrated into the American mosaic. Haas said he knows both of them, has met them many times, and essentially finds the debate surreal and an example of the Islamophobia gripping many of our countrymen.

It is telling that this program, one of the few that purports to have different points of view represented, presented not one person who addressed the salient issue of what Imam Rauf really believes, and whether or not he says one thing to his Islamic audiences abroad and another to people like Jeffrey Goldberg and Richard Haas.  Could they not have found one person who holds the analysis offered by Christopher Hitchens or Andrew McCarthy? Of course they could. That they and the other programs choose not to reveals only that to raise the kinds of issues they address is considered far out of the mainstream, and therefore impermissible to be aired on certain programs.

Second, one finds the astonishing article  at The New Republic by the former radical activist and now journalism and sociology professor at Columbia University, Todd Gitlin. According to Gitlin, Rauf is a subversive, but not one who wants to harm or subvert our country. “But what he wants to subvert is not the United States of America. What he wants to subvert are dictatorships in Islamic nations.”

As Gitlin proclaims, Rauf wants to build an American Islam whose foundations are not sharia law, but “the American Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” which he is quoted as saying “express the Islamic ideal, which is itself but an expression of the Abrahamic ethic.”  Yes, “the American Constitution and system of governance uphold the core principles of Islamic law.” As Gitlin goes on to say, quoting the imam:

The overarching American religion that all Americans live under is ‘Islamic’ in the sense that it is fully compliant with and expresses the Islamic Shariah.” In Rauf’s understanding, Sharia is predicated on religious pluralism, which is “a fundamental human right under Islamic law.”

We have no need to worry, Gitlin tells us, since the imam writes that the United States “is substantively an ‘Islamic’ country.”  So, he is not surprised that the State Department has sent this man to let the Muslim world know about our country, since he is one of its firmest supporters.  Writes Gitlin: “He wants to Americanize the Muslim world in the way that counts—by promoting our political institutions.”  So, no need to listen to the racist and insensitive Islamophobic inhabitants  of the right-wing, who want to scare their fellow Americans in order to get votes in November for the Republican Party and tea-party candidates.

Gitlin sees no need to further explore anything that might point to contrary evidence, such as that offered by Michael Ledeen and Christopher Hitchens.

Of course, the good imam knows what to say. In his interview last night, he said all the right comforting words:

And so, the poignancy of this all is I’ve been called and accused, even by the radicals, of being a moderate. People have said, “Where are the voices of the moderate Muslims?” and here I am trying to do something that expands and amplifies the voice of the moderates in Islam. And how they can conclude this would be a pilgrimage for the radicals is the very opposite of the truth. The fact of the matter is that we are a threat to the radicals because we are the most articulate advocates for combating radicalism. You have to transform people by utilizing the values that they think. When I speak to Muslim audiences, I use the verses of the Koran which we, Muslims, believe to be God’s words. I use the teachings of the Prophet because these are the things that convince them. I use these languages, these methods, to calm that radicalism.

You don’t have to trust Todd Gitlin. Just see what the imam himself has to say when speaking to a Western reporter.  And on the Huffington Post, Prof. David Gushee presents a new analogy: the GZ Mosque controversy is our new American “Dreyfus Affair.” I kid you not. Merely exercising one’s right to oppose a mosque built in this particular spot, and to present arguments against it, is the equivalent of the French government’s framing up of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus in 1894. Then, the French Army, with the support of nationalists and anti-Semites, framed the only Jewish officer for secrets actually passed to Germany by a Major Esterhazy.

In this man’s eyes (he actually teaches religion and Christian ethics- God help his students) Dreyfuss today is Imam Rauf, and …well, let the man present his case himself. He writes:

Those similarities include the identification of an entire religious minority as a threat to the nation, the harmlessness of both Captain Alfred Dreyfus and Imam Abdul Rauf, the role of major media voices in whipping up frenzied national fears, and the questionable capacity of the nation to honor its own legal and moral principles. The other parallel is almost too painful to name: the role of the Christian majority and some of its most vocal and visible leaders in turning the religious “Other” into an object of infamy. In France a hundred years ago, these were Catholic demagogues leading the charge. Today they are mainly Protestant evangelicals.

Those Christian evangelicals again. What can you expect? I mean these people favor Israel too. One does not have to even make a case, just mention them.

So here are some opposing points for Gitlin, Gushee,  Mika Brezezinski and Richard Haas to read and hopefully profit from. First, in today’s NRO, Andrew McCarthy  writes about the attempt to invent a moderate Islam that barely exists. He informs us about “Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual guide and a favorite of the Saudi royal family,” whom he notes has been endorsed and cited by our good Imam Rauf. Called the “most well known legal authority in the whole Muslim world today” by Imam Rauf, the sheik’s argument is Islam is incompatible with secular society. After all, to say you know better than  Allah is “apostasy.” And if a Muslim makes a public break with the faith, as let us say Hirsi Ali and others, he has a quick solution: “Execution.” And this is the face of Muslim moderation!

Well, Andrew McCarthy asks: Why do so many say they are moderates? His answer: “Because we have abandoned reason.”  McCarthy is not anti-Islam. He wants a reformed Islam to flourish. As he writes:

Instead, abandoning reason, we have deep-sixed our own frame of reference and substituted mainstream Islam’s. If that backward compass is to be our guide, then sure, Qaradawi and Rauf are moderates. But know this: When you capitulate to the authority and influence of Qaradawi and Rauf, you kill meaningful Islamic reform.

He makes an observation that relates to my blog two days ago, that gave consternation to so many. McCarthy says wisely that “there are millions of moderate Muslims who crave reform.” But we are killing the opportunity for it to develop by giving the label of moderate to the likes of Rauf and Qaradawi. McCarthy points out:

Meanwhile, individual Muslim reformers are branded apostates, meaning not only that they are discredited, but that their lives are threatened as well. The signal to other Muslims is clear: Follow the reformers and experience the same fury. As Qaradawi put it in the 2005 interview, public apostates are “the gravest danger” to Islamic society; therefore, Muslims must snuff them out, lest their reforms “spread like wildfire in a field of thorns.”

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