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.”