MM's Coverage of Park51 (Mislabeled “Ground Zero Mosque”)

UPDATE: Came across this interesting State Department's daily press briefing. Scroll towards middle-bottom half. Apparently, the imam may be under clear instructions not to talk about Park51, likely to avoid conflict of interest. He is on state business and can't use a taxpayer supported trip to “fund-raise”. However, still can't see why he shouldn't talk about the controversy (not equal to promoting the project).

Let me preface the post by mentioning that the injection of “radical” into the title was purely tongue-in-cheek!

True radicals would be offended by the use of radical for imam Faisal Rauf, whose message today was as soft as his voice. As part of a State Department sponsored visit, the imam visited Fanar Islamic Cultural Center and gave the Friday khutbah (sermon). Afterward, I was able to sneak in a couple of questions, though I wish he would have answered more. A press black-out was in effect, though loosely enforced. After the khutbah, I also had a chance to have a chat with the cultural attaché of the US Embassy in Qatar.

In the khutbah (audio below), imam Faisal talked about the meaning of shahadah and its true implications. He reminded Muslims that we have to move beyond Islam to iman and Ihsan. He asked if we think our prayer is equal to the prayer of the Prophet (S), and if it is not (which he agreed was not), then how do we close the gap between the acceptance and the essence of the Prophet (S)'s prayer vs. ours.

He reminded everyone about the Prophet (S) being a mercy to mankind and that means that we as followers have to also be part of that mercy. The khutbah can be heard below.

Unfortunately, the imam did not talk about the “Ground Zero Mosque”, which was the big elephant in the room. An AP photographer was in the crowd and kept taking pictures with his giant professional camera, much to the chagrin of the musaleen. I also snapped a few pictures in the beginning but with my small, silent Canon camera  : -)

After the khutbah, I made my way into the front, shook hands with imam Faisal, introduced myself as an American Muslim and a blogger for MM. I told him that we have been following the issue of the Cordoba House/Park 51. I attempted to audiotape the session, but unfortunately the tape's too grainy to play here, so I'll try to transcribe, and make up for the gaps:

MM: imam, we have been obviously following the matter very closely
imam: I'm sure you have

MM: We are wondering how it [the controversy] has affected your trip here?
Imam: alhamdulillah, it hasn't. But, except that I have been getting less sleep [kind of half-serious]. Everyday, [I spend] 2-3 hours following the issues of the day.

MM: A lot of people are asking. Do you feel that you are needed more there. Do you feel that it would have been prudent more to be there [in America] than here?
Imam [the voice was fuzzy here so this may be less than perfectly accurate transcription]: That's a difficult question but the decision was made/justified to stay on course with the program. [And I think he said he was content with that]

I tried to grab him again after he prayed his sunnah, but he had to go, and frankly, he seemed a bit annoyed at this point. I can imagine the stress he is under, and that he is probably constantly bombarded with this issue. However, I do feel that at this time, he needs to be even more open to questions and answers and be front and center discussing the issues, and making himself available at every opportunity.

Afterwords, I engaged in a discussion with the cultural attaché (a friendly guy named Kevin) and another American friend about the visit. I asked him about the purpose of the imam's visit. He said the purpose was to improve inter-faith understanding and religious tolerance (I assume he meant highlighting American values of tolerance).

My friend and I asked him about the big elephant in the room, the issue of Park51 and why it was ignored in the khutbah? We mentioned that everyone knows of the issue, so its not like it can be swept under the rug, rather it needs to be brought up by the imam to highlight that the bigotry against it is not an American value. If the purpose is really to convince Muslims that America is good to its Muslim minority, then the imam's closeness to the issue necessitates that he discuss the fiasco and refute the bigotry. Kevin seemed to agree, and our hope is that he would pass that message to imam Faisal.

As others have mentioned and I alluded to, it just seems imam Faisal is not taking the bull by its horns, and rather perhaps feels/hopes that the issue would just disappear. Perhaps he is the shy/quiet kind, definitely very soft-spoken and finds these situations uncomfortable. But no Muslim is comfortable these days because how the issue has pitched Muslims against non-Muslim Americans, as a result of a successful campaign by the worst bigots that America has to offer, Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller (who by the way are also in bed with white supremacist groups).

So, my message to the imam, if you ever read this: Pls stand up and be heard.

Audio of Khutbah:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

One of the photos is a book, What's Right with Islam: a New Vision for Muslims and the West” translated into Arabic from English by imam Faisal, given free of charge by the US Embassy.

P.S. I have a grainy video of the khutbah, not sure if it has any benefit?

42 Responses

  1. zz

    You left the best part where, after the khutbah, the sheikh in the masjid thanked the “Great” sheikh faisal raouf (many times mentioning great) and repeating the benefit we can gain from his khutbah. His khutbah was irrelevant to the issues Muslim’s face today and we could’ve attended any khutbah in Doha and gotten more out of it.

    Lastly, he mentioned that Muslims, as “we say in America” should “walk the walk and not talk the talk” as the prophet PBUH did (incidentally, he never once stated “PBUH” after using saying the prophet) .

    He needs to do a lot more walking …

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  2. fa

    assalamu alaykum instead of putting ( s) can you please next time use the full sentence sallalahu alayhi wassalam. i just get annoyed when i see people do this,

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    • Amad

      Not sure what the “Rand’s version is”. Rauf has been actively engaged in the community and doing this sort out of outreach even BEFORE there was a RAND report.

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      • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

        Really, Amad…I would have thought you knew exactly what Sam meant. He could be prmoting Rand’s version of Islam without having gotten it from Rand or doing it because of Rand. In fact, the Rand report specifically attempts to identify strains that already exist within the Muslim community most specifically modernists and secularists and recommends that the U.S. promote those strains of thinking among Muslims.

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      • Amad

        More importantly, do we have any specific evidence, from his words that he promotes any version of Islam in his trips?

        I think his goal is to highlight America’s record in treating Muslims… which until recently has been quite good, compared to other Western countries, and even compared to Muslim countries…

        As someone told me recently, the influence of the Rand’s report is more exaggerated in our heads than it is in the files of the government departments.

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      • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

        The point (to me, I can’t speak for Sam) is not whether the Rand report specifically infuenced anyone, as I said above. The Rand report is simply a well known document where a certain recommendation was outlined — that the U.S. government should seek to support certain understandings and interpretations of Islam above others and should in fact seek to curtail the spread or appeal of other interpretations.

        Such activities have gone on and are in fact going on all over the world. This doesn’t mean they are caused by the Rand report, there is nothing especially unique or brilliant about what Ms. Benard lays out in the report.

        The idea of treating with great suspicion government backed interpretations of Islam is in fact one of most American things about me Amad. :)

        And, again, if you think that yes we as Muslims should be out there singing America’s praises to the Muslim world and should accept U.S. government money to do so, then make that argument, and be prepared for counterargument. There’s no benefit that I can see in trying to stifle the discussion or pretend people should not pay attention to the issue.

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    • Amad

      Actually, it doesn’t say anything.

      They don’t sponsor him in America. But they sponsor goodwill ambassadors to take the message ABOUT America abroad. Other countries do similarly. Saudi Arabia for instance sponsors many diplomats and attaches around the world. Should they be outright dismissed too?

      Let’s not broad-brush. It’s Ramadan. More husne dhan is in order.

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      • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

        Amad, you are right to say it doesn’t necessarily “say it all.” But it is wrong to think it says nothing. Same is true for KSA or anybody else. Those who fund an individual or an institution or sponsor their activities says something important. And yes, this must be applied even to those close to us and even of course to our own selves.

        When you mention husn dhann you seem to have an assumption that being sponsored by America must be a bad thing. Abdul Rauf wrote a book What’s Right with Islam is What’s Right with America so most likely he’s proud to defend America to overseas Muslims. Of course he would probably say that this is what he believes regardless of who’s sponsoring his trip but then the point is that the State Dept. sponsors his trips because he will give a message that they want put out there.

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      • Amad

        You also know exactly what Sab meant.

        I don’t agree with Imam Faisal’s ideological stances, but the last thing I want to do is make this an issue of ideology.

        The islamophobes don’t see this as sufi muslim vs. non-sufi muslim… they only see us as Muslims, and I’d like to keep us that way… only Muslims, united against a common bigotry.

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      • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

        Yeah, I know what he meant…that’s exactly why I said I agreed with you that he went to far (“it doesn’t tell you everything”) but I disagreed with you going so far as to say it doesn’t mean anything. As I said, he (Abdul-Rauf) embraces it, why are you making it something bad to point out?

        I am all for being united against bigotry, but I’m not going to let Islam haters change what I think and what I support nor make me support something I don’t agree with. I don’t think standing against bigotry means one has to accept the paradigm and outlook of the bigots.

        In fact, the more we show that many Muslims think Abdul Rauf is a progressive sellout, aren’t we only helping to show how absurd are the claims of the haters and opportunists. :)

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      • Mehdi Sheikh

        What the Islamophobes say don’t really matter, those who already hate Islaam will agree with them and those who don’t care see them as idiots anyway.

        It is infact Faisal’s IDEOLOGY that we should look at because that is the burning question here. The “progressive” movement and shayateen like Fareed Zakaria are pushing his Sufi version of Islaam as being that which is agreeable and what should be pushed out in the public forums. Shaykh bin Baaz warned about such things in his book “The Ideological Attack”.

        There is a Sunni musalla just a few blocks away from this suspicious “Cordoba House” project. They’ve been there for 30 years as the “Manhattan Masjid” located on Warren Street until they lost their lease a few years back. They now pray in a smaller area nearby while trying to get together funds to buy a proper building. Faisal’s Masjid Falah was always known as a Sufi Masjid even back then when I was a student in the area. A place where they hold those wierd so-called “zikr” sessions.

        Just like the media is caught up in the heat of all this so are the sunnis. They are now just supporting something regardless of the possible consequences. We need a masjid in the downtown area to serve the thousands of muslims who work there. It doesn’t matter where its located. Faisal is just using this this to pump himself up and show himself as the Islaam America wants and needs. Just like back in the 80s when the US pushed the Jihaadi ideology to the Muslim countries to recruit fighters against the russians, now they want to push Sufism in order to handicap us.

        May Allaah protect the Muslims and guide them to the path of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen and destroy the evil plans of the Kaafiroon and the Mubtadioon. Ameen.

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  3. shirien

    Like Imam Feisal or dont like him, He is not the bigger picture and I think we all know that. It’s about our right to build masajid in our community without everytime someone protesting it. It’s about the bigotry that is boiling and the hate crimes against Muslims.

    If Muslims don’t unite on the issue, it weakens us, and gives room for people to take advantage of us.

    The non-Muslims are the ones coming out in support of Park 51 because of our rights as Muslims to worship as we please without hatred, while we bicker all day about the smaller things and leave the bigger picture.

    Majority of Muslims will not like Imam Feisal and that’s the bottom line. Now let’s focus on the big picture…

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    • Mehdi Sheikh

      The only difference between the lunatic islamophobes who oppose the masjid and those who support it is simply that the lunatics don’t quite get what that other group of non-muslims are really trying to do.

      Both of them are clear enemies of Islaam. One because they’re just pure nuts, and the other because they have a hidden agenda to weaken Islaam by strengthening the most heretic of its people.

      People act like Jon Stewart (who even though is ethnically jewish is probably an agnostic or even an atheist) and the like are like our new Abu Talibs, non-Muslims who come against the defense of Islaam, but they are not defending Islaam, what infact they are defending in their plans to prop up a filthy heretic, bring him up as the go to person for the media to go to when they want to know opinions about “Islaam” and then propagate it via tv, radio, etc.

      I remember once on Stephen Colbert’s (he btw is an ardent Catholic and even teaches Sunday school) show he showed a “Muslim” practice in India where they throw infants from the top of a certain masjid and then the people catch them in a blanket. Of course he ended that segment with a little “funny” jab against Islaam. There were no explanatory comments about this not being an Islaamic thing and ultimately the viewer went away with the opinion (and rightly so) that these people are idiots.

      There are no Abu Talibs in our time. Don’t be caught up in this argument of our constitutional right to do this and that. First we must ensure that the rights of Allaah are not breached, and I’d rather have no masjid at all, than have one where they have dog-howling Zikr sessions, free mixing, and open and clear shirk and other forms of Kufr.

      They want to prop up Faisal like another Deepak Chopra, some new-age guru who will teach them the real Islaam, while Sufism is nothing more than a money making cult. You give your undying alleigance to your imaam and serve him to his pleasure. Infact you don’t have to even be muslim to be a follower of sufism.

      May Allaah protect the Muslims and aid the believers. Ameen

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      • Amad

        Mehdi,
        IT may be clear to you, and you may have it all figured out, but the world isn’t as black and white as you want it to appear. This is exactly the same perspective that drives people into doing insane things.

        There are sincere people in the world, of all religions. Even the Quran talks about sincere Christians, and so just because you have a magic intentions-checking-wand, doesn’t change that.

        The radical Islamophobes want all non-Muslims to believe that Muslims lie and do taqiyya so everything good we say is a lie, and you are pretty much saying the same thing about them.

        Let’s stop the madness and not kid ourselves. Sufism isn’t one label that fits all within it. Sufis are not monolith, just like salafis, deobandis, name it. There is a spectrum of views and methodologies under all labels

        Yes, may Allah protect the Muslims, from EACH OTHER too.

        P.S. This post wasn’t about sufis, and I will not let it degenerate into a sufi-bashing session either. The point is clear, that the Islamophobes don’t care what label you have, for them you are a Muslim. So, that’s a lesson for all of us that we have a lot of work to do. Pls refrain from your black and white rationalizations and sufi-bashing.

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      • Mehdi Sheikh

        Yes all sufi’s are not the same, but I am talking about THIS particular one. Let alone the fact that his wife is a non-hijab wearing”feminist”. You only have to know what goes on in his masjid to know how big of a deviant he is.

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      • Kashif H

        The naive, confused, and knee jerk emotionalist thinking in promoting and defending someone as clearly deviated and far from Islam as Faisal Abdul Rauf is the same failed line of reasoning and justifications which were invoked by those unaccountable personal and political failures among Muslims who vociferously and actively wanted Muslims to vote for George W. Bush in 2000.

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      • Amad

        So you think we should have voted for the dajjal liberals?? Man, you guys are never happy. But voting kufr anyway right? So it didnt matter how we voted?

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      • Kashif H

        You really need to quit while your ahead rather than showcasing your own ignorance.

        Voting and its ahkam was/is a seperate discussion than the one of supporting an intellectually loose imam who keeps zionists as bedfellows.

        What people are asked to examine is the THINKING behind an action rather than doing an action reflexively. There are mindless and heedless types who will rally Muslims to do an action not bothering to think of the full ramifications and future consequences of that action.

        Oftentimes, what Muslims are called to do in the name of “political action” ends up causing more problems long term than any short term alleged “maslaha” or
        benefit that was sought.

        If you don’t think through the thought process of failed actions you are condemned to repeat them.

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      • Sakinah

        Where is Abdul Rauf”s sincerity? When he supported the Bush administration? Who started two wars that have resulted in the deaths of millions of Muslims? How can you tell us not to be critical of people who are funded by the us government anyway? On the website of Abdul’s s Sufi order, they translate the Quran wrongly not even close, if you didn’t see the verses they were so called translating Arabic you would not know it was from the Quran. How about the PMU who Mr. Abdul Raul is on the chair of. Amad I’m all for unity but not with an open enemy of Islam such as Abdul Raul.

        Ayah 120: Surah Al-Baqarah:

        Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee
        unless thou follow their form of religion. Say: “The Guidance of Allah,-that is the (only) Guidance.” Wert thou to follow their desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither Protector nor helper against Allah.

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  4. Amad

    This would be really funny, if it weren’t from the Governor of New York!

    “This group who has put this mosque together, they are known as the Suffi Muslims. This is not like the Shiites,” Paterson said. “They’re almost like a hybrid, almost westernized. They are not really what I would classify in the sort of mainland Muslim practice.”

    So, Shiites and non-sufi sunnis are what?

    The guy needs to just stop putting his foot in his mouth!

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  5. bro

    asalamualaykum wa rahamtulhi wa baraktu, i just wanted to add a few points
    1) it is very sad to the rise of islamophobia in america and the increase of anti muslim feelings.
    2) any one who knows “imam” abdul rauf and wife daisy khan know that these people have serious issues in aqeedah/beliefs, to the degree which reaches the point of kufr,
    . his wife is well known for making statemets that all the relgions are the same ect(just search her talks on youtube and you will see what i mean,). THIS is clear kufr, and ijma from the all of the ulama as far east as india, to as far west as maurtania
    .the imam even called him self a jew and chrisitan( he didnt really mean it, but for a “imam” to even say that sarcasticly shows his level of knowledge)
    the following is some qoutes of imam abdul rauf

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/…een-one/61761/
    here is a small qoute
    “We are here to assert the Islamic conviction of the moral equivalency of our Abrahamic faiths. If to be a Jew means to say with all one’s heart, mind and soul Shma` Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ahad; hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One, not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one, Mr. Pearl.

    If to be a Christian is to love the Lord our God with all of my heart, mind and soul, and to love for my fellow human being what I love for myself, then not only am I a Christian, but I have always been one Mr. Pearl.

    And I am here to inform you, with the full authority of the Quranic texts and the practice of the Prophet Muhammad, that to say La ilaha illallah Muhammadun rasulullah is no different.

    It expresses the same theological and ethical principles and values”

    we need to protect our selves from following our emotions, we things out rationaly in light of the relgious texts.
    allah knows best

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  6. bro

    correction

    we need to protect our selves from following our emotions, we need to weigh things out rationaly in light of the relgious texts.

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  7. bro

    i also forgot to add,
    the imam’s wife daisy khan doesnt even wear hijab!!, when the imam has no problem with wife not wearing hijab you know something is wrong!!

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  8. Muslim

    -snipped. Okay, we’re DONE with this tangent. We aren’t going to let this turn into a sufi-bashing session. It’s Ramadan. Let’s hold our tongues / fingers. -Editor

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  9. muslimah

    i’m just gonna a comment this to see if it appears lol let’s see how much mercy mm shows during the month of mercy.

    -And now what? :) -Editor

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  10. Abid

    It IS an issue of ideology if we want to show our support for the project as a Muslim. If we support as Americans to protect the constitutional rights of this Sufi group, that’s fine and all Americans who want to support, should support based on this ground. In that sense, we can be united with American liberals and seculars to protect the freedom of religion.

    But my main concern is that…if we support only because of Muslim unity, then there is a big problem from the Aqeedah point of view. Do we really want to show to Americans that Sufi-ism is part of our correct Aqeedah? If we all support it as Muslims and after establishment even one ignorant Muslim or a new convert goes to this place and adopts sufi-ism, shall we not have to bear that responsibility in the day of judgment because we legitimized this ideology in the name of Muslim unity.

    So, let’s support the project as Americans as other liberal and secular groups are doing, NOT as muslims because what they are preaching is not the Islam we want to follow.

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    • Amad

      Do we really want to show to Americans that Sufi-ism is part of our correct Aqeedah?

      I am sorry but that is a real naive reading of “Americans”. They hardly know who Muslims are, let alone trying to explain sects!

      And we ARE supporting the project as Muslims. Because those against it are opposing it because it is precisely that– a Muslim project. Not a sufi project. Not a shia project. But a MUSLIM PROJECT.

      And that’s the crux of the argument for all you haters out there. I have major issues with Imam Feisal’s methodology too, I think even moderate sufis such as Imam Zaid Shakir would (I don’t know, I am just guessing). BUT,

      This is NOT about the person. This is about the IDEA.

      That’s the bottomline!

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      • park51

        Interesting. I wonder if American Muslims would support building of a Muslim Gay mosque if it ever came down to that. I mean if Americans are that naive about who Muslims are, then this should be the perfect opportunity to tell them the differences i.e. we are not a monolith, and we have deviants with whom we don’t stand united and therefore don’t support deviant projects like park51. It doesn’t matter what they perceive. To dance to their tune doesn’t reflect too well for serious Muslims; in fact it shows that American Muslims are wish-washy and insecure.

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      • Amad

        Read AE’s featured post, posted today and your response is there.

        American Muslims should support freedom of religion, and that means remaining consistent with that position. You can’t support X in the name of this freedom and turn around and go against Y because the organization doesn’t fit your billing.

        It’s okay to decry Y’s stances, but it is not okay to oppose its right to build.

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  11. Adam

    So let me get this straight, the US invades Iraq, without a valid reason, kills a million, then decides to sponsor a sheikh to go abroad and talk about how msulims are treated in America?

    Isn’t that just a litle bit contradictory? I am not saying that the sheikh is a liar or hypocrit or none of that, but it’s just hard to beleive ANYTHING that is STATE sponsored.

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  12. MT

    Do you support religious freedom or not? That is the question.

    If there is a group of homosexuals who make their own religion and use some Islamic teachings to go along with it and call themselves Gay Muslims, does the US Constitution have to protect their right to religious freedom or not if they want to establish a place of religious worship?

    Do real, Sunni Muslims, want their right to religious freedom protected or not? Do we rally and fight for our rights based on the constitutional right to freedom of practicing religion?

    If that is the case, we then have to support other groups to their constitutional right to religious freedom as well. “Gay Muslims” or “Women Imam Muslims” or whatever.

    It is extremely hypocritical for us to shout and cry religious freedom and then all of a sudden you find out this Imam is not who you think he is in terms of his ideologies and now you have a problem with “supporting him”.

    NO ONE is supporting the ideology – EVERYONE must support religious freedom.

    The battle between ideologies should be fought on a different front, in a peaceful manner without oppressing each others rights.

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  13. MT

    There is no point in wasting time discussing what this Shaykh stands for or not.

    The issue at hand was right to build a place of worship somewhere when all local zoning laws were followed.

    If the Shaykh is an “extreme” sufi or whatever it is you guys have a problem with, what difference does it make to you?

    What a surprise – another person being support and funded, not just by western media and interests, but probably also corrupt interests abroad in Muslim lands, in order to cause corruption and fitnah in the Muslim Ummah.

    Matter of fact, isn’t this problem been going on more than 200 years ago with the “Wahabi” fitnah. A decent chunk of the Muslim world also believes they have been funded and support by outside interest to cause fitnah in the Ummah as well. And they use some type of historical evidence to back them up.

    So duh, yes there are all sorts of Imams and ideologies being implanted in our Ummah to cause fitnah and discord. That is a very well known fact. But its not that easy to spot them – and good luck to the one who makes it his/her job to do so

    Just focus on your own pursuit of knowledge and spread your message if it is the truth – and let Allah take care of the rest.

    The discussion should no longer focus on this Imam’s ideology but should be about RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. Lets stick to one thing at a time.

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  14. maryam 16

    Can any one answere my question? Why doesn’t the Imam’s wife wear Hijab? To me, it is such a shame. Come on, he has to advice his wife to do the right thing.

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  15. Muhibullah

    It is one thing for the Muslims of the West to support Feisal Rauf’s right to build his community center and quite another thing to portray him as some sort of representative of Muslim opinion or heroic defender of Muslim rights. He’s like that fake US-appointed ‘Palestinian negotiator’ Mahmud Abbas.

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