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EDITORIAL: Tax dollars to build mosques - Washington Times

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EDITORIAL: Tax dollars to build mosques

U.S. underwrites fundraising tour for Islamic shrine at Ground Zero


The Washington Times

7:46 p.m., Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The State Department(/topics/department-of-state/) is sending Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf(/topics/feisal-abdul-rauf/) -

the mastermind of the Ground Zero Mosque - on a trip through the Middle East to foster "greater
understanding" about Islam and Muslim communities in the United States(/topics/united-states-of-america/) .
However, important questions are being raised about whether this is simply a taxpayer-funded fundraising jaunt
to underwrite his reviled project, which is moving ahead in Lower Manhattan.

Mr. Rauf(/topics/feisal-abdul-rauf/) is scheduled to go to Saudi Arabia(/topics/saudi-arabia/) , Dubai, Abu Dhabi,

Bahrain(/topics/bahrain/) and Qatar(/topics/qatar/) , the usual stops for Gulf-based fundraising. The State
Department(/topics/department-of-state/) defends the five-country tour saying that Mr. Rauf(/topics/feisal-abdul-
rauf/) is "a distinguished Muslim cleric," but surely the government could find another such figure in the United
States(/topics/united-states-of-america/) who is not seeking millions of dollars to fund a construction project that
has so strongly divided America.

By funding the trip so soon after New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission(/topics/new-york-citys-
landmarks-preservation-commission/) gave the go-ahead to demolish the building on the proposed mosque site, the
State Department(/topics/department-of-state/) is creating the appearance that the U.S. government(/topics
/us-government/) is facilitating the construction of this shameful structure. It gives Mr. Rauf(/topics/feisal-abdul-
rauf/) not only access but imprimatur to gather up foreign cash. And because Mr. Rauf(/topics/feisal-abdul-rauf/)
has refused to reveal how he plans to finance his costly venture, the American public is left with the impression
it will be a wholly foreign enterprise. This contradicts the argument that a mosque is needed in that part of New
York City to provide services for a burgeoning Muslim population. If so many people need the mosque so
badly, presumably they could figure out a way to pay for it themselves.

Americans also may be surprised to learn that the United States(/topics/united-states-of-america/) has been an
active participant in mosque construction projects overseas. In April, U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania Alfonso E.

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EDITORIAL: Tax dollars to build mosques - Washington Times

Lenhardt(/topics/alfonso-e-lenhardt/) helped cut the ribbon at the 12th-century Kizimkazi Mosque, which was
refurbished with assistance from the United States(/topics/united-states-of-america/) under a program to preserve
culturally significant buildings. The U.S. government(/topics/us-government/) also helped save the Amr Ebn El
Aas Mosque in Cairo, which dates back to 642. The mosque's namesake was the Muslim conqueror of
Christian Egypt, who built the structure on the site where he had pitched his tent before doing battle with the
country's Byzantine rulers. For those who think the Ground Zero Mosque is an example of "Muslim
triumphalism" glorifying conquest, the Amr Ebn El Aas Mosque is an example of such a monument - and one
paid for with U.S.(/topics/united-states-of-america/) taxpayer funds.

The mosques being rebuilt by the United States(/topics/united-states-of-america/) are used for religious worship,
which raises important First Amendment questions. U.S.(/topics/united-states-of-america/) taxpayer money should
not be used to preserve and promote Islam, even abroad. In July 2009, the Office of the Inspector General
published an audit of U.S. Agency for International Development(/topics/united-states-agency-for-international-
development/) (USAID(/topics/united-states-agency-for-international-development/) ) faith-based and community
initiatives that examined whether government funds were being used for religious activities. The auditors found
that while USAID(/topics/united-states-agency-for-international-development/) was funding some religious activities,
officials were "uncertain of whether such uses of Agency funding violate Agency regulations or the
Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution" when balanced against foreign-policy

For example, our government rebuilt the Al Shuhada Mosque in Fallujah, Iraq, expecting such benefits as
"stimulating the economy, enhancing a sense of pride in the community, reducing opposition to international
relief organizations operating in Fallujah, and reducing incentives among young men to participate in violence
or insurgent groups." But Section 205.1(d) of title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations prohibits
USAID(/topics/united-states-agency-for-international-development/) funds from being used for the rehabilitation of
structures to the extent that those structures are used for "inherently religious activities." It is impossible to
separate religion from a mosque; any such projects will necessarily support Islam.

The State Department(/topics/department-of-state/) is either wittingly or unwittingly using tax money to support
Mr. Rauf(/topics/feisal-abdul-rauf/) 's efforts to realize his dream of a supersized mosque blocks away from the
sacred ground of the former World Trade Center, which was destroyed by Islamic fanaticism. This
ill-considered decision will raise the ire of millions of Americans and illustrates the limits of what the denizens
of Foggy Bottom know about diplomacy.

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