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Further Travels of Imam Feisal

Posted on August 9 2010 5:05 am
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by Claudia Rosett

While debate rages over plans for an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan, the imam behind this project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is not available to answer questions in New York. Since locating the absent Rauf last week in Malaysia, I have now discovered that he’s about to embark on a nearly month-long swing through the Middle East, with plans to visit Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar.

Not that I learned this from Rauf, whose Malaysian office staff told me by phone on Tuesday that “All media requests have to go through his office in New York.” Nor did his New York colleagues simply volunteer information about his imminent trip to the Middle East. It took a series of phone calls and questions to eke it out of them, starting with a vague reply from a staffer who then tried to backtrack with a message that, retroactively, her remark was “completely off the record.”

Ultimately, in response to repeated questions, a member of Rauf’s New York Cordoba Initiative foundation e-mailed me Friday, saying that Rauf’s trip to the Middle East, “in the near future,” will be hosted by the U.S. government as part of an outreach program to “bring the message of moderation, peace and understanding.”

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