In a development sure to further inflame the controversy surrounding the construction of an Islamic center just blocks from the site of Ground Zero, a website has uncovered remarks by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the spiritual leader spearheading the project, in which he levels sharp criticism against the U.S. government.
The tape was discovered and circulated today by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, which describes itself as a non-profit that tracks "radical Islamic terrorist groups."
In the question and answer session of Rauf's 2005 appearance at the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre in Adelaide, the imam took the U.S. to task for the killing of innocent civilians, and compared its record against that of the world's leading terrorist organization.
"We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non Muslims," Rauf told the audience. "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."
Rauf, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, continued his remarks (listen to the entire speech here) by addressing the deaths that resulted in the U.S. bombing campaign of Iraq, and seemed to absolve the terrorist sympathies of those who have been caught in the cross hairs of war.
"Collateral damage is a nice thing to put on a paper but when the collateral damage is your own uncle or cousin, what passions do these arouse?" Rauf asked. "How do you negotiate? 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?"
The debate as to the true nature of Mr. Rauf's beliefs has been going strong ever since the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" became a national flash point. Indeed, one might play a game of dueling quotes to prove whether or not Rauf should be considered a moderate Muslim or an extremist.
As the New York Times noted yesterday, the same Rauf who seemed able to rationalize terrorism in his remarks five years ago in Australia wrote the following passage in his 2004 book "What's Right With Islam":
The truth is that killing innocent people is always wrong -- and no argument or excuse, no matter how deeply believed, can ever make it right. No religion on earth condones the killing of innocent people, no faith tradition tolerates the random killing of our brothers and sisters on this earth. ...Islamic law is clearly against terrorism, against any kind of deliberate killing of civilians or similar 'collateral damage.'
Lastly, here was Rauf this past spring, addressing a community forum on whether or not Cordoba House should be built at its proposed location: