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The Ground Zero Mosque's Imam: Now On Tour
Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind Park51, has announced a speaking tour, kicking off in Detroit on January 15. Due to death threats, none of the events will be public, but local media can ask questions. Get ready for it: His allies will frame each event as an example of how the tolerant and open Rauf is being persecuted by intolerant Islamophobes. This will not be a political debate but a civil rights struggle, with the Park51 opponents on the wrong side.
Park51's slick use of semantics will be employed full force in this PR campaign. Officially, the speaking engagements are not fundraisers, but obviously the goal is to win support and donations. They'll continue calling the Ground Zero mosque a "community center" because it will include a gym, a performing arts center, and other non-religious components, but large churches have long built the same and if they started calling themselves "community centers" instead of churches, they'd be laughed off.
Park51 has applied for a $5 million federal grant to reconstruct lower Manhattan using this terminology. The taxpayer money can't go to religious services, so the Park51 folks are saying that their award money would go to "social services" like art exhibits, foreign language classes, and programs for homeless veterans. In other words, we will all pay for the mosque's community outreach program.
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