NEW YORK (AP) — Feisal Abdul Rauf, who co-led the effort to build an Islamic community center near the World Trade Center site, was set to begin a national speaking tour Saturday.

On the day before his first engagement in Michigan, the nonprofit group controlled by the developer of the Islamic center said it supported Rauf’s work but needed someone who could spend more time on the nitty-gritty task of building a congregation.

The organization, Park51, said Friday that it had chosen Shaykh Abdallah Adhami, a 44-year-old scholar and architect, as a new senior adviser to lead religious programming in Rauf’s absence.

It is unclear whether Rauf’s reduced role in the center will help or hurt its chances of getting built.

An unknown in the U.S. before the controversy, he emerged as possibly the country’s best-known Muslim cleric and found himself listed alongside world leaders and celebrities as one of 2010’s most influential figures, even as he was vilified by critics of the project.

His reputation as a progressive and political connections won over influential supporters like the city’s mayor.

Rauf, though, had also been criticized by some of the project’s supporters for being absent at crucial moments.

Last summer, he left for a long State Department-funded trip to the Middle East just as the frenzy over the mosque was exploding at home. Then, he stayed silent for weeks, leaving mostly his wife, the community activist Daisy Khan, to respond.

And despite public perception, he was never the driving force behind the planned center. That role fell to the Manhattan real estate investor who controls the site, Sharif El-Gamal, who has spent recent months lining up financing and organizing the operation while Rauf served as the project’s public face.

Rauf will remain on the Islamic center’s board and involved in the project, but Park51 said in a statement that it needed someone who could be more involved in the day-to-day business of building a local congregation.

“Due to the fact that Imam Feisal is focusing most of his energies and passion on launching this new and separate initiative, it is important that the needs of Park51, the Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, take precedence,” the statement said.

The group said that while Rauf’s vision is “truly exceptional, our community in lower Manhattan is local.”
Rauf’s publicist released a statement saying that since he planned to spend the next few months traveling, a change made sense.

“Imam Feisal wants to meet the people of America where they are, to help build broader connection and understanding among all people of faith. To make that vision a reality, he is stepping back from the day to day details and operations of Cordoba House,” the statement said.

Cordoba House was an original name for the planned community center that was dropped months ago by El-Gamal.
Rauf’s continued use of the name was one of the many quirks of the complicated relationship between the two men.

El-Gamal, who is also president of Park51 and controls its board, is a member of Rauf’s congregation and has credited the imam with helping him find direction in his life.

Current plans for the center call for replacing a defunct clothing store two blocks from ground zero with a 13- to 16-story building that would hold athletic facilities, a day care center, art galleries, an auditorium for cultural events, a 9/11 memorial and a prayer space with room for a congregation of about 1,000.

Critics have assailed the project as insensitive, saying it is improper for a Muslim institution to be located so close to the site of an attack by Islamic extremists.

Adhami has already performed guest lectures at the site of the planned center while Rauf has been away. One of his appearances there came in August, at the height of media coverage of the project.

At the time, Adhami seemed to take the crush of attention with nonchalance. His representatives invited reporters to cover his speech, only to have El-Gamal, who was unaware of the invitation, toss them out after they arrived. Adhami shrugged it off afterward as a misunderstanding and calmly fielded questions.

In a statement released Friday by a Park51 publicist, Adhami said he was being given “an extraordinary opportunity to be a key adviser on a project going forward that has enormous creative and healing potential for the collective good in New York City and in our nation.”

Everyone associated with the project has had to endure intense, sometimes savage scrutiny, and Adhami is likely to be no different.

Born in Washington, D.C., he began his religious education as a child in Syria and later earned an architecture degree from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He now lectures widely on issues of religious law, family and sexuality.

(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (8)
  1. DanTe says:

    Tou the Louse, here’s some facts you can choke on.

    FACT: Everywhere where there are mu-Slimes, sh-!t happens.

    China — sh-!t happens
    (suicide bombers that kill little children and run amok with metal pipes in the streets)

    India — sh-!t happens
    (mu-slimes burned 100s of hindus alive in packed trains and burned villagers alive while they slept)

    Middle East — sh-!t happens
    (suicide bombers that kill little children)

    Russia — sh-!t happens
    (suicide bombers that kill women and children in crowded theaters)

    South East Asia — sh-!t happens
    (mu-slime thugs who kidnap teachers, school children, nurses, priests for ransom, than murder them all)

    Europe — sh-!t happens
    (suicide bombers that kill little children)

    USA — 9/11 happened

    Notice the pattern here, you twit?

    Goes to reason, no mu-slimes, no sh-!t.
    All these camel turds understand is violence and lies anyway. I say we oblige them by killing them all and than lie about how sorry we are.

    Islam. It’s a disease. And like any other infestations of boils, pox and pestilence, it should be eradicated. You don’t talk to diseases. You eradicate them like you did polio and small pox.

    And some bleeding heart imbecile here will post that it’s just a few “radical” individuals that are murderous, just like any other society. But than conveniently forgetting about the Fact that it happens worldwide and by a LOT MORE than just a few individuals. And they also continues to blank out of their empty heads the worldwide mu-slime jubilee celebrations as people burned on 9/11.

  2. Lou Siffer says:

    Enough bickering. You have had 235 years to try this “freedom” thing. You cannot handle freedom. You need to be controlled. You want to be controlled.

    We will now bring you One World Government. One World Currency. One World Religion.

    A New World Order.

  3. fern says:

    About the mosque France’s leading imam said it wasn’t wise to revive some memories and I concur with his opinion.
    35 years ago I was backpacking through Algeria and got stuck there for six weeks since the banks kept my money these people fed me and gave me a place to sleep, they were poor themselves and knew I was not a Muslim.
    this experience helped me a lot in understanding what is happening in the middle east. Islam is no worse than Catholicism, Christianism some people need religion some don’t. Rejection in any societies is bad and may foster extremism. Let’s hope the religious people don’t take over in Tunisia.

  4. Toullouse says:

    Hey Doug, I have one question for you: Why? The critics in the article say that having a Mosque near the 9-11 site is insensitive, but is it insensitive to Muslim Americans to be able to say where and when they should build a Mosque?

    Many Americans say that Muslims are all violent, but there are many violent Christians too, many of whom have done atrocious things in the name of religion. You and others should wake up;

    the two religions even come from the same basic precepts. Many Muslims, on the day the Muslims attacked us, were grieving over the incident, which is forbidden in a Real translation of the Qur’an, not the extremist version that was written with a forked tongue. But our media didn’t cover that.

    Instead the media covered the people dancing in the streets that were happy about it. Why do you think that is? Why don’t you mull that over for a little while? Get back to me when you have an acceptable answer.

    1. doug says:

      I agree most muslims are great individuals and should have places to worship in America. However, I’m afraid what the mosque will represent to/for the Terrorists. The Mosque where some of the 9-11 members met in Germany recently had to be shut down because it became a shrine and a meeting place for more terrorist.

      In short, no shrine for the terrorists. If 9-11 did not happen, then fine build it there. However, 9-11 did happen and many Americans of all faiths were affected.

      No Super Mosque at ground zero.

  5. Nick says:

    Now watch some holier-than-thou sanctimonious imbecile pipe up about religious freedom. Last I heard, there is no “freedom” to practice homicidal cult doctrines anywhere in the U.S. Witless how the witless twits didn’t pipe up when we cracked down on neo-nazi houses of worship.

    1. Toullouse says:

      Oh, right, sure, they are homicidal maniacs; they are just like neo-Nazis? You yourself are holier-than-thou. Most religious people that don’t believe in–yes, I am going to say it freedom of religion–are holier-than-thou: have you ever read the Koran, the Bhagdavad-Gita, the Ramayana, anything outside of the Bible, or do you consider them the infidels in your own mind?

      And last I heard, you can be in a cult, not a homicidal one, but who is to judge which is a homicidal cult? Christians? I don’t think so. There are many fundamentalist Christians too. It isn’t illegal to be part of the KKK in America and practice Identity “Christianity.”

      All you overzealous Christians need to be stopped more than some mosque in Manhattan; it will be put up near a place that already has some other mosques close by. It needs to go up now, Just because all of you crazies think you can stop it. America is for minorities too. When that changes, it is no longer America. Your religion, when it is taken as an oppressive force, when you try to dictate what is “right,” is the new neo-Nazism; so why don’t you do yourself a favor and stifle yourself.

  6. doug says:

    No 9-11 mosque!

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