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Imam Behind Islamic Center Plans U.S. Tour

26 December 2010 New York Times No Comment Email This Post Email This Post

Feisal Abdul Rauf, shown with his wife, Daisy, is taking to the road in January to foster dialogue about Muslim life in America.

The controversy over plans to build an Islamic center in downtown Manhattan subsided in November, almost abruptly, with the end of an election season that amplified its most emotional underlying issues.

But the imam behind the project has decided to risk reigniting that opposition by setting out on a nationwide speaking tour next month to promote the planned center and to foster dialogue about Muslim life in America.

“Controversy has never been a problem for me,” said the imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, whose proposal to build the high-rise community center and mosque two blocks north of ground zero made him the prime target last summer of opponents who viewed the plan, known as Park51 for its address on Park Place, as a Trojan horse for Muslim triumphalism. “I think the controversy of last summer helped initiate a discourse that has been very good for the country. I’m an American, and I believe that Americans are problem solvers. So I believe further discussion can only be good.”

The tour, which he described in an interview on Wednesday, is scheduled to begin in Detroit, the city with the largest Muslim population in the United States. It will include stops in Chicago, Washington, San Antonio and several college campuses, starting with HarvardYale, Georgetown and the University of North Carolina.

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