Daily Israel Report

Ground Zero Imam: I Do Not Support Hamas

Muslim leader who proposed the mosque near Ground Zero denies supporting terrorism, claims opposition to the Islamic center is political.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 9/13/2010, 3:19 AM / Last Update: 9/13/2010, 3:11 AM

Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who is at the center of plans to build an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero, said Sunday he does not support terror organizations, including Hamas.

According to a June report in the New York Post, Rauf is a major donor to the pro-Hamas Free Gaza movement, a movement that has been behind several attempts to break the Israeli sea embargo on Hamas, including the “Rachel Corrie” ship.

The report also said that Rauf is a member of the Perdana Global Peace Organization, a Malaysian based group which has donated $366,000 to Free Gaza.

However, in an interview Sunday on ABC's "This Week with Christiane Amanpour", Rauf denied that he supports Hamas: "I'm against terrorism…Whoever commits terrorist acts – I condemn. And Hamas has committed terrorist acts, including against its own people."

Rauf also said during the interview that the controversy surrounding the Ground Zero mosque was politically motivated. He blamed politicians such as Sarah Palin, who was the first public figure to get involved in the controversy, for causing the outrage surrounding the mosque. “What has happened is that..certain politicians decided that this project would be very useful for their political ambitions,” said Rauf.

He added that a result of the controversy, there are increased concerns among Muslims of a "growing Islamophobia in this country."

"We are Americans. We are doctors. We are investment bankers. We are taxi drivers. We are store keepers. We are lawyers. We are part of the fabric of America. And the way that America today treats its Muslims is being watched by over a billion Muslims worldwide," said Rauf. He did not compare the U.S. with the way the Muslim world treats Christians and Jews in its midst.

On Saturday, Americans remembered the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks in solemn ceremonies at each site. Meanwhile, the planned organized burning of Korans by Reverend Terry Jones at his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, was cancelled as Reverend Jones instead flew to New York to participate in 9/11 ceremonies there.

Despite the cancellation of the Koran burning by Jones, several similar incidents took place: In Springfield, Tennessee, evangelical pastors Bob Old Danny Allen burned Koran books, while in New York an unidentified man ripped pages from a Koran and lit them near the proposed site of the Islamic centre. "If they can burn American flags, I can burn the Koran," he said.

Rauf told ABC that had he known the controversy that his proposed Islamic center would cause, he would not have proposed it; however, he also said that he would not consider moving the center to a different site, claiming that such a decision would increase terrorism.

"This will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment, this will put our people -- our soldiers, our troops, our embassies, our citizens -- under attack in the Muslim world and we (would) have expanded and fueled terrorism," he said.

A recent AP report claimed that Hisham Elzanaty, one of the investors in the Ground Zero mosque, donated in 1999 to the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a foundation whose assets were frozen in 2001 by the US government, following suspicions that it acted as a fundraiser for Hamas. In 2004, the foundation and some of its leaders were indicted on charges of supporting Hamas, and five were ultimately convicted.

A recent CNN poll found that 68 per cent of Americans oppose the Muslim center project in Ground Zero.