Several commenters have questioned the veracity of this story. Following is the proof that the photo was originally on the Cordoba Initiative website, and its Shariah Index project page.
(Updated with comparisons of the two in screen-shots below.)
Larijani was the Iranian representative who defended Iran’s abysmal human rights record before the UN Human Rights Council in February and June of this year. Among other things, Larijani told the Council: “Torture is one thing and punishment is another thing. … This is a conceptual dispute. Some forms of these punishments should not be considered torture according to our law.” By which he meant flogging, amputation, stoning, and the criminalization of homosexuality, which are all part of Iranian legal standards. Larijani added: “Iran [has a] firm commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. … The Islamic Republic of Iran … is a democracy,” which would be news to the pro-democracy activists murdered or confined to Iranian prisons since last year’s fraudulent elections.
A Cordoba-Iranian connection? What exactly is “Islamicity”?
More questions have arisen about the attempt to build a mosque adjacent to Ground Zero, as part of the so-called Cordoba Initiative. In particular, why has the Cordoba website just removed a photograph of Iranian Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary-general of the High Council for Human Rights in Iran? Is the move an attempted cover-up of their Iranian connections?
Two weeks ago the Cordoba Initiative website featured a photograph of the project’s chairman, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, and Iranian Mohammad Javad Larijani at an event that the Initiative sponsored in Malaysia in 2008. This week, the photograph, which appears below, has disappeared.
Feisal Abdul Rauf, New York Mosque~Further Travels Of Imam Feisal– By Claudia Rosett-Forbes
While debate rages over plans for an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan, the imam behind this project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is not available to answer questions in New York. Since locating the absent Rauf last week in Malaysia, I have now discovered that he’s about to embark on a nearly month-long swing through the Middle East, with plans to visit Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar.
Ultimately, in response to repeated questions, a member of Rauf’s New York Cordoba Initiative foundation e-mailed me Friday, saying that Rauf’s trip to the Middle East, “in the near future,” will be hosted by the U.S. government as part of an outreach program to “bring the message of moderation, peace and understanding.”
At the State Department, which presumably will be spending taxpayer money (* FOX Obama says he favors allowing mosque project near former World Trade Center site) on Rauf’s tour, I have yet to receive confirmation or any other information about his program, despite three days of my repeated requests by phone and e-mail. Apparently it is taking a while for State’s Bureau of Public Diplomacy to get “clearance” to release any details of this particular public outreach effort, though Rauf’s wife says it has been in the works for months.
All this comes at a moment when Rauf and his partners in New York are preparing to raise $100 million to build a 13-story Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero. A Manhattan Landmarks committee gave the necessary approval on Aug. 3 to tear down the old Burlington Coat Factory building already purchased for $4.85 million by a real estate developer partnering with Rauf. That building is so close to Ground Zero that on the morning of the Sept. 11 attacks parts of one of the hijacked planes damaged its roof. On that lot, the Islamic center project is now cleared to roll forward, once the money rolls in.
Perhaps it’s coincidence that instead of haggling over financing in New York, Rauf—Imam Feisal, to his followers—will spend the rest of the summer touring some of the petro-dollar capitals of the planet, including such fonts of potential funding as Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Rauf’s wife and partner in nonprofits, Daisy Kahn, told me in a phone interview this week that he will not be fundraising during these travels. Nor, said Kahn, will she be fund-raising when she makes a similar State-sponsored outreach trip later this month to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
What does that actually mean? Fundraising, especially in the bargaining halls of the Middle East, does not always consist of a brusque pitch and immediate handshake. A lot of business begins with drinking tea, rubbing shoulders and moseying toward the eventual deal. In May the English-language website of Asharq Al-Awsat reported that Rauf, in a London interview, had said his Islamic center will be financed by donations both from Muslims in the U.S. and from Arab and Islamic countries. Asked recently how this might work in detail, Kahn said she doesn’t know; all plans are still in flux while a new entity to handle the Islamic center project “is being formed.”
To some of the defenders of this project, such specifics don’t matter. New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg this week said he doesn’t care where the $100 million comes from; he sees it as none of the government’s business. If the only criterion here is that Rauf and his partners comply with the minimum due diligence and disclosure required by law, Bloomberg has a point.
But to a great many Americans, it quite likely does matter where the money comes from. For one thing, there is always the potential for the preferences of big donors to sway the behavior of nonprofit ventures. Countries such as Saudi Arabia are not known for full-throated support of American values and freedoms.
For another, the current uproar over the project is testimony all by itself that to many Americans, the site of the World Trade Center is freighted with symbolism. That may not always register as a matter of law, but it does matter. Ground Zero is both the geographic and symbolic heart of the attacks in which Islamist terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, murdered almost 3,000 Americans.
Of those 19 terrorists, 15 were from Saudi Arabia and two were from the United Arab Emirates; the others were Egyptian and Lebanese. If Rauf wishes to raise money from the part of the world that raised these terrorists, especially from Saudi Arabia or the UAE, then within normal constraints of U.S. law, he is entitled to do so.
But if Rauf’s aim is truly, as he says, to build bridges, reach out and promote harmony in America, then punctuating his Ground Zero project with a summer swing past fonts of Islamic oil money seems an odd way to go about it. With emotions rubbed raw among some families of Sept. 11 victims, with arguments boiling over the “bridge-building” project Rauf himself set in motion, it would seem far more fitting for him to spend his time in America, answering, not least, the many questions he has repeatedly deflected about the money.
Were Rauf to cancel his trip, I’d wager the State Department would understand. After all, it appears to be a public outreach program which, despite the huge publicity currently surrounding Rauf, neither he nor the State Department have deemed worth advertising to the public.