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Ground Zero Mosque: A Split at the Top?


11:47 AM, Sep 1, 2010 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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Rauf’s own mosque, according to the Park51 website, could only hold up to 65 people during prayer services. The diminutive size of his congregation, which is affiliated with an American-originated “new-age” Sufi group, the Nur Ashki Jerrahi Sufi Order, belies the image of Rauf as a major American and global Muslim leader, granted him in mainstream media. But another question remains about Feisal Abdul Rauf: Did he gain the formal religious education that would qualify him as an “imam?” His official biography on the website of the Cordoba Initiative credits him with a bachelor’s degree in physics from Columbia University, as does a similar outline of his life on the ASMA site, which describes him as coming from an “Egyptian family steeped in religious scholarship.” But where is the evidence of his own religious scholarship? Nowhere has it been stated how he came to be called an “imam.” In Muslim countries, an imam must usually have followed a lengthy curriculum of religious studies similar to that pursued by Jewish rabbis and Catholic priests.

Increasing questions about the character and qualifications of the primary figures in “Ground Zero mosque,” as well as personal rivalries between them, may have accomplished as much for the mosque’s opponents as have protests and disapproving poll results. An offensive concept was presented to Americans by flawed and self-interested individuals; the combination may well guarantee its eventual collapse.

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