Feisal Abdul Rauf is in the news primarily as the sponsor of the Ground Zero mosque. But leave aside the planned mosque. What about the fact that Rauf is now touring the Middle East on a trip sponsored and paid for by our State Department? Is he delivering the message we want foreigners to hear from the American people?
It’s hard to find out what Rauf is saying abroad—or even to whom. But to get a sense of what he might be saying, here's a statement he posted on the website of his Cordoba Initiative in June, 2009, after the suppression of the Green movement in Iran, advising President Obama on the position he should take:
"President Obama said many of the right things as the turmoil surrounding the outcome of the Iranian election unfolded. After Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spoke Friday, Obama has an opportunity to make an additional crucial point....Friday, Khameini reaffirmed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the winner. And he made clear that this election was not a referendum on the foundations ofthe Islamic Republic....After the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took the Shiite concept of the Rightly Guided Imam and created the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, which means the rule of the jurisprudent. This institutionalizes the Islamic rule of law. The Council of Guardians serves to ensure these principles....[President Obama] should say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution -- to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, that establishes the rule of law."
So presumably Rauf is now travelling the Mideast, courtesy of the U.S. State Department, touting the idea of vilayet-i-faqih—and the Iranian application of that idea—as appropriate for Muslims. Aren’t State Department representatives supposed to make the case for liberal democracy, or even an Islamic version of liberal democracy? Surely they’re not supposed to be justifying Khomeini-ism? And surely not Khomeini-ism as interpreted perhaps even more illiberally by Khamenei?
But since Rauf wanted Obama to endorse vilayet-i-faqih, it’s presumably what he’s endorsing. On a trip paid for by the American government.