MANAMA, Bahrain – The imam leading plans for an Islamic center near the Manhattan site of the Sept. 11 attacks said Friday he hopes to draw attention during his trip in the Middle East to the common challenges to battle radical religious beliefs.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is on the first leg of a 15-day Mideast tour funded by the US State Department, refused to discuss the political firestorm over the plans for an Islamic cultural center about two blocks from the World Trade Center towers.
Rauf preferred to focus on shared concerns while in the Mideast. Speaking after leading Friday prayers at a neighborhood mosque outside Bahrain's capital Manama, he said radical religious views pose a security threat in both the West and the Muslim world.
"This issue of extremism is something that has been a national security issue — not only for the United States but also for many countries and nations in the Muslim world," Rauf said. "This is why this particular trip has a great importance because all countries in the Muslim world — as well as the Western world — are facing this ... major security challenge."