Ground Zero Mosque Imam: ‘They Feel the Need to Conflagrate’

by Robert VerBruggen

NRO has obtained yet another interview in which Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the leading figure behind the Cordoba House (the “Ground Zero mosque”), explains away terrorism. “They feel the feed to conflagrate,” he says of Muslims who feel they’ve been “humiliated” and “ignored.”

The interview was conducted for a Malaysia Matters podcast during the 2008 presidential campaign. (The Cordoba Initiative website references the podcast, but the provided link is dead.) While Rauf repeatedly positions himself as someone “trying to bridge the divide” between the West and the Muslim world, he also offers comments regarding the West’s culpability for terror against it.

“Are you arguing, or am I misunderstanding you, that the slaps on the face, to use your term, from the Muslim world to the West, are all reactive to things that the West has done?” an interviewer asks.

“Predominantly, because the West is the global superpower. . . . It’s the more powerful party in the relationship which sets the tone of the relationship,” Rauf replies. “In terms of specific conflict, specific issues that have resulted in specific actions within recent history, those have to be tied in to the perceptions which were created around what people were actually reacting to at that given point in time.”

When asked whether the U.S. bears “ultimate responsibility” for “any reactions,” Rauf responds, “I wouldn’t say ultimate. It’s the one who leads in the dance.”

Later in the interview, he says that “as a general rule, when people feel they’ve been humiliated, when people feel they’ve been frustrated, when people feel they’ve been ignored, when people feel that justice is not meted, then they feel the need to conflagrate.” Also: “In order to bridge the divide, we have to understand the dynamics, that there’s a certain — there’s a psychology. . . . If you do this, you get this reaction.”

Further, he blames the economic sanctions on Iraq for Muslims’ attitudes toward the West. “When you have a million people dying, half of whom are children, as a result of economic sanctions, what the Muslim world experiences or feels is political action, or an action done for a political objective, which results in innocent civilians dying,” he says.

To be sure, much of the interview is unobjectionable. Rauf agrees that the Muslim world has a responsibility to “put its house in order” and “stop delivering slaps on the face,” regardless of how the West behaves. He credits the West for its separation of church and state, calling the relationship between religion and the government “one of the big issues the Muslim world needs to address and solve.” He even cites a piece our own Michael Novak wrote about the importance of religion.

As argued on NRO and elsewhere, there is nothing the government can or should do to disrupt the construction or operation of the Cordoba House. But as the project’s supporters press on in the face of overwhelming public outcry, and as Rauf’s beliefs come increasingly into the light, arguments that the community center and mosque are meant as anything but a finger in the eye of America become less believable.