WASHINGTON – The good will tour of the Middle East by the imam behind the proposed mosque near ground zero is just part of the U.S. government's efforts to reach out to the Muslim world.
This year, the Obama administration will spend nearly $6 million to restore 63 historic and cultural sites, including mosques and minarets, in 55 nations, according to State Department documents.
Under a program established by Congress in 2001, the department will fund at least five projects in as many countries at a cost of more than $271,000.
The contributions include $76,135 for the 16th century Grand Mosque in Tongxin, China, and $67,500 for the 18th century Golden Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan. An additional $62,169 will be spent on restoring a 19th century minaret in Mauritania's ancient city of Tichitt; $50,437 for the Sundarwala Burj, a 16th century Islamic Monument in New Delhi, and $15,450 to restore the 18th century Gobarau Minaret in Katsina, Nigeria.
The amount spent on mosque restoration projects is a fraction of the total in the 2010 Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, which also will fund projects to restore Christian and Buddhist sites as well as museums, forts and palaces.
Since 2001, the U.S. government has spent almost $26 million on the program to fund about 640 cultural preservation projects in more than 100 countries.
"The fund has demonstrated America's respect for the world's cultural heritage," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said last month in announcing the 2010 projects. "Cultural heritage serves as a reminder of historical experiences and achievements of humanity. Ancient structures and objects offer important lessons for us today."