WASHINGTON - State Department officials say they are aware of the controversial remarks Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf made in 2005. Rauf is the Imam of the controversial so-called Ground Zero mosque and is presently on a State Department funded outreach tour of Middle Eastern countries.
During a 2005 conference in Australia, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf compared the United States to Al Qaeda and said, "We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than Al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims."
Rauf made the comments while speaking at the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Center during a question and answer session, as part of what sponsors say was a dialogue to improve relations between America and the Muslim world.
Rauf added, "You remember that the U.S. led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations."
"We are aware of those remarks," said State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley. "I would just caution any of you that choose to write on this that once again you have a case where a blogger has pulled out one passage from a very lengthy speech, if you read the entire speech, you will discover exactly why we think he is rightfully participating in this international speaking tour."
On the substance of Rauf's 2005 accusations, none other than former President Bill Clinton has defended the sanctions, some of which took place during his years in the White House. Clinton and other diplomats assert that Saddam Hussein's regime corrupted the sanctions and denied humanitarian aid to his own people.
Crowley also revealed Rauf's activities over the next few days, which the State Department had been reluctant to do before Tuesday.
Imam Feisal has arrived in Doha, Qatar. He will be giving remarks and attending a traditional event of handing out gifts and treats to children at the Doha youth center. He has a full range of other private events that include a lecture at a university, meetings with government officials, Non Governmental Organizations, and participation in services at mosques and Ramadan activities.
Rauf is involved with the Cordoba initiative which is behind plans for a $100 million Islamic center about two blocks from where the Twin Towers once stood.