State Department Officials Insist They're "Not Hiding" Mosque Imam

WASHINGTON - State Department officials insist they are, "not hiding" Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf during his outreach tour of middle eastern countries in wake of the mosque controversy. However, the U.S. government has also refused to release a detailed itinerary of Rauf's day-to-day schedule.

Rauf, whose Cordoba initiative is behind plans for a $100 million Islamic center about two blocks from where the Twin Towers once stood, is in the middle of a State Department funded mission to Middle Eastern countries to provide insight into the role of Islam in U.S. society.

State Department officials say Rauf remains in Bahrain today and will travel to Qatar tomorrow, where he will visit mosques, attend private meetings and possibly speak to some university students. However, they will not provide detailed information about exactly where and when any of these events will happen.

When asked why the details of a trip that has been billed as a public outreach tour have been so tightly controlled, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said, "We have a set policy on how we approach these tours... We're not hiding him, but these are visits to groups and figures that are for the most part not available to the public."

Crowley added that Rauf has had some interaction recently with local media in Middle Eastern countries and once he returns will be free to speak to the American media about his trip.