Making a relatively rare television appearance on Sunday, Imam Feisal Rauf, the man behind the controversial Islamic cultural center in downtown Manhattan, said that if he were forced to move the project it could spur terrorist activity among radicals abroad.
"My major concern with moving it is that the headline in the Muslim world will be 'Islam is under attack in America,'" said Rauf. "This will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment, this will put our people -- our soldiers, our troops, our embassies, our citizens -- under attack in the Muslim world and we [would] have expanded and fueled terrorism."
In the interview with ABC's "This Week," Rauf said he was not making threats to the American public in hopes that critics would change their tune on the construction of his project. He was merely offering insights into how the debate was playing out in the Muslim world. His interview touched on topics beyond the Cordoba House project, dealing additionally with the broader perception of Islam within American. Asked, for instance, about Sarah Palin's infamous tweet that "peaceful" Muslims should "refudiate" the "Ground Zero Mosque," Rauf noted the heavy political hand that had made its way into a basically settled constitutional debate. There was, he added, "growing Islamophobia in this country."
"How else would you describe the fact that mosques around the country are now being attacked? We are Americans, too. We are treated and talked about today as if American Muslims are not Americans. We are Americans. We are doctors. We are investment bankers. We are taxi drivers. We are store keepers. We are lawyers. We are part of the fabric of America. And the way that America today treats its Muslims is being watched by over a billion Muslims worldwide."
When pressed about a Florida pastor's now-canceled plans to burn Qurans in protest of radical Islam, Rauf expressed a bit of relief that the burnings didn't take place and horror at what could have been sparked by such an image.
"[The Quran burnings] would have created a disaster in the Muslim world. It would have strengthened the radicals," he said. "It would have enhanced the possibility of terrorist acts against America and American interests."