The imam behind the New York mosque enjoys his megaphone

By Dana Milbank
Monday, September 13, 2010; 3:28 PM

It's difficult to think of somebody who has done more harm to the causes he purports to represent than Feisal Abdul Rauf -- the so-called Ground Zero Imam.

He claims he wishes to improve the standing of Muslims in the United States, to build understanding between religions, and to enhance the reputation of America in the Muslim world. But in the weeks since he -- unintentionally, he says -- set off an international conflagration over his plans to build an Islamic center near the scene of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York, he has set back all three of his goals.

Still, there is another cause that has flourished during the controversy -- that of Feisal Abdul Rauf. Here he is on the Larry King show; there he is writing an op-ed in the New York Times; that's him, again, on ABC's This Week. On Monday morning, he addressed the Council on Foreign Relations in New York (I listened in via conference call), offering many thoughts on what appears to be his favorite topic.

"Allow me, please, to begin by telling you my story," Rauf said, before delivering various self promotional tidbits to the audience:

"I came to America by boat when I was only 17 years old."

"I got my bachelor's in physics at Columbia University."

"I had a number of occupations: a high-school teacher, a salesman of industrial products, and a struggling writer."

"My own niece currently serves in the United States Army."

"I'm a Giants fan."

Congrats on the win over Carolina, Imam. But what about the mosque?

Rauf hinted that a compromise is being worked out. "We are exploring all options as we speak right now, and we are working through what will be a solution, God willing, that will resolve this crisis, defuse it."

This willingness to cool the tensions is of recent origin. Just days ago he was telling CNN's Soledad O'Brien: "If we move from that location, the story will be that the radicals have taken over the discourse. The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack."

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