The latest hit on the "Ground Zero Mosque" is a transcript of remarks made by Feisal Abdul Rauf, promoter of the cultural centre, during an address at the Univ of South Australia in 2005. Someone had to use a lot of the Google to find that one. The supposed outrage comes from Rauf comparing the excess deaths resulting from the sanctions on Iraq to al Qaeda's death toll. Part of the supposed rebuttal is to claim that the sanctions really didn't result in that many deaths -- which makes one wonder why a war to depose Saddam was so much the preferred alternative.
But anyway. Rauf gave his address to the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, in which lectures are supposed to give informed viewpoints in a way that engages communities. And Rauf was there to explain why the War on Terror can look different if you're a Muslim in a country on the receiving end as opposed to, say, being George Bush visiting Iraq but never addressing any crowds outside a military base. And his remarks, which are quite extensive, do a decent job of that. It's the kind of thing that someone like General David Petraeus, seeking to understand local populations, would read.
Interestingly, the prescient Bob Hawke (now 80 years old, and whose election winning skills apparently left Labor with him), in apparent recognition that Islamic issues were going to be on the cultural frontline for some time, has now gotten the university to establish an International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding. Rauf's 2005 address would be good material for that. But the problem now is that if you're a Muslim hoping for an American career, or even an American visa, what you can say at such a centre may be restricted to opinions that American conservatives find agreeable, with the scrutiny increasing as each election approaches.
We could thus be headed for the situation in which many conversations that Americans might find interesting can't happen in America, with Koranic interpretation left to such Arabic experts as Andrew McCarthy and Bill Kristol. Thank God there isn't any dodgy stuff in the Bible.