Lifestyle & Belief

New York Imam on Bin Laden's death


Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (Photo: World Economic Forum)

by Alex Gallafent

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Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf felt firsthand the impact of a world redrawn by Osama Bin Laden a decade ago. For more than a quarter century he was the Imam of a small mosque in Tribeca, in New York City.

"I'm part of that community," Rauf said today, noting that many of those killed in the attacks of September 11th were Muslims. "We were impacted by 9/11. We were among the first responders."

None of that seemed to matter during the midterm elections last year. At that time, Rauf's plan to build a community center in lower Manhattan two blocks from Ground Zero was being attacked from various quarters.

Rauf says the planned center is intended to promote interfaith dialogue. But it was often referred to by critics as the 'Ground Zero mosque'. Now Rauf hopes that the death of Osama Bin Laden will help to end a decade of fractious relations between America and the Islamic world.

"I am hopeful that with this event it will make people realize that we Muslims are an important part of the solution," he said. "We want to work together to build the bonds of the community, and bring an end to this era of solving problems by killing each other. That's not the way to go."

Rauf practices Sufi Islam, a moderate, pluralistic form of the religion. It informs his hopes beyond New York, including the broader Arab world in its current state of change.

Rauf is hopeful that young people who previously might have been ripe for recruitment by al Qaeda could now have another vision of a possible future for themselves. But he recognizes that the challenges for Islam and for the United States don't end with the death of a single man, however influential.

"Life is a series of chapters," he said. "If it's not over, this is the end of a chapter. And hopefully one of the last chapters in the book of terrorism in the world today."

The controversy surrounding Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's proposed community center in Lower Manhattan died down as the midterm elections were over. Plans are moving ahead again.