The controversial remarks made by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in 2005, has been taken out of context, a US official has said. During a 2005 conference in Australia's Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, Rauf had said, "We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than Al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims."
"Imam Feisal is a distinguished cleric in this country, and I will let him discuss remarks that he's made. We are aware of those remarks," State Department spokesman, P J Crowley, told reporters at his daily news conference when asked about the comment the American cleric made in 2005.
The interview was circulated by Investigative Project on Terrorism, which describes itself as a non-profit research group with the world's most comprehensive data centre on radical Islamic terrorist groups. Imam Rauf pointed out that US-led sanctions against Iraq had led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children, which had been documented by the UN.
"When Madeleine Albright, who has become a friend of mine over the last couple of years, when she was Secretary of State and was asked whether this was worth it, she said it was worth it," the Imam told the audience. The State Department spokesman however, cautioned reporters not to take the remarks out of context.
"I would just caution any of you that choose to write on this that, once again, you have a case where a blogger has pulled out one passage from a very lengthy speech. If you read the entire speech, you know, you will discover exactly why we think he is rightfully participating in this international speaking tour," Crowley said.
Currently touring the Middle East on a State Department sponsored trip, he said Imam Feisal has his own objectives."It is for Imam Feisal to communicate what he feels is the appropriate message in his interactions, you know, in Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE," he said.
"He has at various times been staked out by your colleagues in the media who are in the area. He has been asked about this project in discussions with his interlocutors in Bahrain," Crowley said. "We have talked to him to learn from him how he plans to approach the tour that he's on, what he wants us to do in terms of helping him arrange prospective interviews with the news media.
He has chosen an approach. We respect that approach. We are supporting him throughout this tour. But the choice as to whether he talks about the centre and what that represents in terms of issues of freedom of religion and religious tolerance, those are his choices to make," Crowley said.