Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the leader of the controversial Islamic center Park51, represents a liberal version of Islam, says biographer Brad Gooch, who shares his memories of a friendship with him going back a decade.
Over the last decade, I occasionally experienced the trompe l'oeil kick of watching a familiar face (and voice) on TV. "I know that guy," I'd think, catching Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf on Sunday morning talk shows. The tickle of recognition began to turn to shock, though, about a month ago, when Rauf, as imam of the proposed Cordoba House (also called the "ground zero mosque"), morphed from talking head to the hot topic itself. As the story popped from a page 3 item on a Community Board 1 meeting in The New York Times to the cover of the New York Post to the cover of Time, from Bloomberg's comments to Obama's (three times, and counting), Feisal Rauf is suddenly a household name. For once, everyone was debating about something I knew firsthand. But I have been having trouble connecting their dots with the dots I know.