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Fareed Zakaria: Imam Of Islamic Community Center Near Ground Zero Follows A Liberal Form Of Islam

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Uploaded on Aug 22, 2010

Have you heard of Sufi Islam? Well, Al Qaeda sure has.

It is the mystical brand of Islam that embraces a more liberal interpretation of the Koran. Sufism embraces music and song. It is an interpretation that Al Qaeda views as its mortal enemy.

It is also the sect of Islam embraced by the Imam of the Islamic center near Ground Zero. Watch as Fareed takes a look at what lies behind Sufism...and why Al Qaeda's hatred of it should inform us about where Imam Rauf stands on the Islamic spectrum.

Transcript:

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: This is GPS, the Global Public Square.

Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world.

I'm Fareed Zakaria.

Pakistan is in the news, of course, with its massive floods and the terrible tragedy that is ensuing there. We'll talk about that soon, but I first wanted to draw your attention to something else that's been going on in Pakistan in recent months.

This is an al Qaeda triple suicide bombing from July, killing 42 and injuring 175. What's strange is that the attack took place at a site of Muslim prayer -- you might call it a mosque -- just before prayer time.

Why would al Qaeda attack a holy place at a time of prayer? Because it is a Sufi shrine, part of a sect that al Qaeda despises and regards as a deadly foe in the real battle it is fighting, the battle within Islam.

The Sufis are a sector of Islam originating in South Asia. They're all about mysticism, love, brotherhood and devotion, with very little attention to dogma. They believe in saints, shrines, music, dance, and follow a very liberal interpretation of the Koran.

Sufi poets routinely extol the virtues of wine and song, both forbidden in the purer versions of Islam. Sufism has always believed in tolerance towards other people and religion, and in peace. You can see why al Qaeda views it as its mortal enemy. The more Muslims accept some version of Sufi Islam, the more dangerous for al Qaeda and its extreme jihadist philosophy.

So the West should encourage Sufi Islam and its imams when we get a chance, right? Well, that's certainly what George W. Bush believed, which is why the Bush administration found some prominent Sufi imams in America and sent them abroad to spread their message of tolerance and pluralism in 2007. And chief among them, of course, was Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the Cordoba Initiative, the cultural center with a prayer room to be built in the old Burlington Coat Factory that is two blocks from Ground Zero.

People have asked all sorts of questions about Imam Rauf. I don't know him personally. I have read some of his writings. But I'm struck by this simple fact -- if al Qaeda wants to blow up people like him, isn't that a pretty good indication of where he stands in the world of Islam?

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