State Department officials on Monday confirmed Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, will soon be going on a trip of the Middle East and the U.S. government will be picking up the tab.The planned construction of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City has set off a contentious national debate over religious freedom in the U.S., drawing impassioned opposition from some families of 9/11 victims.
Rauf has emerged as a controversial figure because of his refusal to acknowledge Hamas as a terrorist organization, which is how the U.S. government classifies the group. The imam also has been quoted as saying U.S. foreign policy was in part responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
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