‘Ground Zero Mosque’ leader gives 9/11 talks in Britain

EDINBURGH, August 25, 2011: The US Muslim leader at the centre of the recent storm over plans to build an Islamic community centre near Ground Zero in New York is arriving in Britain tomorrow and giving a series of talks and interviews in Scotland.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf will offer his perspective on 9/11 during a visit organised by the Festival of Spirituality and Peace in partnership with Edinburgh University’s Prince Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World.

Imam Feisal came to international prominence last year when his plans to build Plan51, a Muslim community centre, two blocks from where the Twin Towers stood sparked a heated debate within America and abroad about the relationship between the Islamic faith and the West since 9/11.

Author and activist Feisal has won several awards for his work bridging the divide and improving relations between the Muslim world and the West.

On Saturday 27 August he will be in conversation with Professor Hugh Goddard, head of the Alwaleed Centre. In the event, 'The Day The World Changed', he will discuss religious pluralism and Islam in the United States ten years after 9/11. It is a keynote event within the Festival of Spirituality and Peace.

The meeting will be repeated in Glasgow on Wednesday 31 August.

As part of the festival’s closing event on Sunday 28 August, Imam Feisal will receive a peace award from the festival, the City of Edinburgh, Edinburgh InterFaith Association, and the Conference of Edinburgh’s Religious Leaders.

He has founded two non-profit organisations, the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement, dedicated to building bridges of understanding between the general public and the Muslim community through interfaith dialogue and the arts.

Professor Hugh Goddard, director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World, said: “Given the furore in the United States last year following the threat by Pastor Terry Jones to burn a copy of the Qur’an in public, it will be excellent for audiences in Scotland and the wider UK to hear the American Muslim leader against whom this threat was directed speak about being a Muslim in the USA today and the wider relationship between the world of Islam and the West.”

Director of the Festival of Peace and Spirituality, the RevDonald Reid, added: “Imam Feisal is an eloquent exponent of how the highest aspirations of Islam and US democracy concur – I can think of no better speaker therefore, for a festival dedicated to peace in a post 9/11 world as we approach this tenth anniversary.”

Simon Barrow, co-director of the beliefs and values think-tank Ekklesia, which has been involved in several aspects of this year's Festival, commented: "It is important for Europe to hear a senior US Muslim voice as part of the debate about religion, ideology, violence and peacemaking as we remember the horror of 9/11 and the continuing conflict and terror that followed it. Finding a path to just-peace in place of further justifications for war remains a global priority for human flourishing."

'The Day The World Changed' takes place at St John’s Church, Lothian Road, Edinburgh at 9.30am on Saturday 27 August 2011. The repeat event in Glasgow is at 6.30pm on Wednesday 31 at Wellington Church, University Avenue.

Tickets are £6 or £4 concessions, free to under-18s and claimants from Hub Tickets, Castlehill, Edinburgh.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. The full programme for the 2011 Festival of Sprituality and Peace can be found at: http://www.festivalofspirituality.org.uk/

2. News and comment on the Festival of Spirituality and Peace from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/festivalofspirituality

3. Founded in 2001, Ekklesia examines politics, values and beliefs in a changing world, from a Christian perspective. It has been listed by The Independent newspaper among 20 influential UK think-tanks. According to Alexa/Amazon, it has one of the most-visited religion and politics / current affairs websites in Britain. More: http://ekklesia.co.uk/content/about/about.shtml

4. Media contact for Imam Faisal's Scottish visit: Edd McCracken, University of Edinburgh - tel. 0131 651 4400; email: edd.mccracken@ed.ac.uk