Americans also may be surprised to learn that the United States has been an active participant in mosque construction projects overseas. In April, U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania Alfonso E. Lenhardt helped cut the ribbon at the 12th-century Kizimkazi Mosque, which was refurbished with assistance from the United States under a program to preserve culturally significant buildings. The U.S. government also helped save the Amr Ebn El Aas Mosque in Cairo, which dates back to 642. The mosque’s namesake was the Muslim conqueror of Christian Egypt, who built the structure on the site where he had pitched his tent before doing battle with the country’s Byzantine rulers. For those who think the Ground Zero Mosque is an example of “Muslim triumphalism” glorifying conquest, the Amr Ebn El Aas Mosque is an example of such a monument – and one paid for with U.S. taxpayer funds.

The mosques being rebuilt by the United States are used for religious worship, which raises important First Amendment questions. U.S. taxpayer money should not be used to preserve and promote Islam, even abroad. In July 2009, the Office of the Inspector General published an audit of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) faith-based and community initiatives that examined whether government funds were being used for religious activities. The auditors found that while USAID was funding some religious activities, officials were “uncertain of whether such uses of Agency funding violate Agency regulations or the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution” when balanced against foreign-policy objectives.

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