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The Separation of Mosque and State?

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As the White House and Congress debate cuts in federal spending, millions of dollars are being funneled overseas to help build many Islamic mosques and structures.

An Atlanta television news station, WSB, reported that "the State Department is sending millions of dollars to save mosques overseas. This investment has received criticism as the United States makes an effort to slash nearly $4 trillion in government spending." The anchor noted that the U.S. Agency for International Development has granted copious funds for mosques in Cairo, Cyprus, Tajikistan and Mali.

A USAID official spoke with FactCheck.org and confirmed that about $2.3 million was used on the Cairo mosque "to help lower the groundwater at the mosque area, replacing the old sewage collector and providing a healthier environment for people living in the area." In addition to the money given for that 1,000-year-old mosque, more than $15 million was given by the U.S. and the Egyptian government to restore a 1,300-year-old mosque, a Roman tower, a Greek Orthodox church and other buildings. And in Cyprus, $5 million in U.S. federal funds was granted to restore a mosque and a Greek Orthodox monastery. FactCheck.org went on to confirm that the Mali and Tajikistan mosque projects involved funding for computer equipment. Though USAID won't specify exactly how much of its money in 2010 went to mosques, the agency says it committed $18.8 billion for all of its global projects.

The Associated Press reported that since the beginning of last year, the Obama administration has doled out $6 million of taxpayers' money to restore or preserve 63 historical, religious and cultural sites, including mosques and minarets, in 55 nations under the guise of "Cultural Affairs" and "Cultural Preservation 2010 Awards," and they include:

--$50,437 for conservation of Sunderwala Burj, a 16th-century Islamic monument in New Delhi.

--$76,135 for the restoration of the 16th-century Grand Mosque in China, with one of the longest histories and largest premises in the world.

--$67,500 for the restoration of the mid-18th-century Sunehri Masjid (Golden Mosque) in Lahore, Pakistan.

--$77,619 to restore minarets (tall slender towers attached to mosques) in Nigeria and Mauritania.

--$80,035 for the restoration of the 18th-century Sultan Palace of Ujumbe in Mutsamudu, Comoros, with its highly ornate ceilings featuring Arabo-Islamic calligraphy and designs.

--$30,393 for the restoration of the fort at Lamu, Kenya, a significant center for the study of Islamic and Swahili cultures where Muslim religious festivals have been hosted since the 19th century.

--$10,000 for the restoration of the Kofar Kansakali Gate in the medieval walled city of Kano, Nigeria, where the stone laying ceremony was performed by the emir of Kano, Alhaji (Dr.) Ado Bayero, an influential Muslim spiritual and community leader in northern Nigeria.

--$49,135 for restoration of a mid-19th-century hostel in Fojnica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, originally intended to house and feed Muslim travelers for free.

--$53,870 for the preservation of the sixth-century castle in Vushtrri, Kosovo -- a city that overthrew its once-dominant Christian population with a Muslim majority via the Ottoman conquests and a military post for an Ottoman garrison.

--$30,000 for conservation of murals at the early 19th-century palace of Ahmed Bey ben Mohamed Cherif, who led a fierce resistance against French forces from that palace in Constantine, Algeria.

--$100,000 for the restoration of 17th- and 18th-century monuments in the kasbah of Mehdia, Morocco, which was built in 1185 by Yaqub al-Mansur, who was the third Almohad emir and the Muslim military conqueror who was responsible for capturing thousands of Christians and killing tens of thousands.

--$450,000 for the restoration of Qala Ikhtyaruddin, the 15th-century citadel of Herat, Afghanistan -- once used by Alexander the Great but also used in more modern times by the Taliban. The extremely large project is employing a host of local Muslims seven days a week via U.S. funds.

Where are the separatists of church and state when it comes to dividing mosque and state?

I understand the necessity of America's maintaining good global relations with other countries, but when we can't even rebuild our economy, should we really be rebuilding others? Does diplomacy always have to include America's dumping dollars at everyone's front door?

How long will we continue to finance other countries' economies as our own goes down the tubes? Maybe it's time we ask all the countries we've been aiding to return the favor. Such federal fiscal insanity brings me back to the wisdom of our fourth president, James Madison, who wrote, "In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

One thing is certain. President Barack Obama certainly has kept the global promise he made to the Muslim world from Cairo in 2009, when he said that he considers it part of his "responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear" and create "partnership between America and Islam."

In a little more than a month, the U.S. will be commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Ten years ago, we all declared that "we will never forget." But when does subsidizing Islamic structures and culture abroad with U.S. taxpayer money cross the line and trample on the memory of 9/11 victims and their families? They brought down our twin towers, and we build up their mosques?

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