Imam  Feisal  Abdul  Rauf, executive director of the Cordoba Initiative
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, executive director of the Cordoba Initiative Photo by AP
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The imam spearheading plans for an Islamic center near the New York City site of the Sept. 11 terror attacks said Sunday that America's sweeping constitutional rights are more in line with the true principles of Islam than the restrictions imposed by some Muslim regimes.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf told the Al Wasat newspaper in Bahrain that the freedoms enshrined by the U.S. Constitution also reflect true Muslim values.

A portion of the interview - to be published Monday - was seen Sunday by The Associated Press.

Rauf is on a Middle East tour funded by the U.S. State Department. He has discussed efforts to combat extremism, but has avoided any comments on the rancor over proposals for a mosque and Islamic center near the site of the toppled World Trade Center towers.

During his tour Rauf will visit Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to promote religious tolerance and discuss Muslim life in America.

According to CNN, U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs committee, and Peter King (R-N.Y.), ranking member of the Homeland Security committee, said taxpayers should not have to fund the trip, which they called “unacceptable.”