Imam Rauf plays to the ignorance of the average Muslim
Reza Safa, a Christian convert and evangelist who grew up as a devout Muslim, wrote a book called "Inside Islam." In it, he points out that, very few Muslims have read the Koran because the rate of illiteracy in many Muslim countries is 75 to 85 percent. He also states that since only 20 percent of Muslims worldwide can read Arabic, they don't fully know what the Koran advocates - particularly the females who have to deal with Sura 4:34's tacit advocacy of wife beating, although they well know what their society allows.
Safa gave an example in his book of how the Koran is seen as a symbolic icon by the average Muslim and not a book to study and reflect on. In pages 86-87 he recalls a conversation he had with an Arabic speaking Muslim not from the ruling elites:
‘One time I was witnessing to an Arab Muslim and I asked him, as I often do when witnessing to Muslims, "Do you read the Koran? Do you understand it?"
"I cannot understand the Koran," he responded. "The writing is so poetic and majestic that is beyond my understanding."
"You speak Arabic, don't you?" I asked him, since the Muslims believe the Koran must be read in Arabic.
"Yes, I do," he answered, "But the writing is too beautiful and complex for me to understand."
All this may explain the attitude of Imam Rauf, who is used to dealing with audiences overseas. The average Muslim has either never read the Koran nor is part of the literate ruling class who benefit from the authoritarian economic social structure at the expense of the poor.
Rauf obviously knows most Americans haven't read the Koran in either English or Arabic, and he acts as if all journalists - approved by the ruling elites - will look the other way when he claims Islam advocates universal peace and his Cordoba Project will be a center of interfaith tolerance and understanding.
As Andrew Bostom has pointed out , Sura 3:67 claims that Abraham, the Father of the Jews (Avraham Avenu, in Hebrew) is in fact a Muslim and not a Jew. The exact quote is:
"No; Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim and one pure of faith [i.e., Islam]; certainly he was never of the idolaters."
Reza Safa points out on page 64 of his book in Sura 9:30 of the Koran states:
‘...and the Christians call "Christ the Son of God." This is a saying from their mouth; (In this) they but imitate what the Unbelievers of the old used to say. . Allah's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!'
With such suras in the Koran, the only "understanding" that Christians and Jews can reach with Imam Rauf is to deny their own religion - or at the very least accept these insults without challenge. And I believe that is exactly what Rauf has in mind.