Example: [Collected via e-mail, December 2012]
Origins: In November 2010, Atlanta television station WSB ran a news segment expressing outrage that U.S. taxpayers were funding the expenditure of "hundreds of millions of dollars" to refurbish mosques in Muslim countries. More than two years later, pointers to that news report continue to circulate on the Internet and prompt inquiries about whether the information contained therein is true:
It is true in general that some foreign aid monies provided by the U.S. government do go towards the refurbishment of mosques in Muslim countries, although some of the information provided in the WSB report is exaggerated or outdated.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was created by President
The WSB report mentions a "1,300-year-old Egyptian mosque that was almost flooded by contaminated sewer water that is one of many ancient Cairo mosques and churches that were saved from destruction by the U.S. taxpayers." It is true that USAID provided about
The WSB report also states that "millions more dollars have been sent to places like Cyprus." USAID did spend about $5 million to preserve the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque in Cyrus, but that amount covered the initial phase of a renovation project which also included the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Apostolos Andreas and was completed back in 2002:
As part of USAID's $60 million grant to the United Nations Development Program, the
USAID Assistant Administrator Dr. Kent Hill echoed the sentiments of the U.N. Secretary General and noted that "this restoration, bringing together the two ethnic communities, is a sign of mutual respect for the island's multi-ethnic past and a symbol of peaceful coexistence." Symbolic of the project's cultural tolerance, Greek Orthodox Cypriots are restoring the Moslem mosque while Muslim Turkish Cypriots are working on the monastery.
The Monastery of Apostolos Andreas is located near the spot where
U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Donald K. Bandler visited both sites to review the work accomplished to date. In a time when cultural icons are often the target of destructive forces, Ambassador Bandler called this "an inspiring example of two sides with unresolved differences cooperating to preserve their shared cultural heritage."
The USAID-funded restorations are implemented through the U.N. Bicommunal Development Program. They are one of many multi-sectoral, practical initiatives through which Greek and Turkish Cypriots carry out projects in areas of common concern. These projects address a wide range of issues that transcend the boundaries separating the two communities, including protection of the environment; maintenance of shared infrastructure; strengthening of civil society organizations, especially those focused on gender and youth; and tackling of public health concerns.
WSB's claim that "the State Department is sending hundreds of millions of dollars to save mosques overseas" appears to be something of an exaggeration. The costs of all the mosque-related projects listed on the State Department's web site which were ongoing in 2010 don't add up to nearly that much; the "hundreds of millions of dollars" figure is reachable only if one totals expenditures going back many years and/or includes the full costs of programs which only partially involved the refurbishment of mosques (such as the above-mentioned Cairo sewage project).
Last updated: 10 December 2012