[cnn-photo-caption image=http://cnnreligion.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/t1larg-rauf.jpg caption="Rauf spoke with the newspaper Bahraini Al Wasat before he was scheduled to appear at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Bahrain." width=300 height=169]
Editor's note: CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom files this report from Abu Dhabi
The imam behind the controversial mosque and Islamic center near New York City's ground zero said Sunday that he hopes the project will develop "an Islamic approach that allows for harmony and understanding among all religions and other ideas."
The remarks from Abdul Rauf, who has rarely spoken to the media since his proposal for an Islamic center set off a firestorm of controversy this summer, came while the imam is on a State Department-sponsored trip to the Middle East.
Rauf spoke with the newspaper Bahraini Al Wasat before he was scheduled to appear at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Bahrain, the newspaper's editor said.
In the interview, to be published Monday, Rauf praised freedoms that Muslims and others enjoy in the United States.
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