WASHINGTON, D.C — A Channel 2 Action News investigation found 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.
Plenty of outrage following the announcement made Thursday afternoon by a government commission that suggested huge cuts to the budget, including eliminating the interest education for home mortgage. This juxtaposed with United States investing millions to refurbish mosques as a good-will effort in Muslim countries has upset many taxpayer groups.
The Channel 2 Action News investigation found 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.
This is part of a $770 million program to rebuild Cairo's sewer system, paid for by the U.S. State Department's USAID program.
"We are spending money we don't have. This is all on a gigantic credit card right now," said Jared Thomas, a taxpayer advocate.
Millions more dollars have been sent to places like Cyprus. The State Department displays before and after pictures of mosques refurbished with U.S. tax dollars.
"I think it is very hard to explain to the American taxpayer right now whose having an extraordinary time paying bills and making ends meet that this is why we took this out of your paycheck, so we can fund this," said Thomas.
The State Department declined a Channel 2 Action News request for an interview. We wanted to ask why are we using tax dollars to refurbish religious buildings overseas. The State Department did send Channel Two Action News an e-mail saying that they are fighting Islamic extremism by building relationships with Islamic leaders.
Egyptian-American human rights activist Nonie Darwish told Channel 2 Action News anchor Justin Farmer that trying to buy respect in the Middle East only shows our weakness.
"This part of the world has a lot of respect for power and America is not showing its power, it's showing its appeasement. They are laughing all the way to the bank," said Darwish.
Darwish was born in Egypt and is now a former Muslim. Darwish told Farmer that she moved to America and has written several books critical of radical Islam. Darwish said that most of the mosques in Egypt are run by extremists who have ordered former Muslims like herself to be killed.
"We are rebuilding mosques to support the radicals, not to support the moderates. We are building mosques to issue fatwas of death against people like me," said Darwish.
Your tax dollars also fund computers and mosques in places like Tajikistan and Mali. At an ancient mud brick mosque in Mali, the State Department has provided Internet service and computer equipment to local imams.
Taxpayer watchdogs wonder how the State Department can explain paying for Internet service while Americans struggle through the worst recession in decades.
"To the average person who has probably seen their paycheck shrink and not grow, this could be an insult to them," said Pete Sepp, President of the National Taxpayers Association.
With radical websites inciting violence and extremism worldwide, there are concerns that the taxpayer-funded Internet service could be misused.
"That is not the job of the U.S. because giving them Internet access to imams and Muslim preachers who hate America," said Darwish.
Critics say that it is time to review funding for all federal programs that do not directly benefit taxpayers.
"We are spending money we don't have and certainly we can cut items like this," said Thomas.
The Deficit Commission announced it would look at slowing the growth of foreign aid. Channel 2 Action News is not aware if there will be cuts in this particular U.S Aid program.