Re: the mosque. As a secular, non-practicing member of Muslim Manhattan, I can say that Feisal Rauf is a solid guy. Naive? I'm not sure. He's been very successful with his previous initiatives at reconciliation: both in terms of bringing secular folk like myself back into mosques by reminding them that there are interesting, progressive things to be heard there, and in bringing the mosque into the mainstream of city life. Those successes would lead him to believe that he could do more. That seems mostly a rational reaction to success.
As for the project itself, the cultural centre part of it--if that happens--is a good idea. There really isn't any place like that in New York. I've been involved in the past with organizing a number of qawwali and ghazal concerts [Qawwali is religious music that appeals to a general audience; think of something like the role gospel singing has played in Western pop, or just listen to this
. Ghazal is a classical form, that also has secular appeal, and should perhaps be compared to the role now played by classical oratorios; you can listen here
.] It's sometimes hard to find a good venue for doing these things, because the audience isn't going to be large enough to merit a Lincoln Center booking, but it's too big a community to just do it in someone's living room or the back of a small neighborhood mosque. So shows end up happening in awkward spaces that aren't suited to concerts anyway, like an empty room at the Pakistani embassy. I used to have a similar problem with getting spaces booked for Indian classical ragas [a bit like being at a jazz jam session, listen here
], but now there's an Indo-American Arts Council that manages that. In any case, a 92nd St. Y equivalent for Islamic arts would be useful.