September 8th, 2010
08:54 PM ET

Live blog: Imam behind NYC Islamic center speaks

Editor's note: The imam who plans to build an Islamic center and mosque a few blocks from New York's ground zero spoke to CNN's Soledad O'Brien on "Larry King Live" Wednesday night. The following is a running log of what Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf discussed.

[Updated, 10:04 p.m.] O'Brien's last question was whether Rauf could unequivocally say that the center would be built at the currently planned location, a few blocks from ground zero.

"We certainly hope to build a Cordoba House vision of a multifaith center that will build relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims," he said.

[Updated, 9:59 p.m.] Rauf was asked about the pastor in Florida who plans to burn Qurans this weekend, on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

"I would plead with him to seriously consider what he is doing. It is going to feed into the radicals in the Muslim world," Rauf said.

He noted that U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus has warned that the burning would endanger U.S. troops overseas.

"It's something which is not right to do on [those] grounds," Rauf said.

"We have freedom of speech, but with freedom comes responsibility. ... This is dangerous for our national security, but also it is the un-Christian thing to do," he added.

[Updated, 9:48 p.m.] When asked if the State Department was correct in saying Hamas is a terrorist organization, Rauf said: "I condemn everyone and anyone who commits acts of terrorism, and Hamas has committed acts of terrorism."

When asked what he thought about the 9/11 hijackers claiming they were doing what they did in the name of Islam, he said:

"That is a travesty. Just as the inquisitors in Spain were committing a travesty [against] the teachings of Jesus Christ. We do have people in our communities who [commit travesties] against Islam."

[Updated, 9:40 p.m.] O'Brien asked about his interview with CBS's "60 Minutes," shortly after the 9/11 attacks, in which he said the United States' policies "were an accessory to the crime."

O'Brien asked twice, but Rauf deflected the question.

"The work we have to do now is not about pointing fingers," he said, as part of his response.

[Updated, 9:32 p.m.] Rauf, the imam at the center of the controversial proposed Islamic community center and mosque in New York, said that "nothing is off the table" when asked whether he would consider moving the site.

"We are consulting ... various people about how to do this so that we negotiate the best and safest option."

[Updated, 9:28 p.m.] Rauf reiterated that the issue about what to do with the center going forward is important for national security.

"If we don't do this right, anger will explode in the Muslim world," Rauf said. "... If we don't handle this crisis correctly, it could become something very dangerous indeed."

He said moving the project to another location would strengthen Islamist radicals' ability to recruit followers and will increase violence against Americans.

He said again that if he knew ahead of time the controversy this would create, he wouldn't have made the plans to build the center at the currently planned site.

[Updated, 9:21 p.m.] Rauf said that if he knew how controversial the project would be, he "never would have done this - not have done something that would create more divisiveness."

However, he said he is convinced he shouldn't move the center now because "our national security now hinges on how we negotiate this, how we speak about it and what we do."

By that, he said, he means that if the controversy forces a move, "it means the radicals … will shape the discourse on both sides."

[Updated, 9:15 p.m.] Asked whether he was surprised by the controversy, Rauf said he was.

He pointed out that news of the plans to build the Islamic center and mosque was published in The New York Times in December, and "no one objected" at the time. He said the issue was politicized later.

[Updated, 9:13 p.m.] Asked why he wanted to build the center on the planned spot, Rauf noted he's already run a mosque about 10 blocks from ground zero for many years.

When asked about the feelings of families of 9/11 victims - such as those who might claim that their relative's remains have yet to be found at the site, Rauf said: "This is not that spot. This is not ground zero proper. No one's body is in that location."

"I'm very sensitive to those feelings," he said. "As an imam - as any religious person does - we have to minister to the pain and hurt ... in our communities. This is part of our intention."

He said he intends to put a 9/11 memorial in the center.

[Updated, 9:07 p.m.] O'Brien asked why Rauf was quiet during the recent uproar while he was overseas. He said wanted to wait until he got back to his home country, America.

"I didn’t think is was appropriate for me to speak about this while I was overseas," he said.

He said people in the Middle East "have been very concerned about this" issue.

"The concerns of people there are about both what this means in the United States, but what this means also for them, because the United States is the only global superpower today, and what happens here has an enormous impact over the rest of the world," he said.

[Original post, 8:54 p.m.] The imam who plans to build a community center and mosque within blocks of New York's ground zero will be interviewed live at 9 p.m. ET on CNN's "Larry King Live."

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf will talk with CNN's Soledad O'Brien about his decision to move ahead with the plan. As the interview happens, this blog post will be updated with portions of what Rauf says.

Opponents of the plan say the center would be too close to the site of the 2001 terror attacks and is an affront to the memory of those who died in the al Qaeda strike. Backers cite, among other things, First Amendment rights and the need to express religious tolerance.

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Filed under: Islam • New York • Religion
soundoff (1,302 Responses)
  1. cc

    He did not say that

    September 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kevin Kunkel

    Sounds like a threat to me. I guess we all knew this was coming.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dan

    Why was Soludad getting so angry? Obviously she led her own emotions get in the way of being "objective" and "impartial" interviewer. She even could not look him in the eye and had to look away. Shame on her!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      I was very surprised and distracted by her anger also. Very strange and if we needed to hear someting from her, it was not effective because it felt impartial..

      September 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. maggi

    So we Americans have to be sacre of Islam if this Center is not build in this palce?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Monica

    Wow, the Imam is very media-savvy to suggest to/direct Muslims on how to react in the event the Mosque is not constructed on a site which he knows will only lead to further division among people. Jihad, eh? He shows no sensitivity to a place on which I personally believe nothing should be built, but chooses to use it as political capitol while hiding behind yet another rediculous show of political correctness. What have people come to?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Donald

    Soledad was absolutely the wrong person to interview the Imam. She was arch and far too smart Alecky and treated her guest with disrespect. Building a mosque near but not at the 9/11 site is an opportunity to heal and develope a better understanding of Islam which, after working 13 years in Kuwait ( a strong ally of the USA) I learned that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. The Imam needs our support to help the true Islam become better understood. By the way I am not a Muslim but respect the right of Muslims to have their faith.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sonia Vivar

    Did the Iman say....If it's not built, radicals will take revenge ? What does that mean ?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jim

    Imam had a good opportunity to make the case, but unfortunately it is extremely tough to win over the 70% of the people who are against the mosque. It's an uphill battle for imam and it make sense to find another site for this cultural center..

    September 8, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Shelleydee

    I hope he builds it. And I hope he breaks ground quickly.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      Ditto, where can I donate?

      September 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Robert

    The Imam's arguement seems to be based on the idea that we should not make muslims think that they are under attack. Well, the muslims have done so much in the past to make Christians and Jews feel like they are under attack that this arguement is ludicrous. Why should we Americans feel that we have to limit our freedom of speech because we are afraid of muslim radicals?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Alain

    Worst interview From solidad needed to be more prepaired. When around in circle. What a missed
    Opportunity.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Robert

    Soledad, you blew this interview,you are not a journalist you are an entertainer,and whats up with all the commercials? How much money was made on one of the most important discussions of the last ten years? The commercials were actually interrupting the entertainer from asking her sensational(non journalistic) questions.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mohammed

    I think we need to fight an "ice" war against Islamic countries. Like a cold war, but we can force them into situations in which they fail, without getting blood on our clothes. Muslims can be stopped & remember the Spanish Inquisition was really still about muslims.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Lets start with Saudi Arabia the actual perpetrators of 9/11 and the cause and spread of radical Islam, oh wait we cant do that because it would upset the business relationships with the oil people down in Texas.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. peace

    my comment have been removed why because I said the truth...

    September 8, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mm

    Are gay people welcome in this mosque?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
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