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. Asim

    Why people forget about the fact the there were many muslims who were inside the twin towers as well. So what is the problem with the mosque. Why not build Mosque, Church, Temple, synagogue & a brothel side by side so all are happy.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Soledad

    That builder on CNN is a radical.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Peter Ramsay

    Feisel Abdul Rauf provided wise, balanced, excellent responses this evening. As a Christian, my chief prayer is that Christians would get on with living a Christ-honoring life and live a life that draws people to Jesus Christ. What a blessing to Christianity and the furtherance of the the Gospel that would be.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John Satum

    Whatever happened on 911 was totally wrong according to Islam, going forward Muslims never burnt a bible nor they said anything about anybody's religious leader personally including Jesus Christ. If a group does some an act under the name of Islam would Islam would be blamed? Freedom of speech for sure can be used for anything to spread hate or love or compassion or unity or whatever somebody believes in. If in anger you loose yourself you are not making a difference?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Soledad

    I hope that builder on CNN goes out of business. We will get other builders.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Monica

    Why not just make it a greenspace – NYC could certainly use more of it. It would be a more peaceful place of reflection, perhaps with trees representative of the nations of victims and a pond or water feature. . . a place where ANYONE feels welcome to come and reflect or rest.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John Whitaker

    Imam did the right thing to confront the issue although it will never be enough for some illiterate & ignorant Americans. As Catholic, I rather find common ground toward peace than to allow hate & irrational thinking undermined our liberty.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ann

    I never post on this site, but Soledad is causing me to feel a need to voice my opinion. She is the RUDEST interviewer that I have seen on CNN. This interview seems more typical of the fear mongers on Fox News. PLEASE take her off and replace with Anderson Cooper after the commercial break.
    Whether you are for or against the mosque, she is an interviewer and should be non-biased while allowing the guest to answer the questions without feeling attacked. This is ba This interview is just wrong.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Roger

    "This is America the land of the free. People have every right to warship were they want whenever they want to."

    That's exactly what Westboro Baptist claims.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Madge

    WOW this guy is good 🙂 Quoting JESUS CHRIST! AN IMAM??? They believe in him to a point but they dont LIVE what he preaches!!!!
    I dont agree with the building of the mosque at this location, however they are in America! I am curious why the actual teaching of the koran wasnt brought up when he stated we are not your enemies???? How about the teaching of islam that WE are the enemies and kill us where we stand??? He says that Jesus says LOVE your neighbor then why are muslims required to KILL infidels thats not loving your neighbor!!!He is a IMAM and quoting JESUS wow how smart to try to appeal to people that dont know the teachings of islam. They are allowed to lie for gain it is not a sin especially to Christians. They are saying he sounds like a moderate?????? PEOPLE there is NO SUCH THING AS A MODERATE MUSLIM??????? PEOPLE WAKE UP LEARN WHAT MUSLIMS BELIEVE IS THE WORD OF G?D!!!!! THe thing is most muslims DONT KNOW WHAT the koran says! They WILL build this mosque he practically threatened us by saying that if we dont we will be attacked and killed around the world .....come on people.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • shehzd

      Like most of american, you are also ignorant about Islam, and most likely listen to conservative news channel like Fox news. Do more research about Islam, and don't take anything out of context. What ever you said about Islam is propoganda. Go visit Islamicity.org to enlighen yourself.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  11. Paula

    My God! My God! The United States, ONE NATION UNDER GOD. Where are the Christians who need to stand up. We have given up our Christian rights and allowed ourselves to be persuaded by fools that it is okay to allow these practices of religion in direct opposition to GOD. Our nation was a great nation and it is being destroyed because we took God out of schools and we have allowed ungodly religions to overrun this NATION UNDER GOD. God covered us and lead us to be a great nation. We are going to pay for turning away from God.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      Pardon me, but which God? The Christian God? Jewish God? Islamic God? They're all the same one. Read a book.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      Paula: what makes you thing God is Christian? Haven't you heard that God is too big for just one religion?

      September 8, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Madge

      AMEN Paula!!!!
      WE CHRISTIANS/AMERICANS need to wake up!!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. maggi

    This Imam never concat any victimsof 9/11 .
    He is not telling all the true . I am New Yorker and after his today's talk this Saturday will gp to Gound Zero as a repect for victims and walk two blocks to protest in formt of the Cordoba center.
    This Imam just touch me with his less Value for Americans Ideas and more that we shold be do what the Islam say.
    NO way Jose! no now no never Give Libery or give me dead

    September 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chris

    If a child gets killed in a car accident, driver did not mean to do it... Do you ask the parents to have a picture of the guy in their living room? Of course not... same thing, hundreds of Americans lost their families and loved ones in the WTC, by putting a Mosque there it is like putting salt in a wound...
    It is a very selfish, insensitive and inconsiderate act.
    It's okay to build a mosque, not just in ground zero. A block away, 2 blocks away... as long as is it's not there.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Muhammad Abdullah

      BTW, the Cordoba center is 2 blocks away...

      September 8, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. islam sucks

    any muslim reading this: you are a liar if you claim that bin laden is not your hero in some regard. liar!!!
    You as a people cannot even come out and condemn him! You are liars when you talk about peace!!! and finally we are all beginning to see this!!! Liars!! Islam is a religion of peace? That's like saying the sun is a cool dark rock. Look around you, you are liars!!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      So you don't think the American Muslim who is your doctor, teacher, police officer just wants to live in peace? You don't think he/she wants a safe and secure neighborhood to raise their cherished babies? Stop the hate. That is exactly the thinking that the radicals want you to have. Did you know the Koran has an entire chapter named "virgin Mary" where it speaks of Jesus's birth to a virgin and it speaks of all of Jesus's miracles??? Did you know that? Muslims are just normal people like the rest of us who are being tainted by the radicals. My good friend who is a Muslim drinks and eats pork. He calls himself a "ramadan muslim" as I call myself a "christmas catholic". We all have different levels of how religious we are. Hope this helps you.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      Something tells me that you (who call yourself 'islam sucks') are not a good person. People like you are beyond educating. You need psychological help and even medication. I feel sorry for you and for the hatred that runs through your veins. You are a sad embarrassment to America. God bless you.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. TX_MBell

    "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." Is Islam so devoid of compassion that he cannot communicate to the Muslim world that it is 'his' decision to show compassion and sensibility to those still trying to heal or come to terms with the tragedy at 'Ground 0' and not build there until there is a reconciliation?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
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