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. nick

    So now he's blackmailing the US: if you don't do this, I can't be responsible for how Islam might react!! I hope there's not a single real American who would contribute an ounce of energy to build the mosque. CNN is giving him a worldwide platform to spew his vile message: do it our way or suffer! Outrageous!!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Luke Dauchot

    Replacing the concept of an Islamic center with a jointly funded Judeo-Christian-Islamic center would both challenge radicalism and honor the memory of those who died in the WTC attack.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Timo Yannopoulos

    Ask the Imam what does he have to say about the abuse of Mosques in Europe that have been used to teach young Muslims hate against Europeans and other faiths.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ahsley

    Worst interviewer ever!!!Why larry didn't talk to him, She doesn't know what she is talking about and she is so mean! This is not going to solve anything.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Omar

    Don't judge us by our radicals and we won't judge you by YOURS!

    I.E. The Christian Pastor from Florida who said "JESUS would have burned korans and FORCED others to become Christians."

    What happened to "Love thy neighbor." from the Bible?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ra

      agreed

      September 8, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • adlady

      That doesn't exist anymore!!! Especially when you don't really know who your neighbor could be..

      September 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bhavu

    What kind of National Security... Imam talk about.... Is he giving any kind of signal that if the mosque would build at the proposed spot.... are we will have something like 911...Is he concern or warning?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. maggi

    The Muslim community has not reached out to the american population to reject 9/11 tragedy
    and now appear to be planting a flag of victory much like the marines did at Iwo Jima Thsi is why Americans are upset

    NOt Only that in 9/11 we just had the 3000 victims of ISLAM jihad when in ISLAMIC countris were dancing in the street in celebreation I saw that and that moment i lear how low is IISLAM close to axes of eval

    September 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ray

    The Imam just returned from Middle East, where I'll bet he obtained funding for the building of the Masque. The very people who hate us are contributing to this.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ldk

    Ask Imam to build a church in Mecca first and we will allow in NYC

    September 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ra

    Why are you referring to Muslims as if its a nationality? The Imam claims the U.S.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Vluciano

    If this guy was truly about peace then he would gladly move the Mosque to another location. Acquiescence is not a sign of weakness when it is about bring peace. The bible tells us that if meat offends our brother and would cause him or her to fall then we should not do it in front of them, what does the Quran teach?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jimi

    His wanting to build the center at 911 is causing that idiot in Florida to want to have the book burning as a symbol to Islam . Seriously , what is wrong with theses people ? ! Why are thet trying to start a religous war ? !

    September 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • linda

      Because then the media will reap millions of advertising dollars. Just think of all the interruptions that Soledad could make saying we have to cut to a commercial if there were wars going on. What a hey day on Madison Avenue.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    Solidad just sucks at interviews!! She keeps asking the same questions. Come on be creative.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Omar

      agreed.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. History Repeats and America should watch out

    If you take the history of Islam...they have used the sword to desecrate relegious places of almost every relegion and put a Mosque on its spot...exactly on the same spot..some times just built it over the same structure...there are thousands examples in history to illustrate this...They are trying to to the same in modern times...expect now they destroyed 2 lovely towers and not want to put a Mosque on its spot..

    Amendment, Laws, human rights are only for people who respect law of land and respect the history of nations they live in .Lets not be naive here..there are other places to build a center and promote the relegion of piece peice

    September 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Omar Fekeiki

    Solidad should tone it down. It’s obvious that she’s against building the center, which is her right… just not when she’s interviewing the imam on CNN!
    How many times will she ask “why don’t you get out?”
    CNN, you should notice that.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • linda

      To me it's obvious that she's trying to sensationalize the issues to promote her own fame. Isn't that what the media has come to in the US? Especially television. But let's not forget what's happening to our print media too. It's all a mess with no ethics or morals.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
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