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. JC

    I am scared that this Mosk if built, will be used by the radical factions of Islam as a propaganda tool. It seems to me that they will claim that they have slapped the face of America and use this Mosk to recruit and/or gain support. Would love to have the Imam address this?? I haven't seen anybody else address it yet.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Chris

    AGREE!!! Solidad should do interviews on Nickelodeon and not CNN!!! 🙂

    September 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. arash

    I dont care about any religion! but here in the United States we are are supposed to respect to some of them is freedom of religion! It does not make any sense to bring up couple of examples from where some people were showing joy after 9/11 and then conclude that every single Muslim was happy about thet...first of all I need to tell you the concept of religion in the middle east is not any diffrent from what we have here in the U.S. there are some people who have respect and love for all human beings! and do not care about religion! Not letting Muslims have mosque means that we believe Islam is what is responsible for what happened which is not true! In Islam there is saying, that whoever kills one innocent person is like he/she has killed the entire population of the world!!! Islam like Christianity has to pass this stage and make its peace with the world!
    ...Do you think it is a wise idea to say because of one paster who is going to burn Quran everybody in the U.S. believes in the same thing or agrees with what he is going to do?! Of course, not

    What we need now more than ever is to go beyond religions, and spread the love for all human beings ...Peace

    September 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Emad

    I love all groups of people

    September 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. davis

    I,m watching this interview and Soledad O,brein is acting like she works at fox news ,she seem like she,s against this mosque being built I,m not even muslim but she,s angry at him personaly,let him answer the questions lady ,his answers make sense ,what doesn,t she understand english . This is why CNN is third in the ratings they can,t do much right .This whole issue comes down to a few things first if there seems to be an anti muslim sentiment this will help terrorists recruite from inside america they recruite by convincing delusioned young muslims that Americans hate them cause there muslims and this fight is not going to be won by fighting fire with fire ,otherwise it would have been won a long time ago .This lady is stupid why is she asking the same question 3 times she needs to go do field journalism

    September 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sha.

    Imam is a true symathisizer and lover of Osama Bin F*** Laden

    September 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sunzi

    One word perfectly describes this article, RIDICULOUS!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dan delaneh

    Would Soledad, please, please start aaking some intelligent questions?
    Ie,,why should we be concerned with 'offending those that stone women, allow no other religions ie Sarabian cartoon riots? The Mulim world has to get out of the 15th century. The imam is answering these quearions. Soledad ia not listening to the conversation...she does not even understand the ' goodness listen to her

    September 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ray

    I think the Imam should be questioned by the CIA over his comments about this becoming a matter for national security. He knows something he is not telling. He is withholding information that could save American lives.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Paula

    Initially I was against center, but really because I did not understand what it was about and that it is a place welcoming all people of all religions and it is not a place where men are gathering behind closed doors – deep thoughts I believe by people are that it may not be just for praying but a place for extremists...more communication is needed by Imam to explain and show constantly what is going into the center. Perhaps he could also engage the leaders of other religions and change it to show that it is a center for all for peace....change the name but hold his long term plan but adding a Jewish, Christian, Buddist, Hindu, etc voice in it.....By the way, the guy in Florida has a mental condition and should be put in a mental hospital under tight observation....the members of his church should walk out and protest..what a fruit cake.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • J.M

      I agree with Open Mind,
      Soledad is accusing and disrespectful....I'm really surprised as I've liked her other work. It shouldn't be positioned as guilty, before proven innocent, you've got it backwards.

      2 blocks is not accepatable but 4 or 5 blocks are??? Or howfar is accepatable, a few more feet?? This is ridiculous.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jeff

    how many times is she going to ask him the same question? she's terrible.

    bottom line, they did their research to find a suitable place for their community center, there were articles written about this LAST DECEMBER with no backlash, they've proceeded with their plans, they have every right to build it, and they should build it. If Bloomberg supports it, who cares what anybody in GA, CA, TN, or anywhere else has to say.

    SOME republicans have made a political issue out of this, and they're getting the support of people who have never been to NYC, and have no idea what they're talking about with regard to this issue.

    Build the freaking Mosque!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • American Non-Muslim

      Cheers Jeff! In my contribution to representing religious diversity and religious tolerance in the U.S. I will have an alcoholic drink to celebrate your statement (something Moslems wouldn't do).....

      September 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. charlesName*

    First – someday is an awful reporter. What a waste of an important interview.
    This imam has been in the ground zero area for.over 25 yrs. It makes no sense that people that he is trying to 'offend' Americans. This center has every right to be there. P.s. look at that crappy building. This is an investment in lower Manhattan.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • mm

      No one seems to be talking about the real issue. The issue is not about putting a mosque in the area. After all, they have been praying in that building for some time now. The issue is should the building be torn down! Everyone seemed to have moved away from this real issue and have made it their own agenda.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dave

    The proposed mosque could be seen as a symbol of triumph to radical militants within Islam, therefore it should not be built.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. genie

    I was chagrined that Imam Rauf would only do the interview with Soledad, what an insult to Larry. I know it's the evening of a Holy Day for Larry but it could have been done yesterday. Is this an example of that peaceful tolerance that the Imam speaks of ?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John Amber

    Reading between the lines: The Imam is threatening the US if the center is not built. This is not any different from the rage against the Danish cartoon. The bottom line, most Muslims do not accept anything that criticizes them.

    There is absolutely no need to erect a place that is an anathema to most people. Like building a nunnery in Auschwitz. The Imam could have built the center as a place of repentance and expiation for the atrocities committed by radical Muslims. Were the Imam to speak against the fanatics I would support him, but he is not.

    No Center!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
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