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. mm

    This Imam should practice what he preach. Peace and tolerance!

    Just because he can doesn't mean he should! It is in very poor taste.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Garrick Harris

    This guy keeps actinkg like we need to bow down to Islam – Like Obama has done. His only interest is to build a house of terror and put an end to Christianity.

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

    Again and again, religion is at the center of controversy. Incredibly intelligent people caught in the madness that religion brings. I watch and laugh.

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

    The mosque is so close to GZ that it literally would be built on some of the remains of those who died on 9/11....God Bless America....NOT MOHAMMED.....

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

    How arrogant the IMAM is to say if we don't do this is will be a threat to national security. I'm shaking in my boots. So lets see if the building is built will that bring world peace and we will be BFF with radical islam???????

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

    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, Rouf said: "This is not that spot. This is not ground zero proper. No one's body is in that location."

    That's odd. I distinctly remember picking up body parts in that location while I helped with the cleanup.

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

    I have never heard Soledad O'Brien more hostile as an interviewer. She's terrible tonight. Rude. c Feisal Abdul Rauf is moderate, reasonable, and nuanced. She is a blunt instrument.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Steven Solberg

    If only there were more people like this Imam on the planet it would be a more beautiufl and humane place to live and worship in within whatever tradition or path one chose to.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kathleen

    I am delighted to hear this Imam speak - finally a voice of moderate reason! He stresses the most important point - the radical voices must not be allowed to control the discourse - radical voices do not represent the real community.
    Luc - an important detail - he did not say Muslims are waiting for rejection - he said that RADICAL Muslims are waiting - that is a lunatic minority, similar to the Christian guys who bombed the the OK Federal building for their own religious reasons. Shawn - there ARE churches in Baghdad. The world is not as black-white as some politicians would like us to think. There are fear-mongers around who want us to be frightened so they can be elected.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luc

      Kathleen. Though it is true the world is not as b&w as politicins want to show us, it is also true that, in the US, you don't get much info from anywhere else. When is the last time you went to Europe? Muslims do not care about their adoptive country's culture. They just go along as if they were back at home. Fine, they can stay there, Otherwise, it is time – IN ORDER TO PROTECT OUR FREEDOM OF CHOICE – to send them back home. You only have 1.6% of the popuplation that is Muslims and the US is screaming out. Imagine when you get to 9% like in France...

      September 8, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mark Velazquez

    I am insulted and extremely disturbed by this idiot who believes this Mosques isn't an instant smack in all American's faces. I am originally from New York. I was living in New York when The World Trade Center incident happened. I was one of many New Yorkers who lost jobs because of 9/11. I am one of those people who couldn't find a restaurant opened late at night throughout China Town due to curfews and scared store owners. I am one of those people that had bags checked or was looked at due to the terror of 9/11. Many people lost their lives and pride because of 9/11. Dude, this is not only about MUSLIMS it is about us Americans who need respect. You speak of freedom, what about our freedom of speech. I DON'T WANT A Mosques at or around Ground Zero. If you want to build a Mosques why not build on on HUNTS POINT and revitalize that community.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • maggi

      Yes there are more terrorism but ISLAM attach Madrid, London, Paris , NY city 2 times and in June a New Yorker save another, the PAMAM in Scotland the attack in Russia all this century is the Islam A peace religion

      September 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • William

      Okay, but a strip joint, and an off-track betting site – those are fine near ground zero, but a Muslim community center, that is in fact open to everyone – that can't happen? I'm not clear on why a community center violates your sensibility when nothing else seems to.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. maggi

    HA don't point finger ? you see ISLAMic NEVER say sorry , what peace is that ?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ron

    It is just too close to where 911 happened. If it was down the street more there would be no issue. BUILD IT SOMEWHERE ELSE!!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. joseph smith

    would it be acceptable for an American, who claims christianity as his faith, to build a 13 story cathedral in Riyadh?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Minnow

    He is now threatening the U.S. People who think this is a peaceful religion are being fooled. It is not a religion. It is an ideology.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • D. Kent

      He doesn't threaten us, ignorance does.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Betty Sosnin

    Soledad is diong a horrible job in this interview, basically asking the same question 100 times. Why doesnt' she ask something about the Imam's impressive background, his views as a Sufi and the right of a religious group to build a house of worship at a site of their choice. Christian Amanpour would have done a much more professional interview and the public would have learned a great deal more about this man and the issue. Shame on SOledad adn shame on CNN.

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