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. Valentin Fuhrer

    No amount of anyone's peaceful praying, worshipping or showing reverence can hurt another. The people who oppose this are formulating their "opinions" without any sense of perspective, or understanding.

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

    I think the patients are running the asylum!
    Ask the imam why the religon of peace when confronted with a controversial position or statement eg: Danish cartoon,Koran burning
    the reaction by a majority of followers is to resort to threats and violance.
    Also what does the name Cordova house mean?

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

      Cool, glad to hear the playing field is even... going to go burn some Bibles!

      September 8, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John G

    Although I don't agree with this guy it's still a freedom of speech issue. You can't have it a one way street democrats. Remember flag burning?

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

      remember being a kid & using your friend's hand to slap him/herself. LOL
      Remember how were were attacked on 09/11 they used our own planes to bomb ourselves NOT funny
      We need to be SO careful they will use our greatest weapon religous tolerance AGAINST us!

      September 8, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. InsertPictureofMohammadHere

    Islam, the ultimate Catch-22. "If we don't ____, the terrorists will win!"

    September 8, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. D. Kent

    The only thing that changes in this country is the group of people targeted. Shame on us when this man seems to have more compassion than the people against the proposed mosque. I am an american, this man is an american. Muslims lost loved ones in the 911bombings. NUFF SAID!!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. The Catholic

    America says it is not at war with the Muslim world. They should be free to worship anywhere. The 911 terrorists were Muslims bit they also were radicals. We do have radicals here in the US that are part of some religion too. Timothy mcveigh's religion wasn't banned from worhipping near the federal building he blew in Oklahoma.

    Is therea double standard here? 911 was an insidejob.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. James

    I like how he says if we move the mosque, the "radicals" will win. Yet now he is saying our national security is threatened because of how angry Muslims would be. Seems like radicals are still winning.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Paul

    Watch the videos of the people leaping from the burning buildings and of the firemen in the lobby rushing up to save them on Youtube. The enormity of of the trajedy and the suffering so great. The attacks were carried out in the name of Islam. The Imam does not deserve 10 seconds of face time. Mayor Bloomberg should apologize and resign.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      Get over it, MILLIONS have died in the name of religion from ALL religions.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. The News

    Why doesn't Soledad answer the questions she asks? This interview suck. Soledad is the worst interviewer. I thought she was a professional. This interview shows she has a hidden agenda and not impartial.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • orgdoc

      Absolutely! I hope she reads these posts and reviews the interview to gets some tips on what NOT to ever do again in an interview. I was a Soledad fan, but she is really disappointing me tonight.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marilyn

      Soledad must have a hidden agenda...her own. Please to not use her to interview controversial guests again. She interrupted, repeated questions previously asked, selected a biased clip from Franklin Graham....why not take the Imam at his word for moderation. The statistic of 71% of American people are opposed to this mosque does not include me and many of my midwestern friends. It looks as if the mosque/community center could certainly clean up the neighborhood which Soledad knows so well. She needs to go back to "reading" news, rather than interviewing for it.

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

      I completely agree. I used to respect Soledad but that has disappeared completely as of this interview. She was biased, narrow minded, condescending and the worst interview I have ever seen on CNN. I am extremely disappointed in the coverage. It did not add anything to the discourse but just fed further into the political circus that surrounds this. The panel on Anderson Cooper with the construction worker and woman who lost her brother was embarrassing. I have total emphathy for them both, but they appeared both ignorant and unwilling to understand the true issue.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. orgdoc

    White supremacy is alive and well in America.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • InsertPictureofMohammadHere

      Ahh, right, the "If you're not with me, you're a bigot" argument. This is a new and innovative tactic.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • orgdoc

      InsertAPicture,...and throwing down the "there you go throwing down the race card" card doesn't change the reality. People keep talking about what the "American people" want or don't want. These are American people, too. What makes you or anyone else more American than another American? The religion practiced? Race or ethnicity? Surely not. That would be a bit discriminatory and not very Christ-like, don't you think?

      September 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. TD

    It will be desecrating the Ground Zero by rewarding the religious faith, who did not hesitate to terrorize the world's largest democracy. Should we become dog for a dog. Not necessarily. But should we reward the religious faith, who does not have control, other than provoking the fanatics to spread terrorism throughout the world. There cannot be any justification of having a mosque next to Ground Zero.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • D. Kent

      If she asks that same question one more time I'm going to scream!!!!!

      September 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Joe Harding

    why can't we make this a center for all religions... and right on ground zero. religion differences got us into this. let all religions come together and get us out of this, joe

    September 8, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paula

      yes – I agree...that is what I was getting at in my message. Turn this into a bigger peace plan for all religions.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Harding

      i'm catholic. i think we should all have a good life, joe

      September 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. InsertPictureofMohammadHere

    Hey, Soledad, please ask the imam why he refuses to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Karen K Baker

    "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." So...we should just do whatever the Muslims see fit? May I say this is America, not Indonesia; Pakistan; Bangladesh; Nigeria; Turkey; Iran; Sudan; Algeria; Afganistan...should I go on?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Alex

    "our national security now hinges on how we negotiate this, how we speak about it and what we do." who's national security? Saudi Arabia?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
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