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.

Post by: ,
Filed under: Islam • New York • Religion
soundoff (1,302 Responses)
  1. Anevay

    imam is using whatever he can in words to justify the fact that he "doesn't wanna back down" just because the majority of Americans are disturbed by this desire to build there. How dare he say it is a national security issue when it is clearly only a local issue that has gained lots of controversy in the news, as many issues do. He is the typical radical muslim using the media to send across indirect and direct messages while utilizing the public for his convenience. DO NOT BUILD THERE if you have any sympathy for 9/11.

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

    Fait accompli – this is what this guy tries to put us in. What a creep! And what sinister, malevolent figure – straight out of Casting Central. And what a host of lies and base calculations, like staying away from America in who knows what Emirate, in order to avoid to be taken to the task for what he's causing here, then serenely re-appearing, and giving the solution for defusing the situation he caused in the first place! And how does he dare to threaten America – if you don't do this or that, then you'll see the consequences! And this creep is financed by the state Department –

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

    The comment made by the Imam sounds somewhat threatening..."If it is moved, there will be more violence against the US"

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

      He said moving the project to another location would strengthen Islamist radicals' ability to recruit followers and (will increase violence against Americans). Sounds like a threat to me!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. vic nashville tn

    Imam first you have to take the higher road you want to build mosque where 71 % citizen oppose

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

    When they build the new tower...It would be injustice for Christians and Jews to be able to walk a few 100 feet to worship and a muslim needing to walk a 1/2 mile .

    But I am truly puzzled on where the money is coming from ,$100,000,000 doesn't come out of thin air , specifically where most mosques as do most place of worship struggle with the upkeep to hold on to their building.

    Whether this Imam likes it or not, because this mosque got so much publicity , The place will be an open invitation for Haters to congregate , whether they may be in the minority or not, in this Mosque..Just for the fact that they pulled through all the protesting and were able to achieve a blow to the majority of the U.S of A .

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

    The imam is a hypocrite citing the separation of church and state; something Islam does not recognize. The only law that matters with respect to Islam is sharia law. Look at coutnries founded by Islam; Saudi Arabia,Syria,Iran,Lebanon and all of those countries are heavily influenced by one religion ONLY, ISLAM. All other religions are practiced quietly so as not to offend the Islamic majority. If the imam respected the sensitivities of the 9/11 vicitims he would build somewhere else, but he does not. His goal is clear to offend the people of the U.S.A through the 1st amendment rights and implement sharia law!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Emad

    Why dont all of you people just open up a Quran And read it and find out what the muslim religon is all about

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

      You mean about how the religion is about forcing itself upon the world and murdering the infidel?

      September 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chex Udeze

    It seems that this discussion has now become national security issue. I am for this building to proceed at the current location but something bothers me about the national security reasons made. I will like to ask the Imam why would a national issue discussed in USA lead some Muslim person to be violent. If for example Saudi Arabia makes a law that Christians think is not right ould they think it is a national security issue such that some christian person will be violent. Is the Imam saying we should care all the time of national issue like this. If we can move this center, why do we care that someone some where will be violent on us. My thinking is that it should not be moved just for the fact that Islam did not cause 9/11. The terrorist did. We should not consider their violence when we take decisions like this.....for example when we consider 9/11 families that might object to this.

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

      I believe he means national security for us mostly for our people overseas. Our tourist, our embassy's etc. I understand what he means. These radicals look for issues such as this as fuel for recruitment. I do not think it's a security concern for us here in our own country, but we must worry about our people overseas. Many of these radicals are in poverty stricken areas with uneducated people who are easily brainwashed. It's just a fact. Sad, but a fact.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Meg

    I cant believe this guy, how stupid do you think we are...


    Islamic mosque built at 9/11 Ground Zero
    Muslim business leader: 'This has hand of the divine written over it'

    Posted: December 17, 2009
    8:10 pm Eastern

    September 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. AntiWar

    Imam said it will be a culture of worship. A place for muslims, christians and jews are being debated by them. This was not in anyone's knowledge before. However, this is definitely a welcome option.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ashley

    This has gotten so out of control. A national security threat? Wow.

    I admire Rauf and the views he espouses, but this entire issue is out of control entirely if it is not an issue of national security. This man's right to build his center are protected under law, and people should've left it at that and respected his property rights. If they didn't like his center, don't go to it. Plain and simple. Instead, it has ignited into a firestorm of propaganda and prejudice.

    To hear him say that this is now, in his opinion, an issue of national security is indeed disturbing, but not allowing him to take an action that is completely within his rights to take, building the center, is only going to ad fuel to the Islamic fundamentalist's fire. They will have one more reason to tell potential recruits that America is the enemy, and those recruits will see this, and listen.

    That is disturbing indeed, but by maligning this man and attempting to deny him his rights in a country that prides itself on freedom... well, that's pretty disturbing in and of itself.

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

      Amen, sister!

      September 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tina Burton

    Americans are fickle. And emotions are fleeting. This man wants to create unity and dispel anger in his right as an American to build places of worship (and whatnot) wherever he wants.

    That is all.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. todd w

    I dont really care for him calling (people who oppose) the mosque "Radicals' in a "indirect way" He said it several times. He is saying the Muslin radicals are just like the folks on the right (are radicals also).....

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

      He's not saying that. He's saying there are radicals on the other side. They of course oppose the mosque, but then there are good people who oppose the mosque, who either have been swayed by the politicization of this issue or just have an opinion. That doesn't mean those people are radical. He's talking about the crazy nuts out there burning the Koran and junk like that.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ray

    Have you ever been to the Middle East. Islam sanctions the most corrupt people in the world. We have helped Afghanistan against the Soviets and got attacked in spite of it. It is time to stop fooling around with these people. Our mission in Afghanistan should be to kill or capture the enemy; not try to make them like us.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. karpo darpo

    Build the mosque or face increased security threats? That sounds like blackmail to me. I say throw down the gauntlet, and don't build the mosque.

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

      You're putting words in his mouth. Look, all the guy is saying that we have to think about the effect of his backing down will have on the radicals - radicals that he, we and no one have control over if just one of them decides to build a bomb and drop it off somewhere in retailiation. It's a different world today than it was 10 years ago. "Throwing down of gauntlets" doesn't help much when one nut can create a mess.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54