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. Sha.

    This Islamic Center is a Fraud.. they should build a Unity all religion at same place and dont name it Islamic Center...Name it National Security Center.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Concerned in Georgia

    This is very concerning to me. I have always believed this to be a country of the highest values and our freedom of religion is what sets us apart from other countries where religious persecution is a big problem. I am a Christian and proud to be a Christian. The imam has as much right to be a proud Muslim. I've read through the Quran and it truly is a religion built on love and forgiveness. I totally support this mosque!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John

    Um... I am actually watching this interview and not listening to CNN's version of it and this guy is totally dead set on building this center, even though he says he would not have done it if he knew the outrage ahead of time.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Carole

    First of all, Solidad is the wrong person to interview him and she keeps interupting him with negative responses, let him talk...I am sorry everytime she does a interview she imposes her opinion and takes it too personal.... Why did you choose her for this interview?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Alex

    They can build one, but not THERE. Period!

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

      Why not?

      September 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pojeraci

      As long as they're not breaking any laws, let's all just drop this and MOVE ON. For goodness sake, here we are with an absolute economic AND geopolitical mess caused by a screw-up administration (Bush) that still had one leg stuck in the last century as far as how to deal with the world - And we're acting like a bunch of frickin cry babies about a moderate Muslim wanting to build a place of worship. The 911 terrorists were Islamic - but a RADICAL Islam. WAKE UP EVERYBODY - This imam is on OUR SIDE.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sammy

    Soledad says – "Do you believe America was an accessory to the 9/11 attacks?" (Asked over and again). It doesn't matter if the Imam believes it or not – it's a statement of fact. He should have responded with a question of his own: "why did the terrorists specifically attack the US rather than any other Western nation?"

    Well, it ain't because they "hate our freedoms," I'll tell you that. Osama bin Laden and Khalid SHeikh Mohammed both unequivocally stated that the attacks were secular (political) in nature, not religious – 9/11 happened specifically because of our meddling in Middle East politics. I.e. aiding Israel's human rights violations against Palestinians, US bases in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim lands, deals for oil, etc.

    Soledad O'Brien is a reporter – her job is to inform us of this important information; yet here she is cornering someone who is merely doing her job for her and trying to inform us of that which we do not know. (Thanks to this main stream media, of course!)

    September 8, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. houstongal

    If it is okay to decide that the center shouldn't be built there, than you are saying it is okay for me not to want any religious buildings near my house too. If I say ALL religious buildings are offensive to me, according to most here, I have a right to not have them near my house. Our country has religious freedom, which is available to all, not just christians!!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. KATHY Espinoza=Howard

    Soledad is not prepared for this interview. She is biased in her approch. This Iman desire a better interviewer/ Give me Candy Crowly. Soledad is RUDE!!!

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

      Yeah, looks like Soledad was ill prepared to handle some pretty iron-clad logic combined with somebody who knows how to debate, send the right messages, and do it all with a cool head. She came off like a kid who gets defensive, emotional, and resorts to incredibly weak arguments when a parent says they can't do something for good reason.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. non-biased

    Please...take Solidad off the air and let AC finish this interview! She seems to be a very biased interviewer and it does not listen to the Imam. She doesn't let him finish his sentences!

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

      My sentiments exactly, AC would have been the Man for this one, how in the world she got this interview is beyond me...

      September 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Colin in Florida

    Great, now this schmuck is threatening America-"moving it would increase violence against America". But remember, islam is a religion of peace.

    Tell you what: Let me build a Cathedral and a synagogue in Mecca, then you can build you mosque near ground zero.

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

      Colin in Florida – doing a great job spewing Fox News talking points. Think for yourself man, stop repeating crap you hear from those morons. Are you really advocating our country stoop down to the level of Saudi Arabia's religious intolerance!? Disgusting. Simply Disgusting. I won't let that happen to my country, sir.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • American Muslim

      Hello. The people of this congregation are Americans. Maybe in YOUR America, Americans just look like you or follow your faith.

      By the way, can't build a synagogue in the Vatican right? Your examples don't make any sense.

      And realize that Muslims have preserved many artifacts of other faiths including protecting holy sites in Jerusalem (you can visit history in Bethlehem thanks to Muslims of the past).

      I hope you can return to 6th grade to learn a little history and logic before commenting again.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DaveinSC

    Listen, to hell with these extremist. If we had went over there and took them out this would not be a problem. to hell with them and having to kiss thier A**.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. snew york sid


    September 8, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ashamed

    I don't know where to begin with correcting the obvious Faux news watching, fear driven, ignorant, racist, hate spewing, complete morons who are commenting here. I'm so tired of people accusing Islam of the attacks of 9-11. Muslims did NOT burn down a church in Cordoba Spain to build a Mosque. They built a Mosque after they conquered Spain and invited Christians in Spain to pray with them in the name of religious tolerance. THAT'S why it's called the Cordoba Initiative. Not as a sign of victory. I think we can all agree that no one is victorious against the United States here except complete ignorance. I have so much more to say here, but I simply don't have the time, nor the patience.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. David

    So people don't like it. So what? I'm trying to figure out why the Imam should care about the opinions of Hannity watchers that think this "mosque" "at" "ground zero" will bring Sharia law to America. Why do people bend to the will of this vocal and uneducated minority?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Karen East Coast America

    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 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
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