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. John

    Georgia, I have read the entire Koran and you are wrong.

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

      You're right, John. No different than the Bible.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • orgdoc

      No different than the Bible.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Concerned in Georgia

      True. I have only read parts. I do have Muslim friends, though and I can't see them as extremist. Therefore I know that all Muslims are not Osama bin Ladens. I have faith in society and that faith is what keeps me believing that this world is worth living in. You can't live in fear or else you'll never be free.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kirti P

    I guess with his recent trip to the Middle East, Mr. Rauf was asked to pass it as a warning. This is America and we should not heed to anyone's threats or warnings. No one is saying do not build the mosque. It is the stubborn stance being taken to build it anyways, despite ovwewhelming American emotion behind the issue. I see a bigger plot. Abosultely NO to building the mosque newar ground – Zero.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Robert

    I'm watching Soledad's interview, and I was motivated to comment because I'm offended by her interview style. The guy has said repeatedly that the mosque was covered in the New York Times several months ago, and it created no controversy. Yet she keeps coming back to the fact that well, later, it did create controversy, so why not abandon it? Let's think about that. What if the mosque had been built, operated peacefully for five years, and then someone decided to raise a stink about it? Would Soledad then be asking him, well, now that it's controversial, why don't you shut it down? It's your job to be fair, Soledad. Do your job. The greatest possible tribute to the victims of 9/11 would be a mosque, a church, a synagogue and arts and science museums all existing peacefully, side by side at Ground Zero.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carole

      She ruined the whole interview.... get rid of her cnn, she repeatedly does this with evry interview she does.... I refuse to watch her again... I will go to Fox network and listen to them. I have to shut AC , (who should have done the interview)off now because I can't stand to hear her again....

      September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Brett

    The Muslims have "Thousands" of "Holy Sites" that cannot be touched or marred. They need to realize the importance of Ground Zero.

    I'm continually astounded by the number of times "Muslims" have shot at and attacked troops from so-called "Holy Sites" in the Mid-east.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pojeraci

      Look, the Port Authroity of New York has defined Ground Zero as ending before the exact spot that the mosque is supposed to be built. Now you can argue that it's close and debris fell around there, or whatever, and I betcha tons of Ground Zero dust wafted over to Hoboken, up to Harlem and over to the Bronx, too. Okay, so where do you draw the line? If we are going to insist on making this a silly "turf war," then okay I guess settles it. IT'S NOT AT GROUND ZERO SO LET'S DROP IT.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  5. this is cnn?

    How in the hell did Solidad get this interview? She is way too aggressive and not respectful to a religious leader. Sad.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Catholic

      I agree. Soledad is being too aggressive. She as a reportershould be neutral.

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

      agreed, I thought CNN was unbiased

      September 8, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Maxx

    In the name of peace, love and consideration of every religion, the western world should allow as many permits to build Mosques as the Arab world allows Churches.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Gary

    So now the imam throws in the threat of violence to scare us or threaten us into allowing this site to be coinstructed. Thats nice. What kind of an idiot would think this would not upset people?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pojeraci

      You ought to listen to the interview again. There's a huge difference between a threat and a "reality check" – IOW, he was saying that we (he's part of the "we" – he's an American, don't forget) do not have control over what radical terrorists might do if he were to back down to public pressure to not open his mosque where he wants.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. Brandon

    I'm 100% behind the right for the Muslim community to build, however.... it was incredibly stupid to play the "fear of violence" card. That's exactly the kind of banner that conservative Christians will rally behind. It's like the absolute worst thing he could of did. It is so stupid in fact, that it makes me think the guy is doing it intentionally just to rile the religious communities up.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pojeraci

      I think he's not as calculating as you suggest. Look at it this way, he was probably just bringing up what I think most people would say is a reasonable concern: There ARE some very crazy people out there that we do not really have control over. We are in a new era in terms of learning how to deal with the rest of the world. Until 911 our enemies were countries and armies, now the enemy might just be one single wacko that can Google "making a bomb" and pull off a major terorist event. So, I wouldn't call what he brought up as stupid – it was just pragmatic and recognized that we are all living in a very different world today.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  9. Sha.

    Imam is a true sympathetic to Hamas and Osama Donkey

    September 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. maggi

    This Islmic center near Groud zero will never bring a peace or bridges of love
    We have not have to go into that any more please

    September 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tony

    From the sounds of his comments, it sounds like he's threatening the American people if they dont get their way!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    Build the mosque and burn the Quran. Let's see how the reactions of Americans and Muslims differ. We'll see who is tolerant.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • shehzd

      You must understand Quran is everthing for muslims, more sacred that anything in the world. It's not about tolerance, it's about protecting what you love the most.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. David

    People's pain about the rememberence of Sept. 11th is real and should be understood and accepted. However blaming Sept. 11th on all Islamic peoples is ignorant. Pain regarding the loss of loved ones is unavoidable, but their rememberence is not honoured by marginalising another group just because it help's to not remind you of your loss. That turns one tragedy into another one. Being an adult means making the just choice, not the comfortable choice. Generations ago slavery was the comfortable choice, freedom was the just one.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Vluciano

    It is not our concern about how others feel over seas, or concern is our citizens here in America.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. HoosierDiva

    BS...WHO in their right mind would ever think this was a good plan to begin with? He didn't know the controversy it would cause? BS, BS, BS!!! If our National Security is at issue here, HE incensed, and set us up for it! Intentionally? or not, no one will ever make me believe he was not aware of the firestorm this would cause. He knew, he had to know, if truly not, had he bothered to mention it to a single individual without motive to stir trouble, they would have told him. No part of this area should be for ANY religious sect this is AMERICAS HALLOWED ground zero, Memories live here, we should respect all the folks that live, lived and died in this area and keep it neutral HALLOWED ground for all walks of life!

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