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. Chris

    What Americans do you know that would go out and kill people just because they were not allowed to build a building somewhere? Its this basic statement that shows we are dealing with nuts. We dont need to tiptoe around when we dont agree with something and we also dont threaten to KILL anyone that dosen't agree with us.....

    September 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Eric T

    I never thought I would say this but "I miss Larry"
    If Soleda needs a new job tomorrow, she can get a one being a greeter at the new Cordoba softball factory.

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

    I am a muslim and I think the people building the Mosque should honor the feelings of the American people. I they dont like it , than the mosque should be build some where else. Also in the Quran GOD has ordered muslims to allow freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Unfortunately majority of the muslims are following the misinterpreted version of the Quran which was preached by the lunatic Imams and the Mullahs. I consider my self in the endagered specie of muslims who does not follow these crazy fanatics whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish etc.

    Also please I want to mention one more things 🙂 . Since I am a big supported of animal cruelty and a proud owner of two dogs, there is NO mention of DOGS not being allowed in the Quran. I have had dogs all my life and now my son lives with two labradoodles. This false BS is another attempt of the mullahs ( illiterate) to distort the true meaning of quran. I live in North America and I am not ashamed to say that I have more rights than living in some places in the east.

    I am tired of these ass wipes distorting my religion. I love you all, whether you are Christian, jew , hindhu etc.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Concerned in Georgia

      I am a Christian, and I love YOU! No hate, you're so right.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Equity

    If you give in to radical Islam on this because of concerns for National Security, then they will start asking for Islamic holidays to be observed by everybody, schools to start teaching Islamic studies, Fridays as work free day, and so on and so on. National Security concern will also be invoked on any of these demand. So that we don't anger 1 billion Muslims worldwide. America needs to stand firm and reject this trend. Only those who have not lived in the midst of Muslims either as a majority or minority have a good opinion of Muslims. Ask any Muslim what should happen to a fellow Muslim who changes his/her faith. The answer will shock you. Unless they lie to you.

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

    I agree with almost everything the Imam says; however, I don't think he actually believes what he is saying. His body language belies him.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. alex

    I don't know why I am posting a comment I"ve never done anything like this before, but i feel there is a need for it. I do not pretend to know the Imam or his intentions, but I am an American and I love my country. 9/11 was a horrific tragedy carried out in the name of Islam against christians and the world we created. We also must follow our beliefs and to do that we must endour this act of humility and turn the other cheek. People we must remember who WE are... we can not lose ourselves in this fight. If we will allow this center to be built and welcome the Imam with open arms It would be a great step towards higher peace but we must be the beginning

    September 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. athan

    @Emad ... I have read it and all the peaceful verses are early in Mohammed's life, prior to marrying 5 women, one of which was under the age of 16.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Craif Townsend

    However, building it there will increase violence against muslims. So, it is really a no-win, Imam.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ahsley

    Don't judge us by our radicals and we won't judge you by YOURS!

    I.E. The Christian Pastor from Florida who said "JESUS would have burned korans and FORCED others to become Christians."

    What happened to "Love thy neighbor." from the Bible?

    good one!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. vic nashville tn

    Soledad O’Brien well done after watching the interview I don’t trust him

    September 8, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. SID


    September 8, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MrMajestik

    F * C K Priests, Rabbis, Pastors, Evangelists, and last but not least Imams. The world will be able to focus on real problem solving and issues when these people are gone! Until then the Jews are still waiting for the Messiah, and the Christians and Muslims are expecting and most likely create their own "self-fulfilling prophecy" that the end of the world is coming soon! There will be no peace as long as religion clouds peoples view of reality!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ecs

    OK, the Imam returns from a couple months in the mid-east and now he tells us that if we don't handle this situation properly (let the building of the mosque proceed) then we risk our national security. Are we investigating this guy? Seems to me the HE is a threat to our national security! He makes me sick to my stomach!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Unbelievable

    Soledad is a terrible interviewer. And she is making a program on being Muslim in America? Unbelievable....

    September 8, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sam

    Interesting...In so many words, he said America's national security depends on him being able to build this center on that location. I will have to digest this comment. BTW're doing a very good job..I would be interested to know what this Imam has done to communicate to the group of Muslims (terrorist) that their idea of what America is about is simply wrong. Yes, it's possible many Americans are ignorant about the beliefs of Islam..but the radical Muslims are also ignorant about America and it's way of life. I have had a chance to digest he's comment for a bit. I think he might be saying for us to reach out to Muslims by agreeing to the building of the center for national security. So, what is he saying? in turn the radicals will stop fighting us?...not likely. But he is saying things can get worse if he has to move the location, right?...What a mess!!...We are at war with radical Muslims, not the average Muslim. What is to guarantee there will be no infaltration of radicals into the community center? It's not impossible afterall...

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