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. amazed at the gall

    Am I hearing things? He is issuing a veiled threat that not to build this in that spot would bring pain against American people? How is it that people aren't seeing how wrong this mosque is? This guy can't say one thing bad about the people of his faith that leveled the towers? How about all the extra security this past decade? What religion are we protecting ourselves against?
    No mosque. Stand up and be heard. No mosque.

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

      we are not trying to be protected from any religion. We are trying to protect religion expression itself. PS- the Muslim religion didn't crash into the towers...a couple a crazy people did. Build the Mosque. Protect Individual Freedom. Islam can bring peace just as Christians can bring terror.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jeff

    Interviewed by a women......he has that Harsh how dare you look

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

      your stupid

      September 8, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Amit

    In India, few centuries back, Muslin kings made mosque at the birth place of lord Ram ( One of Hindu God) as a symbol of victory... I see history repeating again and Now they want to make it near ground zero as a victory over West.

    India is still struggling due to acts done centuries back... Learning lessons from that, building of mosque should be stopped else generation coming have to suffer.

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

    Our govt is paying this guy with tax payer money to represent us. I want my money back.................. YOUR FIRED DUDE

    September 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Andrew

    "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."

    Complete manipulative fearmongering ... if not an earnest, veiled threat.

    I am completely gobsmacked by the audacity and arrogance.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ra

    and for god's sake, allah's sake, buddha's sake, krishna's sake...STOP Soledad!!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeff

      Hes a Radical

      September 8, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. SID


    September 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. George

    I think that the religious tolerance to building the Muslim Center near Ground Zero goes only one way. Our freedom of religion let's anyone practice their religion free from government interference or persecution, and most christian faiths preach religious tolerance. Islam, on the other hand, is mostly intolerant of other faiths. This is a religion that says, as the majority practices and preaches, there is only one God ...their God. All others are false. The big Issue I have is that we are tolerant and passive in our beliefs while Islam, especially radical Islam, is active in promulgating their beliefs. When was the last time you have heard of Christians declaring "Holy War" on other cultures (forget the Crusades of 300-400 years ago that they like to bring up.)

    I don't recall many Christians suiciding in marketplaces or hotels to kill muslims.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • charlesName*

      True but do you realize that our nine years of war and countless.additional years of meddling in the middle has killed 100's of thousands of Muslims? And these were Christian nations right?

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

    Lets Build Church there....

    September 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrMajestik

      It better be suicide bomber proof!

      September 8, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ed

    lets put some pigs in the building and spill the blood all over the building, them it will be considered unholy land whala no more problems.come on NY you know what to do.Next will drop a million pigs splatter all over mecca,take that you saudi two faced mother---

    September 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • American Muslim

      Try the cartoon network next time. You can't seem to handle CNN.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. RRay

    this guy is telling that it's either there, or expect violence??? boy o' boy what's going on .......

    September 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrMajestik

      It's the end of the world as we know it...It's the end of the world as we know it..and I feel fine

      September 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. InsertPictureofMohammadHere

    This man would gladly kill an American if he knew he could get away with it.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Daryl

    This piece of muslim garbage has the arrogance to tell this nation that if the mosque is moved that violence toward America will only increase????

    These people had better start getting fitted for suits because there are people in this country who won't stand to be told something like that and, in fact, will go as far as necessary to stop it. Muslims are bred and raised on pure fundamentalist violence and they intend on bringing it to the heart of this nation. They're in for a surprise because no one on this earth can demonstrate violence greater or more graphically horrific than devout Christians. So you'd better hike up your sheets and think about going home because that bunch will clean your clock in a hurry.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Samir - Dallas

    Soledad is being extremely rude and judgemental. Clearly she has her agenda and opinion.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lisa

    Whether you like it or not, or want to hear it or not, he's right! I hope they build it. We need to learn to practice what we preach.

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