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. Guiellermo

    Worst interview by any reporter/interviewer on TV! Switched to America's Got Talent 🙂

    September 8, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Max

    Rauf has said this place will be "iconic" and an "international gathering place.

    So it's not like it's your local YMCA. It's designed to raise money for terrorists. Simple as that.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jeff

    We see what he is about......its not Peace

    September 8, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jessie

    Isn't that insidiously insulting to dub that alarming edifice project as "Cordoba Initiative"? When all along, rather snidely, what these moneyed Muslims really want is to slap the Western non-Muslim peoples with their dastardly bigotted so-called humanistic religion dubbed "Islam"? Why not be so brash and forthright and just simply call it "King of Saudia" Conquest?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dan

    He said moving the project to another location would strengthen Islamist radicals' ability to recruit followers and will increase violence against Americans.

    Hmm. That sounds like a threat to me.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ann

    soledad is the worst person to hold this interview....she appears very emotionally charged against this community mosque.....she is very biased...she doesn't let him finsih sentences.....why couldn't CNN have someone else like anderson cooper or larry king or wold blitzer!!! she does not represent the TRUE CNN........

    September 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. acnyc

    By the logic of some posts: Aren't churches built on native american land considered a way of" planting a flag"?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Xoli

    I think we have to be really honest here.This is not about not allowing the muslim worship in any place in the US.Could we,other than muslim built a place of worship in Iraq,or in any muslim countries without being harassed or killed?Please people allow the Americans to have a say in their country.They have done a lot for people like me who is an immigrant in this country and still giving a hand overseas when needed.I am tired of hearing about the muslim.To me they have to sort themselves and also work towards peace with Americans.Why all the time, the US has to give in.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • American Muslim

      Umm.. the people who would attend this center are Americans. Period. No need and not in a position to explain why some other country won't allow x or y. Does an American Christian have to explain why the Vatican decides to take a certain action or why Christians in Korea are a certain way? Worth thinking about the assumptions.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dave

    This guy should be arrested. Criminal threatening. Threatening more terrorist attacks if the mosque is not built. Submit or die is his message. Religion of peace ?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Silvy

    Soledad was too emotional and not the best choice to conduct a balanced interview. She was attacking her interviewee. We need to open our minds and show real tolerance. Many muslims died on 9/11 too. This mosque is not at Ground Zero, and is planned as a multipurpose community center. As a muslim, I am concerned about the controversy generated so many years after the horrific 9/11 event. There was no issue with the other 2 mosques that are close to Ground Zero. This is a political issue, which is creating tensions and destroying the peace between the 2 religions. Muslims in America are as loyal and patriotic as any other religious group.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Nicki

    The problem the Bible teaches us the our religion is right and everyone else is wrong. discrimination in the worse way. It also teaches us not to trust any other religions. Its like two gas stations battling across the street standing there lowering in their prices for spite. world dominance is that not goal for every religion.. how many jehovah witnesses have told u that if your a jv u are goin to hell... all relegions want to dominate but thank "god" no pun intended –we have a choice

    September 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. oblahma

    if you don't build it we will hate you... oh and by the way we hate you anyhow...

    September 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • oblahma

      i meant to say if you don't let us build it we will hate you... oh and by the way we hate you anyhow...

      September 8, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. John

    Screw this loser, I think he needs a one way ticket back to where he came from. Don't threaten me we are in danger if he moves his location. Screw these radicals

    September 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • American Muslim

      The same was said to your ancestors when they came (assuming you were not born elsewhere)

      Read your own history IGNORAMOUS

      September 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. David

    Is Soledad O'brien a serious journalist? Can she not ask some pertinent questions rather than just the sensational ones? Seems that all she wants to do is incite....nm he just called her out on the simplistic line of questioning.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Soledad is being rude and disrespectful to this man - she is baiting him to try to get some sensational quote – this is not an intelligent interview....I cannot believe that CNN is continuing this farce – I didn't know the man before, but now I am sympathetic to him and his point of view – we do really need intelligent, rational discourse on this topic – we re not getting it here.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ann Csonka & John De Noyer, Virginia

      Thank you, We, too, were astonished at the combative baiting. This is not in any spirit of peace.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jeff

    People against this Location are really going to wound up after watching this interview

    September 8, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
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