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. Muhammad Abdullah

    I will support not having an Islamic Center close to Ground Zero if anyone here would support not having any Christian Center close to the Fedral Mural building in Oklahoma City which was blown up by Christains!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jcthinker


      September 8, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Activist

      McVeigh wasn't a Christian. He didn't believe in God.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Headnorth

      There's a pretty big difference that seems to be lost on the Moslem community. Those that destroyed the building in OC didn't do it in the name of Christianity. They were captured and punished by Christians. The biggest issue in all of this is that the radical fundamentalist problem is a MOSLEM problem, yet they continue to support the radicalism by protecting it and not reacting against it.

      ANyone who is not a Moslem will begin to respect Moslems when they respect themselves enough to come down on the radical fundamentalist factiion of Islam and stop just letting it be "our" problem.

      All of the other comments about this "freedom" that Moslems should have is unearned. We, as a nation, have been dying for freedom for hundreds of years. It's time for Moslems, if they care about freedom and realy want it, to put a stop to the radicalism within thier ranks. The "anti-Moslem sentiment" is created by Moslems professing Islam.

      Before you go casting stones, fix your own problem.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • duck

      Christians have bombed abortion clinics which is terrorism as well but we dont ban churches in thoes areas? Muhammad is right, we cant cherry pick radical religious tolerence

      September 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • BS

      And even if he were a Christian, he would be following the faith of the intial founders of this country. There has to be a line between following individuals "rights", and being disconcerned with the integrity of this country. Times have changed, and we must adapt to these changes. I will never be an advocate for more government, but during these times we are faced with TWO real issues. Illegal immigration, and a religous war on America. I dont hate anyone, or wish anyone dead, but we need to stand our ground and not be afraid to show what America represents. (Even if this takes violating some of the rights we have (temporarily))

      September 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ra

      I agree with Muhammed...what about the oklahoma city bombing? would anyone here oppose a christian center being built near that site?
      also...referring to books written by others that think like you is really very convenient for a silly argument. the imam simply stated that this controversy and NOT building the center makes a huge statement to the muslim world. and, this crazy idea that islam is a hate religion further identifies the ignorance that exists here in the u.s.!!!!!!
      there are people of christian faith that have committed travesties toward black people here in the u.s. for hundreds of years!
      get over yourselves and stop judging others!

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

      Solidad needs to get off the air.

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

      He did not do this in the name of Christianity.
      He was anti government and not a a religous zelot.
      Unlike atta and the rest of the fools that wanted 72 virgins and in the name of alla slaughterd innocents, which a majority of Muslims agreed with and celebrated.
      Shame on you.

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

    A regular Fred Astaire with words.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. maggi

    Muslims are at the mercy of the ir Sharia'a Law, which has no provision for amendment and NO BILL OF RIGHTS

    September 8, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony M

      With your rationale.. Why stop with Muslims? Stop all Christians.. Stop All Jews.. Stop All Blacks... Stop All non Whites... 'cause this isn't a free nation.. it's a nation of atheists and racists

      September 8, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John

    The only thing I don't understand is why we (Americans) have to tippy toe to the Muslim community, but do something that is controversial to them and they say "You better not do that or their will be more attacks against Americans". Hypocrites.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Craig

      Sorry to say this but Soledad is the worst interviewer ever, no wonder cnn's ratings dropped like a rock!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tufa

    even they are not suppose to be think to build isilamic center in that particular place....these is not the part of right...

    September 8, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sukhi

    The following question should be asked, if history was reversed on that day and 1000's of muslims died and then a long
    came a pastor who wanted to build a church 2 blocks away from Ground Zero, would this Imam allow that to happen??

    September 8, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. mgrommer

    Muslims kill people in the name of their religion. They have no compassion for the 9/11 victims and only want to build a shrine to their "victory." As usual CNN provides enables these wolves in sheep's clothing to contintue their quest to kill Americans.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony M

      Wrong... Muslim Extremists kill people... not regular Muslims.....

      Just like "David Koresh" in Waco, Texas.. a Christian Extremist who kill hundreds of people due to his actions.....

      Christians don't kill people... Christian Extremists sometimes do–like DAVID KORESH.... If you hate all Muslims... hate all Christians.. and hate all religious people for all of that matter.... That means you should hate every president of the United States.. because they were all Christian...

      The alternative? Learn the difference between Islam and "Muslim Extremists"... Extremists were the culprit.. not regular muslims.... Just like most Christians are good except David Koresh...

      September 8, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • David Stone

      I just want to say how stupid the David Koresh analogy is once and for all. Koresh was ONE man who convinced a few dozen people in one small town to act like fools. And in fact, THEY were killed by a government tank which sent volatile gas into a compound that ignited. What happened on 911 is the result of a WORLD WIDE movement among muslims to target their perceived "enemies". There are thousands upon thousands of people sharing these views spread out in multiple countries across the globe, and they have training facilities sponsored by billionaires. 3000 people died in a few hours and the worlds economy was dealt a powerful blow. The net result of waco was more the realization of our own governments abuse than anything else. Comparing the lives lost and acute damage done is as ridiculous at the religious part of the analogy. I know you can't find a decent analogy, but please give this desperate attempt at an analogy a rest. Thanks.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Headnorth

      Tony seems to miss the point. David Karesh was and American problem and dealt with by Americans. Moslems do not care to correct the extremists within Islam – they continue to permit their growth and existance. Moslems shouldn't ask for the freedom they haven't earned. Until the radicals become a target of Islam, Islam shouldn't expect consideration from others.

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

    If a catholic church were to be built in this location no one would care, but since its a mosque its all of a sudden a travesty. People forget how many american muslims died in those attacks as well

    September 8, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Read over your own statement slowly and see if you spot a lapse of logic. I have. Cheers!

      September 9, 2010 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  9. Garrick Harris

    This must be stopped this is going to be a house of Terror – Why call it Cordoba House because that is the city in Spain where Islam burned down a Christian church and built a Mosque. That is how Islam celebrates Victory!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JLamb

    It's unfortunate and embarrassing that an entire religion is under fire for the actions of a handful of radicals. What happened to hating Bin Laden? What happened to the focus on Al Quaeda? Taliban? We should refocus on the real problem.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jennifer Lowe

    It sounds like Imam's reasoning is "build it or else" there will be hell to pay from the Muslim world...that he is worried that not building it will add fuel to the fire for the radicals. To me it feels like the radicals are already at war with us and no matter what we do they hate us – BUT, if we protest the Mosque, watch out, because we'll REALLY be in trouble. So, let them do what they want to do or else.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. maggi

    Feisal A. Rauf, the iman what bridges? the ones that you puch a men in NJ a was found Guilty is that your peace?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. wst mi

    In our community the same celebration happened by mid easterners

    September 8, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Robert Davis

    The imam sounds like a genuine person he seems to care about America more than us, American born

    September 8, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Deus Vult

    Where is Timmy McVeigh when we need him?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony M

      Hanging with David Koresh

      September 8, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
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