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.

Post by: ,
Filed under: Islam • New York • Religion
soundoff (1,302 Responses)
  1. Omar

    Soledad is trying to paint the wrong image on the Imam with her repeated questions and horrible interviewing.
    I've lost all respect for her works.

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


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

      Yes, I do

      * Turn to God more
      * Focus less on material things
      * Eat your veggies

      Basically same thing as church, synagogue

      September 8, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • truth seeker

      not all muslims are bad, same with christians,jews and so on...

      September 8, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. James

    And who speaks for the 25 American Muslims that died that day while working in the towers?

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

      not you.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Luc

    That is the problems with religions (in general): They want to seek the truths (as said by Imam). Why? There are no truths as religion proposes it. And furthermore, Ground zero is sacred in a real people's way Strip clubs and delis are normal in New York; not people dying from an attack by religious fanatics.

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

    Soledad sounds really dumb right now. Her whole point of this interview is to put down IMAM. Why doesn't she talk about the people that actually support this religious center and not just the people that don't agree with it. She really does not know how to ask questions. "SACRED GROUND"?? IMAM got her on that one. This country is too politically correct, but don't follow their own preach book. This hatred won't go away until people actually educate themselves.

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

    71 percent of Americans voted against this mosque. Every mosque is being challenged in any corner of this land. I've seen it in Peachtree City, Texas and others. People would rather have clubs and strip bars over mosques. So the issue that Americans don't like muslims. That is the heart of the issue.

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

      Yeah, about that 71%...I know for a fact None of my nieghbors, nor anyone in my household were given this servey question to answer. The basis of the servey must have been 71% out of let's say some 2000 participants. Since it was stated AS IF the whole country had thier say, comments reguarding this measure as if it were a fact shows how little people consider thier part in the big picture ! And Solodad knew most folks wouldn't question the source of her percentage because of this fact! Come on Folks! Realy, Do you remember taking this servey? If so, where?...And how about your nieghbors? 71% of the "Whole Country?" Not TRUE!!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ray

    The Islamic agenda is to take over America. President Obama should not be sending the Imam anywhere to represent America. By virtue of his own comments, he has no idea how to represent America to the Middle East or anywhere else. He does not seem to understand that AMERICA DOES NOT COWER TO THE TREAT OF VIOLENCE!

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

      I wish that were true, but apparently.....not. Even our 'leaders' are uttering the same thing.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jay

    THUMBS down to O'Brien. She appeared very bias. I am a christain and she seemed agitated at times because he didn't answer her questions to her liking...point is, just because others dont think he should build there..they didn't think blacks should be educated together either! Dont be a puppet, fair is fair. and at end of day at least he has his dignity and sticks up for equality....can u say same?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jay

    Why doesn't he open all mosques in the country for Christian and Jews prayer and make thi bond tight what he wants to do it in ground zero,

    September 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ann Csonka & John De Noyer, Virginia

      FYI - there are Muslim Centers in many places - probably near you. Have you ever participated in an open house there, or any other activity? Muslims participate in positive productive activities in OUR community. Their centers are open.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. oscar in boston

    After listening To this Guy imam.I gotta say, he's got a point. This nation is about rights for all, not just non-muslims like myself.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. SID


    September 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mike

    The Imam should not force the SO CALLED PACE by building this Mosque!!!!! The Imam should have done the do-diligent to find out if this project will be welcome by everyone in NY before jumping into this idea!!! I think he want to force his idea and his idealogy and this center will be the foundation to recruit american to terrorim... You have my word for it .

    September 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Caroline Shaker

      I agree with you Mike. We should start building churches in Saudi Arabia

      September 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Open mind

    Soledad speaks with hate disrespecting the Iman.
    She is terrible interviewer.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ihab Shaker


    September 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • truth seeker

      um, that 71% was not based on a national survey or you and I would have particapated..Right? So let's just get that part straight and get on with getting along. Life is short and earth is a school, I plan to graduate and you?

      September 8, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mm

    He just called ground zero not sacred ground, this is more than enough proof of his evil intentions.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • O

      No, he called the former Burlington Coat Factory not sacred ground

      September 8, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54