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. The Catholic

    Soledad is not being neutral. She is a reporter and should never be biased. It is a shame that CNN allowed this reporter ti interview a religious person and be aggressive to him. Shame on you Soledad! For me you are no longer an unbiased reporter!!

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

      Your right about her being a bad interviewer, but are wrong because she is not even asking him the tough questions. This guy is no good double talking politician

      September 8, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Alex

    apparently the place is not sacred because it has strip clubs... forget about the thousands that died.

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

      I'm guessing if Starbucks wanted to build a store right across from Ground Zero or within a few blocks of where the towers stood no one would question the plans. Furthermore, if someone wanted to build a Christian church or a place of worship for Buddhists, Jews, etc, nothing would be said about that either. This is an issue of legal rights; the right to build. Just because this is an Islamic center, people are up in arms. Islam and people who follow the religion ARE NOT TERRORISTS! TERRORISTS ARE TERRORISTS AND THEY COME FROM ALL RELIGIOUS BACKGROUNDS.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. MM

    Soledad is emotional and not asking the questions objectively.

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

    Soledad is a racist herself! she doesn't give the other person a chance to complete their say......she 's rude!! get her off the air!! CNN ur reputation is at stake!

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

    Soledad is the best at asking questions. Wish she could get her own show and still have special reports!! she rocks!!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Julie Pavelich

    Soledad.... you are NOT helping this conversation. I have been listeneing and you are blaming Muslims for the attack. By not clearly stating that the USA was NOT attacked by Muslims and most importantly NOT BY AMERICAN MUSLIMS, you are putting this conversation back by many, many steps. I am very disappointed in you and this interview.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Reinaldo Medina

    What if Rosa Park had accepted to obey bus driver James Blake's? The Imam is right, we have to fight the people that says NO just because.

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

      Clearly others could not understand the depth of insight given by Imam and what his real message has been. Emotionally charged and reactionary. I agree with you Reinaldo on agreeing with Imam.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. RRay

    this is a termite colony for terrorists .................

    September 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. vic nashville tn

    @ Amit I agree they did it India they will repeat the same here they destroy it first then build the mosque

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

    I took what he said as a 100% THREAT, that if THEY can't build in OUR country where they please, then violence will occur. Does anyone else see what direction this is going? Islam will force our cowardess leadership to compromise so much until the have control. This mosque, as with all mosques in the US, mean far more than worship centers. Most Muslims worldwide flat-out HATE the US, and they see this mosque as the slow demise of the US. They will bring the same instability to our country that they've brought everywhere else in the world. For all you people sympathetic to their cause, you have no idea what they dream of doing to US.

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

    OK so let me get this straight. Islamic terrorists destroyed the towers and now if we don't allow an islamic center to be built in the formere site of those towers we are in danger of more violence from Muslims? Are you serious? Go build your center in hell. I would be scared to be in that center if it ever gets built because it will be the target of every radical American who hates Islam and hates Muslims and this idiot is doing nothing to help fix that.

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

      A christian blow the FBI Office in Oklahoma, let dont allow more churches in Oklahoma city...

      September 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bri

      If you want peace, you need to BE peaceful. This is a first amendment issue that is at the foundation of the nation. Allow religious freedom, don't let the state oppress people's desire to worship, and this is a right that needs to be protected. This is America.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mary Padilla

    CNN Producers and Larry King......
    Soledad is doing a horrific job with the interview tonight! She is not listening to the guest, going around in circles with the same statement. She is being compative and not listening. She seems to have her own agenda and "getting in the way"!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. john

    Imam is saying that " there is a wisdom for religion and politics separation" in America. Although he thinks its wise to do so, he and other Muslims don't believe in it. All middle east and Muslims counties are run as Quran is the law.

    2nd. He is saying that if Muslims don't build a "Muslim center" in that spot. there would be a security risk, that a Big lie, and he know it. he is trying to put fear in people.

    3rd. The Quran does not say "love your neighbor". If the a person doesn't believe in Islam then they have the right to "kill and fight" that person. Islam is peace ONLY with people that agrees with it.

    4th. Ther are more than 100 verses in the Quran that demand true Muslims to fight and SLAIN non Muslims.

    5th. The Imam is trying to create a "FALSE" clean, peaceful Islam.

    6th. If Islam is "peace" why NO one can take 1 bible to Saudi Arabia.? Why don't they allow other religion to open Churches.??

    7th. The Imam is saying that ALL Muslims respect America. HE KNOW IT A BIG LIE.

    I hope that America wakes up!!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reinaldo Medina

      What america need to wake up? the White america, the christian america? which one john, which one? define America.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • iraqi girl

      john i agree with you 100000000% u r so right about all the points that you have posted and yes he is a lier about islam being a loving

      September 8, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      Reinaldo Medina , its amazing that you ignored everything I said and focused on "wake up America". Well my friend you need to wake up. LOL

      September 9, 2010 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. shimmyshimmy

    This Imam can not be more clearer than he has been. I think the republicans are after all this media hoot about this religious center and they are the ones paying that priest in florida to burn Quran to you know promote hate among americans so that they could vote for another republicans.
    Also a small and cute comment about the this interviewer: Go to school and learn something. I am a MIT and a harvard graduate and trust me, you do not know how to speak to a guest. You lack respect and you are not even allowing him to finish his answers. Are you jacked up on coffee or red bull

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

      An all around "YES"!!!!! Absolutely, Shimmyshimmy! Agreed!

      September 8, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Clearly said.

    HE SAID: "our national security now hinges on how we negotiate this, how we speak about it and what we do."

    HE SAID: "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."

    How come? Is the Muslim world dangerous? Aren't Muslims a peaceful people? Isn't Islam a peaceful religion?

    This guy knows his religion and it's followers are "very dangerous indeed."

    Religions.... I really don't see any positive benefit from religions for mankind. Stupid, utterly stupid.

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