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. Sam

    Soledad should ask the Imam if he would support buillding a church next to Mecca in Saudi Arabia

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

      And then she can ask the Pope if they will allow a synagogue and mosque in the Vatican. It will never happen.

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

    Poor Soledad! Stuck on just one point. I forgot how dumb tv hosts are. Move on already, lets get this conversation going. How many times is she going to repeat the 71% thing? The lack of depth is astounding and the questions are exactly the same, sometimes not even phrased in any different way. Am falling asleep with the uttern dumbness of this lady.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mike C

    Where is the representation of reason and logic in this debate? Someone who can help to establish that both sides are unreasonable, whether tolerant or radical extremist. One cannot credibly criticize irrational beliefs while holding on to their own irrational beliefs. If you continue believe in any religion, you are enabling extremism by perpetuating a global culture of unjustifiable beliefs. We can begin down the road to peace by publicizing reasonable people who help to educate others with facts not coherce them and perpetuate irrationality.

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

    @ashamed.... it obvious you didn't loose a loved one on 9/11, becuase if you did you would not make the comments you made.
    The imam talks about justice. How does building a mosque brings about justice for whom? The radicals muslims? What about the justice for the christian churches that were burned in the middle east as a result over a Danish cartoon; which the cartoonist has the 1st amendement right to do. Why doesn't the imam help bulid any of those?? Where is the justice there? Where is the fairness? Why should justice in fairness be only upheld in Western countries and not in Islamic based countires??

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

    Soledad O'Brien is absolutely the worst interviewer in television history. I cannot believe CNN gave her this hour. I was so happy when she was booted from the morning show, but now this. The most important interview all week and we get to listen to her drivel.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • R J Black

      Tell me about it. Thanks for asking the same question 3 times in under 5 minutes

      September 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Geo In TO

    I can't believe he's caving in to hostile tendencies. He has the guaranteed right under American law to build that mosque anywhere, yet he's yielding to pressure.
    The Freedom Tower hasn't achieved full occupancy yet, right ? Well, why not 'rent' in the Tower, be a 'premiere' tenant of the very structure that is causing so much grief !!!

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

    Chill out Soledad! why the hostility, not professional

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

      so true.... she keeps asking the same question over and over... this is such a bad interview...

      September 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jim Frego

    So, if he moves the Cordva Center to some other location the Muslin World will go crazy. More Muslims will be radicalized.
    Americans around the world and in the US will be ATTACKED with terrorist attacks by these Radical Muslims.
    His story is that if the Untied States does ANYTHING that upsets the Muslim World we will be attacked relentlessly.
    BTY that is Bin Laden's justification for attacking the WTC. He was upset the US Forces occupied Holy Ground in Saudi Arabia prior to the first Gulf War.
    I say BRING IT ON! The world will be better off with a few less Radical Muslims.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. 3BeanSalad

    "We must remember December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001."

    What about April 19, 1995? Or did we forget already?

    In many ways worse than 12/7 and 9/11, for both of which we had fair warning, and either *chose* not to be proactive (hint hint), or just couldn't get our collective heads out of our collective butts to be proactive. I'll let you decide which was which in either case.

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

    Please respond to the Imam's statement that the Radicals are taking over this conversation and that Radicalism exists in ALL REligions.

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

    Lets make a deal: Build a Church in Saudi Arabia and then build a Mosque in NY.

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

    It seems as though Soledad O'Brien has taken on the role of being an avatar for those protesting the building of the mosque/community center so Rauf can respond to a roleplay.

    I understand what he means by not backing down now. He admitted a couple of times he would not build it near ground zero if he knew this would happen. But if he moves now, then it means they are moving under duress and impulsive fear.

    If you doubt this... just ask yourself... would this be a problem if it were a Synagogue or Church?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. non-biased

    I never post on this site, but Soledad is causing me to feel a need to voice my opinion. She is the RUDEST interviewer that I have seen on CNN. This interview seems more typical of the fear mongers on Fox News. PLEASE take her off and replace with Anderson Cooper after the commercial break.

    Whether you are for or against the mosque, she is an interviewer and should be non-biased while allowing the guest to answer the questions without feeling attacked. This is bad.

    Thank you...just watching Anderson's response. I will watch his show to get a non-biased analysis. This interview is just wrong.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ray

    soledad is ignorant an extremely rude.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • ali

      I agree with you Ray! they have picked someone better to do the interview....Like Anderson Cooper

      September 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • ali

      I agree with you Ray! they should have picked someone better to do the interview....Like Anderson Cooper

      September 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jrt1098

    Soledad is embarrassing herself in her attempt to NOT offend Muslims, yet in Muslim sountires she would have no right to be talking with this man, TURN IT OFF

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