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. Dar

    Why is Solidad getting so angry?

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

    So now Rauf states that he is protecting the U.S. by building the center near ground zero? If we don't allow Park51 to move forward then the rest of the Muslim community will be upset? Who cares what the Muslims think or feel? We don't need Muslim protection. Mr. Rauf where were you when they were casting the movie Clueless because you would have played the lead role perfectly because you certainly are....clueless.

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

    Iman Feisel's interview is not believable. Is he concerned about what muslim extremists may do if the location of the mosque is moved from ground zero – maybe that is the "National Security Issue" that he seems so concerned about!

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

    This guy is a pompous bureaucrat interested in nothing more than his own future, not the future of Muslims, Americans or anyone else for that matter. Let him and his over-exhausted fifteen minutes waste away with those of Snooki, John and Kate and the rest of the wannabe crowd CNN places on the front page!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. keeping it real

    I can't stand the people commenting about what America is suppose to be about. Yeah, let anybody come here and do whatever they feel like. Yes America is about freedoms you can't get in some parts of the world. But do you allow these freedoms to evil? Would you allow your common american murderer to do as he pleases? Do you allow and accept evil in your country. These people do not agree with the American way of life. They want to destroy it.

    And before anyone says it, my opinions are not influenced or created by left wing, right wing, democrats, republicans, any politician seeking election or any form of print or electronic media. You see, as a intelligent human being, I can recognize evil when I see it.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Combat Vet from BKNY

      This was a ploy, a plot, for the muslim community. I cannot stand for a religion which still to this day in Iran stones a couple who marries elopes or wishes to lash a woman for showing her face on a picture. Bringing this to America hell no, this is not acceptable here. We might be a bunch of idiots here but we are free idiots which choose to live the way we like. Not let a religion be the way of life for all people if not you get shot, hanged, beheaded, or whatever. Before 911 I remember in certain parts in New York in the Muslim community they were disrespectful towards other citizens. If you don't live their way well you have a problem. Sorry I cannot support that and will not, voting against it.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
  6. neoKARMA

    The iman needs to be deported for his own safety as his words are insighting people to attack americans. All blood is now on his hands. its time to end this negotiation with a terrorist who threatens violence. build the mosque but he cannot be its leader he is advocating violence and demanding ranson to move he is not to be negotiated with. WAKE UP NYC and America

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

    ask him if Gays and Lesbians will be allowed to visit the mosque? lol...

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

    Watch the eyes. Look up: 'Strange Kind of Love' sang by Peter Murphy

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

    WHER IS THE $110M COMING FROM??????????????

    September 8, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • 3BeanSalad

      Loan from the Vatican. 23% interest. Underwritten by AIG. Welcome to the NWO.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. iraqi girl

    ask about the woman that will be stoned in iran

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

    Americans fight the build out of mosques in any corner in the US. Do you remember the texas guy that setup a pig race on Fridays? How about the folks in Peachtree City fighting a mosque? There are more and more cases.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rick Ruth

    The Imam is doing a great job of showing restraint and trying to build bridges. I am disappointed in Soledad for deliberately trying to provoke controversy while the Imam is trying to quel controversy. She had the gall to claim there were missing 9/11 victim body parts the families were trying to find that "could be" on the future mosque site grounds – come on! and she calls herself a journalist???? She is trying to make him change the mosque plan during the show when he has explained multiple times why that is not a good idea – is she just deaf or not listenting? Where is the good journalist that takes one response and builds the next deeper question from it instead of just repeating the old already anwered question (why not build somewhere else). I was a Soledad fan until tonight.

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

    This Imam is saying is my way or is the highway
    What dialog is he talking? Islamic center in American Cemetery no one but 73% against , a friendship For engrailment? Found a friend you need respect the other

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

    soleidad is really horrible! where is larry king

    September 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ali

    Why are people making a big deal now...this was first publish in the New York times last year..I think they should go ahead and build the Masjid....Islam is religion of peace....but have twist the meaning in many ways...

    September 8, 2010 at 9:55 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