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. chris

    wolf in sheeps clothing, this guy. let's make burning a koran on 9/11 a national tradition nationwide. endangering the troops by doing so? Ha. I think they are in harms way to protect my right to do exactly that!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • SID

      he worked for the bush white house... so if BUSH hired him to WORK FOR THE US GOVERNMENT , DOES THART MEAN BUSH IS A TERRORIST?

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

    I am annoyed with manner Soledad has chosen to confront her guest. She seems confrontational and her facial expressions seem real disrespectful.. Stay objective, Soledad, you seem to be bring alot of personal grievance into this interview.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. satish raman

    I am sorry but what has Soledad achieved to question this man in such a rude tone? Why has CNN asigned her to do such a critical interview? She is trying to bully him!!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Philip Curran

    I find Soledad's argumentative approach with the Imam to be totally off putting.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tin Cup

    Larry King seldom gives away his opinion and I would expect the same of a guest host. I have followed Soledad for years but I have lost all respect for her. Soledad is not conducting an interview – she is playing "gotcha" and has made her ignorance of world affairs as well as her hipocricy the focus of the interview.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Superduty

    "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." Quote from Rauf. Proof that the majority of Muslims are not peaceful. Too add, one preacher burning a koran may be the start of another string of violence around the world also shows how violent muslims are. Of course it OK for Muslims to burn our flag and threaten to kill America is never a thought of concern. What if Americans did the same to Muslims as they do to us when they burn a flag, etc.?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Who has ever said its okay for Muslims to burn an American flag? Who?

      September 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Larry

    The host tat toke the place on Larry King on Larry King live Wednesday 9/8/10 was very rude to her guest, She should not return

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

    Solidad obviously does not have the smarts to have an intellectual conversation with this man. She's obsessed and keeps asking the same questions again and again. Poor job.

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

    I am not a Muslim, but I take issue with the tone of the interview with the Imam and think Solodad's biased, condescending, and divisive line of questioning which is narrow and not the kind of balanced coverage I would expect from CNN. Putting separation of church and state and freedom of religion aside, am I the only one who feels empathy for the millions of innocent, law abiding, good Muslim citizens who have been put on the defense, ostracized and lumped in with terrorist organizations? How does this make innocent Muslims feel who lost their family members in the Twin Towers? Perhaps the best weapon against terrorism and honoring the memory of those who died, is not to stop the mosque and the dialogue, but to use it as a vehicle to create PEACE on American soil - showing the world our solidarity as Americans (of all races and religions) who live and worship in the same communities. That is a powerful message to terrorists that our spirit and way of life has not, and will not be broken.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      Thanks for your comment. I totally agree with you

      September 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • D.F.

      I second that – well put.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. vir

    Imam says that the place is not sacred where there are strip joints & adult stores......I say those strip joints etc have been there for years.....No one is trying to open new strip joints on ground zero & anger people.
    Those are businesses run by people who have been living there for years and have endured 9/11, they earn a living with these businesses and have been doing that for many years.
    Imam should take his vision of building the islamic center somewhere else. He is trying to create a bigger rift. He is a threat to security and not otherway around. No way he is building bridges......he is breaking bridges by this vision.
    – Vir

    September 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • mm

      well said.

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

      So it's okay to leave the strip clubs there because they have been there for years but it's not okay to build an islamic center that is needed since the Muslim community in lower Manhattan doesn't have the space to pray? The Muslim community has been there for over 20 years. They contribute to that area just like the strip clubs.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  11. Dr. Galarraga

    I am disapointed at Soledad. It aperas that she just have an agenda to attack this man. She has not been objective and can show it in her disconfort being unable to get him angry. Certainly he appears unconfortable under the constant attakcs by Soledad. This has not been an inpartial Journalist. Disappointing performance from her. Instead of trying to get the poin of conciliation for the sake of a peaceful resolution to this she appears to be creating more sentiments against this man.Disappointing

    September 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mary

    It is time to say it, You so called Christians who are preaching HATE, really need to go to confession, that is not the Lords prayer. Jesus spoke of Love for all man. These are not radical Muslims, Not the people that are responsible for our tragedy

    September 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. MM

    Soledad is a disgrace to CNN. Larry should com back.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • O

      Larry is in Atlanta and the interview was done in NY. That's why Soledad conducted the interview in person instead of Larry doing it from Atlanta.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  14. shipdog7

    Allah would allow violence if the Islamic community center and mosque is not allowed in NY? This is nothing but threats to scare the American public into running and hiding if they don't get their way. We are being held hostage by Islam militants. It is like negotiating as an hostage. You give in this time and I can assure you more threats will come when the next project is suggested.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dave

    Soledad is incompetent in this venue. While he attempts to discourse multiculturally, she baits and goads him trying for the sensational news "item.' I have lost a lot of respect for CNN over this interview.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
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