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. SWdevelop

    I Can see his point, if we are true americans then all rights must be given for this comunity center to be built. Only thing I would have to say is "I could care less what the radicals do, they will NOT influence our discussion or anything in my everyday life. What we do in the future is not based off of what "radicals" would do but what is best for our communities and cities" we must not allow our worries of "radicals" influence what we do and who we are. Lets not forget this is America and with it comes things we may not agree on but I'll be darned if some body decides that he must or must not go on with something because he is afraid of radicals' reactions. I refuse to back down and 911 only made me stronger on this stance not weaker! build your community center you have your rights just don't dare tell me that your doing it because if you don't there may be pay back.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. moderate

    this is plainly telling muslims :you are not Americans , you were not attacked on 9/11 . Only Christians were. If that is what America thinks , then dont let Muslims build the center .

    September 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Valentin Fuhrer

    So many of the opposing opinions expressed here, seem to be baseless assertions. I am far more scared and offended by peoples' willingness to hate (without any knowledge or perspective) than I am of a place of worship being built.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SID

    i guess his work with the us GOVERNMENT OVER THE PAST 15 YEARS DOES NOT MATTER THAT MUCH THE THIS CNN actor playing a reporter...

    September 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. yvone R

    Can someone ask him if American like to build a church in Saudia Arabia for example , is he going to support the Idea .it will be a good idea to see that peaceful islam and muslims he is talking about.

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

      great question but to bad was not asked

      September 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Do they plan to build a Mosque or Synagogue in Vatican City?

      September 9, 2010 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. budster

    Once again the media has been conned into a non story by a right-wing blogger. Pamela Geller started this crap about the mosque for political cgain. Solidad is an arrogant little twit who is not listening and in CNN fashion just perpetuating the controversy. Regardless of what the Imam says she keeps asking the same question. There are thousands of dead and injured and millions of displaced Iraqis and Afganis most of them Muslims and most of whom had nothing to do with 9/11 in two of the worst executed wars in history. Is this not revenge enough for the deaths of 3000 people from 79 countries and of all faiths?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. pp

    What happens if there is another failed bombing or an actual bombing by muslim radicals this would create a severe backlash on the muslims in USA. I agree with RRay this is like a threatening message from the imam either have the mosque here or there is a violence. people shud heed to this and see as a warning ...

    September 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. vic nashville tn

    Why Bush hire him he need to go

    September 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. inaishia J

    some people pretend that terroism in America started on September 11. What about the birmingham church bombing in 1963 that killed 4 black girls, Emmit Till, the burning of crosses on African Americans home and lynching of black men all in the name of Christanity. If this counrtry was founded on christianity, where in the bible did it say to treat black people like chattel, denying their humanity. stop talking about Islam. We as a people need to look at our pass before we start judging other religion. Extreminism exists in every religion. Lets not pretend it started with Islam

    September 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Meg


    September 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jez

    America is being completely devisive about this issue. There is too much of us against them. Are these Muslims not also American? Don't they deserve the same rights? They did fly into the WTC. They aren't blowing themselves up in Afghanistan. The only insult here is a percieved insult. And how ahs he threatened America> he only stated, quite truthfully, that radicals will not respond well. he does not control that

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

      Islam is not a religion; it's a way of life. "Islamic law covers all aspects of life, from matters of state, like governance and foreign relations, to issues of daily living. They see Western cultural values as a threat, and promote Islam as a comprehensive solution to every public and private question of importance." The more mosques being built means more power of Islam and it will spread over time. Islam is the second largest (religion) in the world and by far the fastest growing. Wake up you oblivious sympathizers, and see what is taking place! And for those that say there are only a few radical Muslims that want Americans to die, wake up and smell the roses and watch the news. I believe there are only a few Muslims in the US that are peaceful compared to the billions that call for our destruction.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. The News

    IT SOUNDS LIKE A THREAT TO ME! You FOOLS listen to what General Putreas said, IT SOUNDS LIKE A THREAT TO HIM TO, what the clown fro GAINESVILLE is doing!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. AT

    I am very concerned about this interview. What I have heard is that even though we as Americans may not be ready to engage in this "healing process" with the Muslim community yet, the Imam seems to suggest that we had better do it, or suffer the consequences of the more "radical" branches of his faith. Aparrently, the "moderate" Islamists cannot control or even influence other members of their religion, so how is allowing them to build going to do anything to improve relations, when they cannot do anything about the dangerous elements within their religion, and improve those relations?....Sounds like "you better let us do this, or else..." I feel like this is a threat. It may just be what my ears hear...

    September 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • mm

      You make some fair points. The radicals will probably take over this mosque. He will probably say that he is trying to change their minds but he can't do it. Radicalism is ingrained in their blood. The Imam might not be a radical but he sure sounds as though he would entertain them.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mm

    It is only a matter of time before some terrorist gets arrested and we come to find out that he or she is a member of this mosque. Just watch and see. He can't watch over every single activity that goes on in a mosque and he can't stop the radicals from coming to the mosque.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. wili

    i am a muslim by birth but an agnostic by choice....i have always condemened what msulims have done in light of killings and terroism...BUT even i can see what Soledad is doing. She has completely come across as fundametalist as those who attacked 911. she does not have tolerance to other person's view. Her facial expressions are enough to tell that she hates the whole idea about this community. how can u host a such an importnat interview with such radical opinion.....CNN should have had a FAIR AC or wolf blitzer...people who might not agree with the other person but would give the other person DUE RESPECT!!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
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