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. noor

    You can have strip club but not place of worship! God Bless America!

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

      Hallelua. Praise the Lord!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • iraqi girl

      noor why not having a church in a muslim country

      September 8, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Satish

    Why is soledad so full of it? She is coming off as being prejudice and ignorant !!!

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

    If the IMAM is so concerned about 9/11 victims and trying to show he has care for Americans .. why dont you take a mosque in NYC and convert that into a non-islamic cultural centre serving as a memorial for victims.
    It is by giving up and not by grabbing that bridges are built.
    The agenda is simple build a cultural centre and slowly but surely convert it into full fledged mosque.

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

      We have to speech the true this center in this NYC place will create more division and only hate
      How can a Muslim expect we see then as a friend when just smack our face?
      He mention right and Duties but were are his duties

      September 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. maggi

    Isalm is Amican enemy #1 l
    see the record over 4000 AMERICANS in Iraq and 3000 on 9/11 AND MOR WIN AFGANISTAM

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


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

    Yes, cause Christians have a shiny past. Anyways, I think he's made his point over and over and Ms. O'brien feels that a good interview involves asking the same question over and over ignoring the fact that it has been answered. He has a point, if he backs down, it will be a sign to the Muslim world that the Bill of Rights is a lie, that we're a country of bigots, and that their war is just. Our enemies will multiply and we'll be all the less safe. Our haloed ground has strip clubs but can't have a mosque?...really, stop it! Those moderates amongst us need to speak up, and not give in to the radicals. I keep hearing her say 71% oppose, I hope the majority are just being pragmatic, and trying to be sensitive. Those that truly believe Muslims have no place there are just bigots, then maybe we are the cause of the problem...

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

    Shame on you. Ms. O'Brien is a pitbull. Maybe Ok in a CNN People's Magazine but not when we are trying to promote tolerance and peace. It is too serious issue to give it to a tight lipped ignorant. Any one can tell you that religious hatred,or discrimination is only a result of ignorance and lack of education. I am embarassed that we waste every opportunity to be considered as Nation that is for tolerance, freedom, caring and compassion. We send a different message today. Is Ms. O'Brien joing in burning the Koran as well?

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

    Solidad is embarrassing and should not be doing this interview. She is obviously against it and, possibly, anti-Islam. Whatever her hang-ups are, she is not very professional. I agree that Muslims/Islam is unfairly criticized as a whole for the acts of cowardly extremists under the guise of Islam. Just like Christians in the past and present who hide under the name of God and Jesus to create acts of hate, there are others who use religion incorrectly to quantify their personal hatred. The center is an important symbol as an olive branch to non-Muslims, but more importantly, it should be a place to educate non-Muslims that Islam and Muslims are not the enemy. If they back off and listen to criticism, it would be harmful for the progression of easing the hatred. Consider if African-Americans in the 60's had bowed in the name of controversy or women had not fight for their civil rights because it is controversial or unconventional, where would we be today? All this from a Catholic who does not fear or blame Muslims for the attacks on NYC, et al.

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

    please ask why not built a church in a muslim country like Saudi please ask

    September 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sonia Vivar

    He's got every right to build. BUT morally, if the Iman cared at all about building bridges....they would at least contemplate moving it.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ann

    Soledad should get her emotions out of the way and do an objective interview. One can see the anger in her eyes and often she is not allowing the Imam to finish his answers. I am very disappointed with her actions. She is not being objective. Normally, I enjoy her pieces. She seems very prejudice in this interview. Her personal religion is getting in the way.

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

    "Give into our ways or your security will be threatened."

    Yep, he nailed the root of the problem.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kimikay

    I HAVE A SOLUTION ! If this man wants to show the world peace and understanding etc.. Then he needs to take all his millions and go back to his home country and build a huge Catholic Church. Then in this Catholic Church he can have his area for Jews, Muslims, etc.. so all can worship together there. Lets see him do that ! When he gets that accomplished then we can talk !! That mosque does not belong anywhere near Ground Zero !!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • D. Kent

      "that man" is an american, H-E-L-L-O!!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kimikay

      to D.Kent: " That man" was not BORN in America.. H-E-L-L-O !

      September 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • iraqi girl

      good one kimikay we all wish that he will do that but he wont cause he is a lier

      September 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Concerned in Georgia

    You know who was a Christian? Hitler.

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

      Agnostic, idiot.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Concerned in Georgia

      Do your research. He sure as heck wasn't a Jew was he?

      September 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kimikay

      Hitler did not terrorize etc.. in the name of Christianity !

      September 8, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. noor

    Why is soladed so much against IMAM?

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