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. joe brown

    have you ever been to downtown manhattan? there is china town, within feet of little italy, within yards of the bowery. 2 blocks in lower manhattan is ten miles in your town.

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


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

    Islam is not synonymous to Terrorism!! We were attacked by Al Qaeda... Not ISLAM! So i really dont see how building this mosque is insensitive? Americans died on 9/11. All Americans. Muslims too. This should be about a war against terror not war against Islam! All this controversy is just another win for the crazy radicals.

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

    Have an idea..why don't you build as well a statue of Osama bin laden??? So you can tell the whole world just how stupid Americans are...and u can the the whole world that this is ur victory, islam's victory...

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


      September 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kimikay

      Only Boys named SID !

      September 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. TX_MBell

    Where is his sense of right or wrong that isn't couched in written law?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. amazed at the gall

    "Anger will explode in the Muslim world..."
    Oh, ok, now I think it should be fine to build the Mosque there. Now that you've threatened me, I really feel like I've changed my mind. Oh, yeah, and don't worry that every damn security precaution taken on a plane, train, building, stadium, public event, for the past decade has been done to protect us from Islam, that does not matter either. Let's build a mosque on the top of the new world trade building too... that'll be good. Maybe have some lunatics wave swords and signs down at the streets of new york.. I am totally convinced. Thank you!!!

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

    Soledad O'Brien is making me pukewith her stupidity and lack of insight - or is she auditioning for a new job?. She seems intent on pursuing ONE view only with the Imam - in essence Why Don't You Just Get Lost and Not Upset Us Americans WithYour Mosque? She blathers on that 71% of Americans hate the idea. What poll is that and how was the question phrased? You can get any result you want if the questions are phrased the right way. Do we actually assume that No Muslims (other than the highjackers) died in the Twin Towers and that their remains are not also in the dust there? Lets not explore that subject. Certainly plenty more Muslims died since Bush lied us into Iraq instead of pursuing Bin Laden in Pakistan. The highjackers were mostly Saudi but let's not explore that topic. All these attacks on Islam as being violent - as if Christianity and Judiasm are squeaky clean of violence, corruption and radicalism. Again, heaven forbid we should explore that topic either.

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

    Soledad does not know how to give respect to her guest!! SHAME ON CNN!!!

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

    Obrien has an agenda, is overly aggressive -she can't wait for him to stop speaking so she can forever next question. Not impressed with her as an interviewer. She is proving his point- she's totally not interested in dialogue.
    I actually tuned in to hear what this Imam has to say.

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

    Soledad, Imam obviously knows more about the founding principles of this country than 71% of Americans, including you. Our bigger concern should be about how redneck and ignorant America has become. Severe lack of emotional intelligence continues to build.

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

    We need to stop this guy he is not to be trusted!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mark Velazquez

    If you want this MOSQUE so badly why don't we make a concession or two... Let's us build a gay community center, a Jewish synagog, a Christian Church, a Catholic Church and a woman's abuse center adjacent to or across from your most prized Mosques in your homeland. Remember this will inspire LOve and Freedom of Speech. I have yet to see anything like this happening in The Muslim World and we have to do it because our Freedom of Speech Laws. Please don't use The Jesus Philosophy on us. If you and your people believed in The Jesus Philosophy then 9/11 would never have happened. – AMEN.

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

      BRAVO Mark !

      September 8, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lisa

    "Let's not judge each other based on the worst of the religion and the best of our own."

    I couldn't agree more. We don't judge Christianity based on people who kill in the name of Christianity or the priests who do harm to young boys. There are bad people in ALL religions but there are many more good.

    Focus on what we seek – PEACE!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mo Beasley

    It is these times that we who believe in freedom, democracy, love, and god must walk the talk. If we block this center we are fair weather christians, jews, etc., and a fairweather democracy, What we really stand for and believe shows up in the tough times. it is easy to preach love, peace, and freedom when there's nothing challenging those beliefs. Now is the time for all of us to lean on our faiths and belief systems to lead our word and actions.

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

    To penalize our fellow American citizen's, 'the American Muslims,' for the actions of terroists is sacrificing the very principles of freedom, liberty and justice that all of us Americans pride upon.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:00 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