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. CommonSense

    Larry King!! did you actually say "astounding job". good thing you're leaving too later this year, because those years are getting to you.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. adlady

    Oh yea...this was just wonderful to have this aired on Rosh Hashona...a tribute to their respect of religion!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tom

    A question to the Imam, would he stand and fight (by force if necessary) for the right of Christians, Jews, or others of different faiths to practice their religion?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. HelloPeople

    Solidad should not be conducting this inteview. She is very impatient and rude, and lacks compassion. She would be perfect on Fox. They want this guy to say that he will preach hate just because of his opinions. It is obvious that people dont want an Islamic center there because they secretly despise muslims.

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

      The burning of the Koran in America in a small non-discript town, is not news. Airing it on national news is sensationalism.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Pat

    This is NOT a religious issue, it's an issue of NATIONAL SECURITY. This man is flat out threatening every American if his mosque doesn't get built. These people are NOT peaceful, for they will sacrifice their own with no conscience at all for their cause. They are brutal to woman. And if you really want to see how Muslim Gov'ts operate, please check the Middle East.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. maggi

    iSLAM IS NO PEACE never had been the worst persecution for religion in Inda more the 10,000,000 dead

    September 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. nearlyclearly

    It's not against the laws of islam for a muslim to lie to a non-muslim. Non-muslims cannot even testify against a muslim in arab courts. Yes to the one commenter who said something about the arab countries not having churches buiilt there because the people are all muslim, exactly. We don't understand that over here, we think they are being honest when they smile and say all the right things. It's a different game they play, and it's not played by the same rules, people. Please get THAT if you don't get anything else! Please notice that when a muslim american opens fire on innocent fellow army personnel or cause mass death and casualties, we don't hear condemnation of the violence loud and clear from muslim leaders, here or elsewhere! The Koran burner in Fla brought a ton of reasoning and condemnation from around the country. Muslim leaders don't condemn the violence among their brethren because they don't find it to be wrong!

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

    70% of americans is not surprising. How many were slave owners? whats worse how many would have them today?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ann in Virginia

      The American public opinion has been misled by media, by self-righteous "Christian" religious zealots, and by opportunistic stupid politicians.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lydia in Minneapolis

    The Imam made NO threats-he simplymade an (accuarte) observation about how moving the ctr would be seen by Muslim extremists. That some here are (willfully) MISunderstanding this is part of the problem. Some Americans are obviously coming from a bigoted view.
    Personally, I AM SICK OF THE EXPLOITATION OF 9/11 & the DEMONIZATION OF ALL MUSLIMS for POLITICAL GAIN-anx that's what this 'controversy" is. NYTimes FRONT PAGE IN DEC. talked about this Islamic Ctr: no problem then-not until MAY, when rightwing, Republicans, Tea Party & Extremeist christians MADE this a problem.


    It's OVERDUE to HEAL 9/11, (rather than USE irt as an endless cry for WAR ON THE WORLD–especially Muslim countries.) It's overdue to DIALOGUE–not just drop bombs. STOP THE HATE!

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

      Lydia - i LOVE you!!! BRAVO!!!!!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • InsertPictureofMohammadHere

      Okay, under that reasoning, if the mosque is built, it might be blown up. I'm not necessarily saying that I'll do it, but there's a chance that someone might. So there's no threat. Right?

      September 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Concerned in Georgia

      Amen Lydia. You said it!

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

      dear lydia try to preach ur words in the arab country

      September 8, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Darlene

    Thank you Xugos for your great comment. I agree with your statement. With you being Muslim you understand the real issue with the majority of the Americans not wanting the mosque being built so close to where the twin towers were standing. I don't believe the imam's stating; at this point, that ia because of the freedom of religion & the First Amendment; it is because he wants 2 win and no one wants to back down.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ann in Virginia


      September 8, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Larry

    Please do not have Soledad on again

    September 8, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jeff

    Come on Anderson.....he had and has No intention of Moving this Mosque

    September 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. islam sucks

    I have the solution! Let's do a "draw a picture of the mosque" day!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. joe brown

    Personally, I wish all religions would just disappear. the hocus pocos has killed more people than any other idea in history. Or at the least, keep your hocus pocus out of my life.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Abdul

    This looks like a pure commercial media gimmick. Soledad is not even letting him speak, it almost seems like she is just venting out some personal anger instead of having a discussion and listening to him

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