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. Garrick Harris

    mark twain – it is obvious Islam does not care how many Muslims died they kill Muslims all the time. The fact is they dont care!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jack

    just wondering how this man would feel about a catholic church being built next door to the mecca .it is just as disrepectful as burning the Quran .but we are suppose to be tolerant while the islam religion keeps slapping us in the face .i dont what this man is trying to accomplish accept more bad feelings .like the lunatic in gainesville just looking for their 15 minutes of fame at anybodys expense

    September 8, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Muhammad Abdullah

      If there were any Catholics in Mecca, I would support it. Just like it does not make any sense to build a Mosque in Vatican.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. adlady

    This whole idea is a travesty...Why do the muslims want to build NOW and at Ground Zero??? Go find another spot – better yet, go back to your own country where you have no respect and can't have freedom of 'anything' – and stop taking jobs away from Americans...this will start a religious war in our country that has 'freedom of religion' – OUR COUNTRY IS NOT MUSLIM...This is a TERRORIST take over OUR BEAUTIFUL AMERICA!!! AMERICANS SHOULD TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY...If you want to keep our country FREE.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan Tucker

      And I thought PJ only had half a brain! Tell me, how does it feel to be the stupidest person on this discussion form?

      September 8, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • JanInscho

      This group and mosque has been in the neighborhood for over two decades. Should Rosa Parks have moved half way to the back of the bus. And by the way;, the old Burlington Coat Factory is not hallowed ground. If it is then the Gentleman's Club and the Burger King down the block should be closed as well. I'm proud to be a New Yorker in support of religious freedom. And Soledad is conducting a terrible interview worthy of FoxNews

      September 8, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Of course terrorism is wrong and unacceptable anywhere in the world, including America. But you saying 'go back to your own country' is not only exptremely racist, it is the exact opposite of what America stands for. The very thing that makes America beautiful. It's a place where new Americans can build a better life for themselves. I suggest that it would be a better option to actively and postiviely help people assimilate than to attack and cause hurt

      September 8, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jeff

    Let him build it. He, for a long time, has tried to bring religions together. This has nothing to do with hate, but our response to him building it does. Don't paint all muslims with the same brush. Most are peace loving.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony M

      In a world were the world's population is 7 billion... and Muslim population of 1.3 Billion.... take note everyone.. Not all Muslims think alike! Muslim "Extremists" caused 9/11 not regular Muslims!

      Still think ALL MUSLIMS think alike? Consider this.. 1.3 Billion MUSLIMS versus 312 million Americans... DO ALL AMERICANS THINK ALIKE?

      September 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. lisa

    what are folks afraid of? If the country could survive slavery, it will live with a community center. Pick another fight.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hella

    It is outragerous what CNN does. I wish that producers and all CNN personnels who came with the idea to put this demagog on its program lose their family member during the next terrorist attack.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Michi

    The Imam can say what he wants, beat the 1st Amendment to death and call opponents of this mosque two blocks from Ground Zero islamaphobes, racists, and ignorant, but lets call the spade a spade. He wants this mosque two blocks from GZ as it would be offensive and disrespectful to all those affected by the events of 9/11 otherwise he would build in a different location. This issue has upset a great deal of Americans not because they are anti-Islam, anti-Muslim, or whatever card it is that Imam is playing to justify his point, it is because they consider Ground Zero sacred ground. Since Islam is such a loving religion, show some love for your fellow man and build somewhere else!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. maggi

    100,0000 in 1970 and 9,000,000,000 YES and ISLAMIC invation

    September 8, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony M

      Nice statistic... but that was 40 years ago... what? The far past still applies today? How about 360,000 people in Hiroshima? Who were the angels then?

      September 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jojo

    What's next??? Why don't we put a SUSHI BAR AT PEARL HARBOR??

    September 8, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Maybe a Sony store at the memorial site??

      September 8, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. nick

    And I thought Larry King could serve up marsmellows? Why doesn't Soledad ask him why Islam is so intolerant of other religions! Why isn't CNN protecting gay rights? Why isn't CNN asking about women's rights? Why hasn't the Muslim world condemned all the slaughter they are responsible for? CNN: promote Obama's Muslim appeasement!!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bpsmitty

    I thought this was a "free" country? i guess only if your a christian...

    September 8, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erika

      Took the words out of my mouth!!

      September 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      And mine too..

      September 8, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Regina

    You have to be kidding me...Was that article on page 593 of the ny times......this is not your time or turn or anything. Muslim extremist destroyed the world trade center. WE will not allow you to speak about being muslim in America. the bottle that's a slap in the face.
    you have created decisiveness and the national security of whom...the radical's will be dealt with. Soledad? I am sorry Ms. Soledad you deserve proper recognition.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. john thomas

    I think they shoud gohead with mosque,becaue there is a chruch,shoping places,strip bar ext,so masque don't make any different.This is USA.Also tell all moslum leaders to talk good about USA and our religious freedom.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Drimion Bowie

    I guess a compromise would admit defeat and that is not an option for Imam. It really reminds me of terrorism and the mind set of how a terrorist thinks," I am right and you are always wrong." "Therefore are no compromises with you at all." If you have that mind set, then there is no stopping you until it is done. Imam is not alone on this mind set because Catholic Inquisition has used it, Christianity uses it, even Buddhists. What needs to happen is a compromise from Imam to show that," We respect you, now please respect us." Now that would change the face of the earth in a heart beat.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • nearlyclearly

      That would change the face of the earth in a heart beat? That's what Israel has been doing for decades and all they did was play the fool with Arafat who lied and lied and lied-while smiling and sending suicide bombers and rejoicing in the deaths of innocents. No, playing by rational and moral rules while the enemy smiles at you because he is playing by rules that say murder, lying, cheating, stealing and death are OKAY, is just plain STUPID. Open your eyes. Gheesh.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. avdm

    The big question is the financing - how much does it follow strict sharia guidelines, where is the money coming from, how was the money for the building obtained. Too many questions about the money to approve the project.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
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