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. Fouad Attia

    Solidet lost my respect to her. Very rude combative and sidi not listen.

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

      She wasn't nearly tough enough....

      September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • InsertPictureofMohammadHere

      The questions weren't slow enough softballs? You mean she should've asked him about how Islam's ultimate goal is to provide an adorable kitten to every person on earth?

      September 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dennis

    The Imam has evoked the What Would Jesuse Do question- Ask him what he thinks Jesus would do in this issue.
    Solidad, you are well informed and not afraid to ask the tough questions. I am your new number one fan.

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

      she was rude!!! she is sooo baised herself!!!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lindsey

    I have found Soledad's behavior tonight to be irresponsible and unprofessional during the interview. I cannot respect someone who is unable to hide her bias on-air. Let the man speak, or at least return to the question once the commercial break is over. The parts of the the interview that could have been most interesting were never even addressed after the questions were asked. Disappointing to say the least...

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

    Soledad is just unwilling to listen. Very very biased interview. I am extremely disappointed.

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

    i agree , I dont know how soledad made it to the larry king status. who is she anyways

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

    Soledad keeps quoting this survey about 71% of Americans don't want this center built there – well, my opinion wasn't included in this statistic so how many other Americans' opinions are not reflected in it? That's the danger of quoting statistics. They can be skewed any which way to serve a purpose. I for one say this is a step towards learning and understanding – it's about acceptance, not tolerance or prejudice and fear.

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

    This was a great opportunity to engage the Imam in a meaningful conversation and get some insight into the mind of the person at the centre of this great national debate... Solidad – You just made a farce of it by lose all structure to the discussion. You were focussed on telling us that you live in downtown rather than prod the Imam on the subject.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Louise Montgmery

    Why did CNN allow Soledad to continue this interview with the Imam when it became clear she was pushing her own agenda. She seemed to have only one question: Why won't you move the center? Her hostility and her non-professionalism were such that CNN should have pulled her off the air instantly. The imam, by contrast, was even-viced and calm, trying to give some dignity to her stupid remarks sometimes posed as questions.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • KarenS

      I was in agony listening to the interview. It appeared that it didn't matter what the Imam had to say, Soledad was simply waiting for her turn to speak. I had the feeling that she didn't even hear what he had to say. She was painfully dogged and non responsive to his comments. It was clear that her mind was CLOSED!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. shimmyshimmy

    Some body said u there that oh the strip joints have been there for ages and no one is making new ones anymore. You clearly do not know what scared means. Again i dont blame you, Your iq is probably lower than you age.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Pat

    This is INSANE! Are we this foolish? I can see the evil in this man's eyes. And Michael Bloomberg needs OUSTED.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Donald Tarazano

    Why was Sharia law and body mutilation and stoning discussed?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. KarenS

    Take the high road America. Celebrate the fact that you do not have to be imprisoned by what happened on September 11, 2001. Welcome the Mosque into the community. The freedoms represented by this issue are what is sacred. That is what it means to be American, period.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Alex

    the Imam: "you can't say that a place that has strip clubs is sacred ground"

    September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Yawn

    Just another coached double talk and BS session with predictable answers.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Helen

    I am neither Muslim, Christian nor Jew–and I am tired of their squabbles. This imam made a wonderful impression on me and is a man of peace. Soledad was inappropriate in her tone, yet he kept his cool. I have changed my position on the center==let it be a symbol of religious unity. Either the US stands for religious freedom or it doesn't–that's why the pilgrims came here. All those in opposition are emulating the terrorists in their narrow and harmful view. This iman is a wonderful ambasador for Islam–the good kind.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
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