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. eli cortez

    I am a christian and I believe in this country and our way of life, I love being an american which I why I am joining the air force in a few months. I also believe that the islamic faith should be allowed to freedom of faith and should build there church. I believe in freedom of faith and I believe the war is against terror not islam. I pray that we over come this and that america prevails. God bless america.

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

    is she conducting an interview or an interrogation!!! this seems liek FOX interview rather than CNN!! why is she sooooo angry?!!!!

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

    Sounds to me like if they don't built it there, we Americans are in for some more terrorist attacks. Now why would they want to do that if they are peaceful Muslims....or they want us to believe they are. Just the comments he made shows that they are not sincere and don't care about Americans. This is not a good sign...just watch!!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. tj of Cedar Fork

    Anderson Cooper...the Blind and Deaf will be interviewed now...

    September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John Whitaker

    How about if they built the Mosque 10 blocks away. You think it will stop there? Big fat Liar!

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

    Fantastic interview Soledad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Expected the usual far left interview, but was unexpectedly surprised! She voiced the questions of 70% of americans!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. James

    Undoubtably Soledad O'Brien will be lauded for her "hard-hitting" interview with Imam Rauf. In fact, it's clear that she's shown herself to be a simpleton and reactionary. Considereing how important this interview is, at this very sensitive time, CNN made a terrible judgement in error by putting this angry lightweight in such a position. It's utterly unwatchable. CNN should apologize to the American people for blowing this opportunity to promote understanding and consensus building. The treatment of American Muslims is the civil rights issue of this generation. Soledad O'Brien, along with 70% of American citizens, will be shown to be on the wrong side of history. The more things change . . .

    September 8, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • steeve-o

      She did stand up for the tough questions. I think she felt the issues needed clarification, and I commend her for forcing them, including getting him to admit that Hamas supports terrorist actions. She did him a favor, I think she knew he'd say the right thing.
      And she's all kinds of cute when she's fiesty....

      September 8, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jsw2495 from florida

    Soledad o brian has lost my respect tonight. She could not keep her personal bias out of her interview nor would she let the imam speak fully. He is corect that because the extremeist from both sides have so raised the level of this that it has taken the reconciliation discourse away from the moderates who were trying to do someting to create a place of dialogue. Soledad did not interview, she created a debate as a n obvious new york christian. What happened to non biased journalism?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. R. Krull

    I am watching Soledad O'Brien's interview with Rauf. I have admired her reporting in the past but think her behavior here is very one-sided. Shouldn't she consider several sides of the issues related to the proposed Islam center and religious freedom?

    She seems, instead, to be intent on attacking Rauf as if all responsibility for controversy lies with Rauf. I find Soledad's approach seriously lacking in journalistic skill and integrity.

    Unless the media are able to bring more information and insightful analysis to such topics, we are not likely t o have informed discussed or action on the part of public.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. J

    Why dodge simple "yes" and "no" questions? What are you hiding?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Clearly said.

    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."

    And, like the inquisitors in Spain, they had the full support and backing, and working under the direction of the RELIGIOUS LEADERS.

    Well said Mr. Religious Leader.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. maria

    how is it that Solidad keeps referencing the fact that 71% of americans are opposed to the mosque when the survey on CNN's own site says that 53.6% of American are in favor of it. Solidad was embarrassingly biased, and obviously doing her very best to trap this intelligent man in saying something he'd regret. Shame on you Solidad.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. TAN

    Soledad is doing a great job asking all the questions that American has been asking. This is not the kind of interview that gives the guest friendly questions due to the controvery involved with this issue. She is pushing for answers but Imam Rauf is a double talker and doesn't give a direct answer. Sounds like a politician. This bit about we have to now build it there for "National Security" is ridiculous! What the radicals will hate us more? If he is such a bridge builder let him explain to the Muslim world that HE made a mnistake which caused a great number of people a lot of pain and needed to amend his plans for the greater good. He is the one that is making it worse!

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

      If the imam truly cared about our nations security he would have dropped this the minute it came to light. To say we have to build it now for our security is a threat and saying we should live in fear. Hell no! We are so politically correct in this country and we bow too much to all other countries and apoligize for our actions when we help everyone and end up with egg in our face at the end of the day. We have to stand up for our rights and not be fearful of people who already want to see us dead. We have liberty and honor in this country and this mosque should not exist at that site. Move that mosque!!!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. islam sucks

    Lydia, you are too blind to see that the innocent deaths are caused in much wider numbers by crazy people of islam who without blinking an eye blow up buses. A couple of drone missles bother you? Those missles targeted people who would have stoned you just for being as stupid as you are.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. H.

    I'm saddened by the type of interview Ms. Soledad was carrying with the imam. It clearly showed that Ms.Soledad was on the attack. The reporter was not looking for answers she was feeding on obvious hatred. The terrorist killed muslims too on 9/11. I trust CNN news; however, this reporter was a poor choice for this interview. Thank you.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:04 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