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. Price-Hagos

    Soledad was a poor choice by CNN to host this interview. She was confrontational, and it is unfortunate that her verbal and non-verbal language spoke loudly to her bias – not appropriate for a journalist. I do not agree with Larry coming on at teh end and saying "outstanding job". It was not!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jrt1098

    Too CNN, is there any reason the American public should TRUST you at all ! That interview was an embarrasment to ANY legitimate NEWS organization ! You do not deserve the protections afforded a FREE PRESS this country

    September 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. I Support the Center Location

    Is it me or is Soledad being a major B to this guy? She is usually much more unbiased, but she's showing a lot of hostility toward him and I find it distateful. I'm a Christian and I support the Imam. It would be a sad day in America if the Imam changes the location of his vision. It's time to grow up people and get over your fear and anger. 9/11 was almost 10 years ago and muslims were killed in that attack along side Christian and Jews and other regilions. I can't believe Soledad asked that stupid question about bodies being buried under a building blocks away from ground zero. What a stupid question. Come on Soledad you're smarter than that.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ROB

    The dark imam Soleded is insinuating that the bars, strip clubs, etc. are not sacred either; the mosque is. Mark this, the first thing on this imam and this mosque's agenda is to eradicate these bars and clubs and their frequenters. Protect your cculture and country folks. Terms like "freedom of choice, love, freedom of religion, etc." will be gone, and gone forever. The radicals of the muslim world that the imam is talking about is the card he is using to threaten you folks. Wake up and smell the coffee!!!
    Money, ok, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Hisbullah, Jordan, etc. etc. Are you kidding me! Go visit any mosque in the Middle East on any Friday and hear for yourself what is being said on microphones about the infidels: Christians and Jews. DO NOT BUILD THIS THING PLEASE. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PEACE IN ISLAM. THE ARE FOOLING YOU AMERICANS. THE IMAM IS THREATENING YOU WITH THE MUSLIM RADICALS AND HEADLINES IN THE ISLAMIC WORLD. HOPE YOU GET. THE GUY IS MANIPULATIVE.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cc

    I have a neutral position on the issue but i have to credit the man for his grace and patience. Soledad acted like a 4 year old with the 71% statistic memorized. She did not even seem into the interview. Larry should have done this interview himself.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ann in Virginia

      Thank you. His patience with her biased questions was striking.


      September 8, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Eric


    September 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • ginger

      then move to Iraq or Iran . . . .you'll be happier!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jeff

    All I have to say......I dare anybody to choose just 1 Islamic country they would like to live in.......I dare can't because everyone can see what Islam has done for countries......

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

    He is right when he says that Americans abroad will be in danger. My husband (an American works for USAID) in a muslim country. Americans who fear Muslims or think that they are all full of anger should at least visit a muslim society first. How many of you who have been posting in this blog actually lived among Muslims?! Their religion is as kind and pure as any other religion. Any religion has its radical side, just like that preacher who is planning to burn the Quran!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • abby

      Actually, I know muslims very well - killed most of my paternal grandfather's family in one day - they were hacked to pieces. Of course, the muslims blamed their victims -

      September 8, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Caroline Shaker

    Imam go home and go back to your country. I'm Canadian and does not affect me, but I feel very sorry the thousands of people who died and families are still morning their loved ones. Obviously, it's like my way or the highway and no sensativity to American people. No Imam, is not moderage because he is strongly a believer on the Sharia Law which is NO moderation.

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

    I think that CNN did no justice with this interview by having Soledad Obrien interviewing Imam Rauf. Imam is completely out of her leauge. Anderson Cooper would have done a better job by far and the outcome of the interview would be viewed completely different. I am a Christian American and feel that they have the right to build an Islamic Center. Its ignorant Americans who want to create hate towards all Muslims. We are here on this earth to live and learn together and when our time is done on earth we are all achieving one in the same goal. So let them build!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Reinaldo Medina

    Soledad, you seem to forgot what it is racial persection... this is religious persecution. Educate youself, do a special report on Being Muslim in America

    September 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. abby

    Rauf - heifer dust.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Anonymous

    Soledad was a very poor candidate to interview the Imam. She is conducting the interview using emotion and NOT rationale. It is the media in this country that uses emotion to report news and it is this emotion that creates the backlash that we now have in this country. It is obvious she is ignorant of the depth of the situation in NYC about this Masjid and it is this ignorant reporting that propels the hate and prejudice we now have in this country.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. iShane

    I think I'll suggest to my neighbor that, if they don't let me build a pool on their property, they will suffer violence. What a crock. So!? This is our new policy, be 'feared' into submission? if that is true, then, we've become laughable as a 'great' nation of sturdy resolve and should change our national symbol that of a Bald Eagle to that of flopping chicken.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Barb

    I agree with the other posts – what a terrible interview. She pushed until she got the answer she wanted. Also, concerning the planned burning of the Quran -I agree with Hilary Clinton – journalists and media need to stop giving them publicity.

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