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. Caroline

    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 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Parisa

    Why is Soledad so confrontational when the Imam is advocating peace? Is this much different than what the African=Americans went through in the 60s, an issue Soledad herself is so passionate about? How did Civil Rights come about other than discourse, dialogue and yes confrontation? If she relates it to her own experience as a black woman in America she may have a better understanding of what Muslims are experiencing in this country right now. It was obvious she was only focused on confronting the Imam rather than creating a dialogue about what the issues facing this country are right now. It seemed more important to her to back him into a corner rather than talk about the real issues confronting us all right now. As a former journalist myself I can say that was her tactic, especially given all the sound bite clips she used. The focus could easily have shifted onto what the Imam was asking her at the end of the interview which is how do we solve this?

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

      "You should do what we want or your security will be jeopardized" = peace? Yep, you must be a Muslim.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • steeve-o

      Soledad was playing offense there, that foxy babe. I think she was just playing hardball.

      No, not "that" Fox.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • steeve-o

      I wish Soledad would interrogate me for a little while....mmmm rowr....

      September 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mark

    What an arrogant warmongering moronic hippocrite this man is.

    I cannot believe this crap.

    Please move the proposed site.

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

    Wonder if there will be "Corinthian leather" in the Cordoba house maybe a painting of Ricardo Monteban

    September 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. M Seth

    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.

    The Imam could have moved out gracefully and curbed the hate right at the start of the controversy. He chose not to!
    Obviously a lot of us are sensitive to the construction of this mosque and it is not too late to recognize that and move out. Its the graceful thing to do.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. steeve-o

    The Imam brought up a good point, that bears repeating... if it's hallowed ground that is sacred, how come you will allow a strip club, but not a mosque?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. AI

    I propose a Universal Worship Center – built BY and FOR all religions and denominations. It's a fair resolution – and doesn't slap Americans in the face.

    Tell your local politician to grow a backbone and stand up for America.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. read the history

    I will give you examples from Indian history of how moghul rulers built mosques on very sacred Hindu sites to claim victory
    1) Ram Janmabhoomi has Babri Masjid
    2) Krisha Janmabhoomi has another mosque
    3) the world famous Taj sits on top of a destroyed Shiva Temple. This symbol of love actually once completed, the moghul king chopped off the hands of the artists

    Such is the wonderful nature of this religion. Women and children will starve but the men will feed their faces in nice restaurants!
    And now history repeats itselt! Call it first amendment or what, the rest of the Muslim world will see it as their strength and victory and defeat of America!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. A friend of non-violence

    Solidad – what a hero – what a poor job.
    Solidad has not asked once his father's association to the grand mufti and muslim brotherhood.
    This is a transparent plot. No sane American, Muslim or not-Muslim should support this imam wannabe.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Veritas1

    Iman Rauf is exactly right, We(all americans), must work together to build bridges. I am not a muslim I am a Christian, and I believe the best way to heal and truly give honor to everyone that died at the towers is to build the mosque. I feel this becasue, it would show we are bigger then fear and show OUR true american ideals. Remember not only chistians died on 911, but also muslims, jews, pagans, atheists. Iman Rauf's idea of having an interfaith area within the mosque would be the first of it's kind. Where the worlds faiths can converge and find commonality. What better then place then New York, What better time then now. Soledad Keeps saying this is not a good time, however if you have a bad infection, sometimes you must lance it in order for it to heal it ...I believe the rehtoic that gets publicsized is infectious and hurts everyone. Soledad says 71% disagree about the many of those 71% know a moselm, How many of those are just going along with what they hear in the news....Soledad complained about moderate moslems not standing up,,,,,I turn on CNN and I see radical this,,,, and radical that,,,,, This is really one of the few times I have seen someone who is moderate and speaking out....I believe you, CNN have a duty to help heal this as well....As a christian,,,I Know we are called to follow Christ and forgive.We should seek Peace, and not blame everyone for the bad actions of a few....It is really easy to be a radical..and NOT just Moselms are radical......

    September 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. goatlover

    Oh great. So how is THIS FREEDOM!!!!! "If the mosque isn't built, our NATIONAL SECURITY IS AT RISK?????"
    Islam is Evil. Plain and simple. This is AMERICA. IF folks don't want a mosque at a certain place, they shouldn't have to have it. The same goes for a bar, a strip joint or even a church. That is what TRUE freedom is all about. THREAT IS NOT FREEDOM.... so how is Islam Peaceful??? Sharia???????? Great..... what a bunch of sick nut jobs.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • American Muslim

      You dishonor goats

      September 8, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. michelle blagman

    This gentleman is obviously trying to improve Muslim-American relations. He is consistently courteous, and definitely giving us a chance to prove that we are America, our founders wanted freedom of religion, and if we go against Islam by saying that our American-Muslims are hated and feared so much that we deny them a location in a seedy part of NY just because they are Muslim, we will no doubt have reprisals from the terrosts themselves justifying further attacks and Hatred of America.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • InsertPictureofMohammadHere

      Wow, courtesy has really fallen a long way if that's your idea of courtesy.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. dave

    I'm disappointed in soledad as a moderator or interviewer. Would She ask these same questions of Martin Luther King? Would she ask him to put his Dream away because lots of Americans are upset with his marches through the South? Does she think America is worse off because of his stand against racial prejudice? Isn't this just a different form of intolerance? I was impressed with the Imam; he's in the best tradition of Ghandi and Martin Luther King

    September 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • InsertPictureofMohammadHere

      You really want to put a guy who has refused to denounce Hamas in the past (even though he begrudgingly did tonight) and chooses to blame America for 9/11 on the same pedestal as Martin Luther King and Ghandi? What planet are you from?

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

    I don,t agree with muslim beliefs but I know muslim people , do any of the people who oppose this mosque and muslims but will say they apparently don,t , actually know any muslims ,just cause the KKK members are white and christrian mean that all white people and christaians are evil ,this is the problem with non logical people ,just cause the terrorists are muslim doesn,t mean all muslims are evil .If they don,t build this mosque terrorists are going to recruite easier cause these terrorists recruite people by playing on their desilusions .If Martin Luther King had said people are going to get angry so lets not march ,come on man .All u people who say don,t build a mosque because the terrorists are muslim are just being racist ,you all need to stop playing christrain and act like christain and read your bible ,might be a black president but theirs a long way to go .Don,t let Soledad O,brein do another interview she was so biased asking the same questions three times and not letting him answer questions what is this fox news ,this is why CNN is third in the ratings .

    September 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ray

    If the IMAM is so sensitive to people of USA and NYC he can build the cultural center without the islamic prayer center.
    Show us you got a good heart if you do not want to move.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
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