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. Nicole

    Why is it alright for Muslims to burn our flag in other countries?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Corsair624

      It is not ok of course. I view it as an act of desperation.

      September 11, 2010 at 5:03 am | Report abuse |
  2. Shane

    Why is the religion of Islam tied to the pain of 911? Why should a Mosque be a threat?
    Hard to believe but Americans believe that a billion plus people were and are represented by a bunch of coward terrorists from caves in Afghanistan? hmmmm
    American ignorants are no different than the radicals in the Muslim World.
    Sadly, the radicals on both sides must be joyous that in 2010 we have such feelings about one another.

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

    How come the two "real people" on the panel understood the threath and the others pretend that it isn't? How can you say that the fact journalists in the US did not reproduce the cartoon showing the Islamic God in strange situations is a good thing? We should lose some of our freedom of speech while others can have theirs?

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

      It's because vigilance is now equated to bigotry, political correctness is king, and apathy is the way of life in America.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luc

      That was one precise answer. Thanks!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Seth Hill

    Urinate on me, and I become clean. Burn me, and I rise even stronger from the ashes. I'm the American flag; I'm the spirit of America. Build a mosque right next to our graveyard, and I hurt, but I get over my pain, and I might even forgive you, and I might even learn to love you. We Americans are kind of strange that way.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Raymond

    Look at the construction worker speaking out of his ass on Anderson Cooper.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      This lady needs to ramp up her dose!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Viewer

    I wonder if Larry or CNN or the Imam was opposed to do the interview.
    Soledad was a bad choice.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. LeAne

    Why is it called the Cordoba center? Why is the plan to open it on 9/11?

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

    This man enjoys America and has turned his back on Islam by stealing goats from Muslims in order to become famous and rich in America. He loves America and Americans.. And he wishes he was born American.

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

    3 questions I would like answered: #1 why is there suddenly a building boom in mosques all across America; #2 where is all the money coming from? #3 does anyone besides me remember the term "5th column?"

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

    I'm watching Anderson Cooper and I'm shocked and offended by the idiocy of the woman and that fireman. Like really, showing a picture..really? I want to show her a couple of pictures of how people are being killed in the Middle East.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sean

    Hasn't Soledad learned anything from doing her show Black in America? Or is she just doing it for her own notoriety? It seems that after two years on the air with that show she has missed the whole point? Doesn't Rosa Parks or MLK mean anything?

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

    Quote from Quran:
    YUSUFALI: The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;

    You decide......

    September 8, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • VM

      And based on a Muslim colleague, every Muslim is a desendant of Mohammad, so they justify any attack on their "brothers" and a major excuse being the creation of Israel in the so-called Palestanian nation, as just. This is not radical Islam, this IS Islam.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • wileysee


      September 8, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • wileysee

      sorry VM I certainly did not mean you.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Fred

    What the Imam meant is transparent. Submit to the will of the muslim faithful or suffer the consequences. He threatens with a smile. In the name of religious freedom of course.
    When will American muslims demand the religious freedom to practice polygamy, too? That's no worse than erecting a de facto shrine to the ten hijackers, devout muslims all, some of whose ashes likely fell on the spot for this proposed Islamic recruiting center. And since the hijackers were waging jihad and made martyrs of all the muslims they killed at the WTC that day, this guy will probably want to blare the muslim call to prayer via loudspeaker five time a day, so it invades the minds of the mourners at the WTC a couple of blocks away. Or else!

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

      Right on!

      September 9, 2010 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  14. wileysee

    The Iman should be told in no uncertain terms that threats of increased violence against Americans will be met with a counter strike that would knock the radical Muslim aggressors so far back that their ancestors 100 years ago would feel it. We should also deliver on that threat and not allow the appeasers in the United States try to even soften the blow or deter us. In the past we (Americans) have not taken kindly to threats. By no means should we now. Our President and others in Government need to begin to look out for American interests and quit apologizing to the world for being the best, most generous, most democratic and most technically advanced nation in the world.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Wow

    This COULD have been a good and interesting interview about an important issue. Instead, Soledad totally blew it.

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