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. clem

    Muslims burn our flag and preach hate. You do not come to our country and tell us how to live. Every muslim house of worship needs to be destroyed. I fought you mother%#^&*( in the desert and I say to this day the only good muslim is one with a bullet in the head. Your religon is phony go back to where you came from Hadji! !

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

    If he truly, as he claimed, did not know this would be so controversial, he is WAAAAAAAAAAY too %@#$& stupid to lead anybody anywhere.

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

    One point that Soledad kept bringing up is that 71% of Americans do not want the cultural center to be built at this location. This would give the impression that the masses are always right. If this is the case were the masses right when they did not want African Americans to be free and end slavery? We should all never forget that we are a country of many religions and we all have the right of prayer anywhere we want.

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

      thank you ivan for reminding us of our basic rights which some groups are still fighting for...

      September 8, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joe W

    Without agreeing or disagreeing with the current plans, I have to ask why anyone is taking into consideration the radical's response. We should not be intimidated by what they might do.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Muhammad Abdullah

    What happened on 9/11 was a disgusting act by some individuals with warped thinking. It is wrong to associate those individuals with Islam. Their action was completely at odds with the guidance in Qur'an. Infact, I would argue they were as much "Muslims" as Tim McVeigh was a "Christian". The people opposed to this Islamic Center need to do some research to sort out the facts from the fiction. This Islamic Center should be built and let it serve as an beacon of peace for this nation as well as the entire globe.

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

    It sounded like infomercial, not a interview. CNN network sounded too happy to get the interview with imam and did not want to offend imam.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. M Seth

    He said people in the Middle East "have been very concerned about this" issue

    Why should we care about their concerns?
    Would they reciprocate similarly?
    Why isn't the imam talking about this?
    Why isn't he being questioned about this?
    Can a pastor/priest/rabbi build a church/temple/synagogue in Saudi Arabia?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 2010RF12

    Based on our freedom's, that I hold dearly and will die for, it's very hard to argue that it is wrong to build the center there. They have that right. However, as far as I can tell there does seem to be double standards with the Islam religion. Is it just the perception that the media portrays? Is it just my perception? My view is that Islam is brutal, unforgiving, and a threatening. Stone your women to death!!! Death threats to cartoonists! Fly airplanes into buildings! Our troops are in danger because somebody burns a Quran. Either convert or die! Are we all in danger if the center doesn't get built there? That sounds like terrorism to me. It really is a slap in America's face using our freedom against us. Just like our airplanes. If I am wrong and Islam is tolerant of other religions and ways of life then why don't these people stand up against these extremists. Why?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Julie V

    If they want to bridge the gap between Muslim and Christianity.....make the darn center a Muslim-Christian Center that can truely educate and bridge the gap between the two religions. duh!

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

    Solidad should not be conducting this inteview. She is very impatient and rude, and is not ready to listen. Extremely horrible interviewing.

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

    When asked about the burning of the Quran he said: "I would plead with him to seriously consider what he is doing. It is going to feed into the radicals in the Muslim world," Why didn't he use this time to appeal to the radicals? Seems like what he was saying is that the radicals have a right to re-act to this act of burning of the Quran. He is biased and I don't trust him. If he wants to build bridges, he should appeal to his own people to not react to a radical pastor.

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

    "This is America the land of the free. People have every right to warship were they want whenever they want to."

    You really believe that claptrap? Try camping on my private property to excercise your "rights" to telepathically communicate with invisible omnipotent beings who aren't potent enough to show themselves and speak for themselves; imigainary deities.

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

    I used to support Soledad but obviously she drank the cool-aid. The interview couldn't have been more one sided. When he asked her for her opinion, she didn't answer. These people that AC are interviewing is crazy.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. sri

    So let me get this straight. This idiot and his rich fool real estate fool have just created a whole controversy that will cause the US to be in danger whether the mosque is there or not !!! THIS FOOL IS SAYING THAT IF THEY MOVE, THE RADICALS IN MIDDLE EAST WILL ATTACK. So you, mr imam idiot basically put all us all at risk !!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meg

      Now you are feeling the way Iraqi people felt when US and it allies said "show us your Weapons of Mass Distraction or we will attack!!!"

      September 9, 2010 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  15. Reinaldo Medina


    September 8, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
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