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. cc

    Please take her off.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ann Csonka & John De Noyer, Virginia

    We were glad to hear that Soledad O'Brien was doing this special interview. However, NOW, we are amazed that Soledad is taking a combative and angry tone with the Imam. This is not good journalism.
    By definition, the center will not be a "mosque" - though it will have prayer space for Muslims, Christians, and Jews, as well as many activities in most of the building.
    THIS IS ABOUT FUNDAMENTAL AMERICAN VALUES - the critical importance of a pluralistic nation, with religious freedom for all - period.

    An earlier blog included comments form a 9-11 mother, as follows:
    June 7th, 2010 10:43 am ET
    "As a 9/11 family member who lost my son Firefighter Timothy Welty at the WTC, I strongly Support building a cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero. Whereas the attacks of 9/11 were an act of hatred and anger, this cultural center will be a symbol of inclusiveness and healing, welcoming all in the community to come to its events, regardless of differences of faith. This country was founded to foster religious freedom.

    Let us adhere to the vision of our founding fathers not the vitriol that caused the attacks on our nation.
    Adele Welty – Flushing, NY – Mother of Firefighter Timothy Welty, FDNY, Squad 288"

    We should ALL get beyond the pain of personal loss, live by the "golden rule", and value the unique freedoms that make this nation AMERICA!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jen

    Just like he said the NYT disclosed this last year and there were no problems. we get a little closer to mid-terms, and all of a sudden there's a problem. The problem is politics. If there were no elections I doubt this would even be on the news. I'm so sick of the talking heads, never talking about things that really matter. America = freedom of religion. Should be end of story.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe brown

      I absolutely agree with you Jen. This is a controversy invented for political reasons, and the fear mongers of the last adminisitration's ilk. Shame on them

      September 8, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Barbara Bartholomew

    To Soledad and to Anderson Cooper, I urge you to be responsible journalists as interviewers on this delicate subject. I was saddened to see an hour of uncharacteristic hostility in your demeanor Soledad as you queried the Imam. Now Anderson is in charge of the dialogue. Let's keep it as unemotional as possible please. I admire the peacemaking efforts of the Imam.. He kept his cool throughout the hour-long interview with Soledad. I also agree with him regards, we must not allow the radicals to take over the discussion. I am a practicing Christian who believes we need peacemakers of all faiths. We also need to have constructive dialogue.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Oran

    Once again we are supposed to bow down and kiss the feet of Muslims. Why isn't this clown flat out denouncing 'radical Islam'. If muslims want to get angry at the US for burning Qurans and if Muslims want to increase violence because the mosque is moved, I say bring it on. One more dead radical Musim brings us all closer to peace. I'm so damn sick of the threats.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mm

    The Muslims took to the streets today to burn images of the pastor and the American flag. How come they can't come out in such strength and numbers against the radicals who have hijacked Islam? I wonder is it because they are in support of the behavior. They have not problem protesting for something they feel strongly about...and rightly so. But now I want to see them come out against the radicals.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • XgrllX

      Since when has burning the American flag religious hatred? America allows this freedom...maky!!! But burning religious books is ignorance! You will never see a Muslim burn the bible or the torah because they are also religious books and have the name GOD in them!!

      September 9, 2010 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. LUCY


    September 8, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      What do you think Einstein? He works on behalf of the State Department, maybe not on the no-fly list? Ya think?

      September 8, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. vincent

    At a point that Imam say. We will welcome the family of the victimes in our Mosque to remember their loved ones. How will those people feel when they hear "allah abouar" same chant those terrorists used while crashing the 2 planes in the twin towers ?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hs

      Vincent, If a bad person praise God and do his heinous crime, does that mean we should stop praising God?

      September 8, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. joe brown

    Stop telling me about poll numbers unless you are willing to present them to me in detail, as I know as a person with research background that you can get anyone to saying anything if you phrase the questions correctly.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jan

    Not impressed with interview. Ms. O'Brien seemed to be too personally involved. How many times did she ask and receive an answer about why the center could not just be built somewhere else? It's as if she wanted to bully him into agreeing to do so on air. Also, she didn't want to hear about the strip clubs in the area dismissing the mention of them by stating that she knows all about them. Well, I as a viewer did not know about them and would like to have heard more about the area.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. clem

    The koran makes good toilet paper!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      So do my bibles hypocrite, so ashamed to have been a Christian. This country has surely lost its way.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Daniel

    I tip my hat to Ms. O'Brien for such an excellent Interview. I also send kudos to the Imam for being courageous enough to address these sensitive issues.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. vincent

    Come on people, wake up!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jdk

    His threats should be taken seriously. That means we should definitely insist on moving the mosque. F*** him and his "Radicals".

    September 8, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. cc

    This construction worker just took a complete 180.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
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