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. Emad

    I am proud of America and for what it stands for . I am a Muslim born in America . When i travel overseas people hhave nothing bad to say about America just they wish they can come here to start a new life.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dwayne

      The Muslim world does not hate American people. They hate what our government is doing and the American people do not have the slightest ideal what is happening in the world because our corporate own media do not report it:CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jerry

    gotta kind of wonder how he would feel if people flew plained into biuldings in his country and killed people

    September 8, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Microbial

      You mean the US? Yes, I think he felt pretty awful when radical muslims took down the world trade centre just blocks away from his community. I think the Imam would appreciate your concern.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Really? If you're suggesting that terrorism and Islamic extremism doesn't occur and hurt people in the Middle East, then you are confusing your ignorance with what every American justly has; Opposition to terrorism.

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

    I really belive it would be offensive for ANY Religious building to be within a 1 mile radius of Ground Zero. If any one had half a brain just get the city to prohibit ANY church temple or mossque to be built a certain distance from Ground Zero. After all religion was the cause of all the pain and grief on 9/11

    September 8, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • O

      And yet New Yorkers are fighting really hard to get the Greek Orthodox Church rebuilt. It has nothing to do with location and everything to do with religion. I just wish that people would realize this and stop hiding behind the ridiculous "sacred ground" excuse.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      This country made progress because of the separation of church and state. All religions are free in USA. This is just a propaganda for midterm and no one will remember after November about this. Politicians should be ashamed of them self. Same for the 70% who are listening to this 24×7 propaganda.
      And it is OK to have a strip club within 1 mile?

      September 9, 2010 at 2:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. Alex

    Wow.. You wonder all of this stuff has been happening since Obama is in office?

    Mosques will be everywhere in the United States.. a mosque in a city in every state.

    Islam " the religion" of peace is growing RAPIDLY.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pojeraci

      LOLOL! Hey Alex ... nice try. Next time just scream BOOO! That'll do a better job of scaring everybody.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
  5. Erika

    Isnt there like 40,000 Muslims in our American military, soldiers who have fought And died for our freedom? All u Christians need to ask yourselves WWJD! I'm ashamed of the hate spewed at Muslims in this country as of late.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jojo

    And as long as we are protecting everyones RIGHTS let's support the the right of the Pastor in Florida to....BURN AS MANY COPIES OF THE KURAN AS HE LIKES????


    September 8, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. adlady


    September 8, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mgrommer

    Imam is lying on CNN right through his teeth. He is a con artist, thanks CNN for giving this dog air time – you should be ashamed. I wish CNN would move to the middle east.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • adlady


      September 8, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • nearlyclearly

      It's not against the laws of islam for a muslim to lie to a non-muslim. Non-muslims cannot even testify against a muslim in arab courts. We don't understand that over here, we think they are being honest when they smile and say all the right things. It's a different game they play, and it's not played by the same rules, people. Please get THAT if you don't get anything else!

      September 8, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • junaid

      you guys are hate mongers... im muslim and i am all about building bridges to every religion, to create tolerance, to create peace. Ive lived here all my life, i am as american as apple pie.. i deserve the same rights as anyone else, and its not taking advantage, its me being equal... Anything less and this wouldnt be america. I love the america, i love the values, the people, and the consitution. All the values i have dont go against any of my muslim values. I wish people would be more tolerant and try and understand before you hate, in the end it only hurts you. To any of the christians, would jesus hate? would he condemn all muslims for the actions of few? we have to look at ourselves before we judge anyone else... also do unto others as you would have them do unto you.. how would you feel if you were hated just because the actions of a few in your religion?

      If you guys want to preach hate, thats your right but it hurts america.. we need to stand united, its the only way to beat extremist... on both sides.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eve

      I for one am appreciative that CNN broadcast this interview. Yes, they have the right to build because of our laws but it concerns me that Imam Rauf states if this mosque is not built, there will be retribution, that we are being watched and the muslims will be upset and our national security is at risk. Why must we always bow down to them? Will he and other muslims allow us to build our christian churches in their country? I don't think so. When you go to their country, you are made to follow their culture and way of thinking. He speaks of being tolerant but I believe he does not believe that applies to himself and islam faith. Why doesn't he work with those of islam faith to be tolerant of Christians?

      September 8, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. maggi

    Islam is war and control ,womwn children ? “Yes, but only if she doesn't do as he asks.” … Muslim (4:2127) – Muhammad struck his favorite wife, Aisha, … Aisha narrates, "He struck me on the chest which caused me pain."

    September 8, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • junaid

      way to use only one-liners out of context... please qoute the whole passage

      i have one for you too... its a hadith- a story of how the prophet practiced what he preached
      and these are also the lesson i learned in the mosques i went to...

      The prophet was on his way to go pray one day when he passed by an older woman who shouted, cursed, and threw dung in his direction.
      The prophet said nothing and continued on his way to pray.
      This continued for a long time, every time he went to go pray this woman kept shouting and cursing at him.
      One day as the prophet walked by the woman was not there to shout and curse at him. The prophet albeit undoubtedly appreciated not being cursed, became concerned. He walked over to someone near there and inquired about the woman only to find out that she had been ill, and her illness was the reason she was not out cursing at him.
      Hearing this the prophet became even more concerned and walked to the woman's residence to personally check up on her and help nurse her back to health.

      We are all gods creation, no one is better then any other person and we should treat everyone with respect.

      To anyone who has ever felt hate, keep your head up... Keep treating others with respect- stay true to your values.

      To all the haters... treat others with more respect, you never know when you will need help. Maybe the next time your sick you end up at a muslim doctor.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      I agree with you. Actually "struck" in the Arabic word " Edrob" means "Struck to cause pain". That is Islam teaching. I hope America wakes up before its too late.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
  10. Samar

    I am American and i am muslim and i have nothing to do with those terrorists who attacked us so why is my country punishing me for some thing i did not do?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Henry Kloepper

      Samar: You are right... This not the fault of Muslims as a whole... The problem is that Muslims have for too long not been vocal enough and remained silent about actions caused by extremists in their midst... This issue reminds me of many conversations with my parents who grew up in Nazi Germany... When I asked why no one did anything about Hitler and what was happening to the Jews, they said they didn't know what was happening. BS!! was my response! In my view they chose to ignore it for fear of reprisals at best!!... I told them of a speech given by President JF Kennedy that spoke of having civil courage... It seems that we all have lost the notion of JFK's speech and profound words...

      A word of advice to the more vocal and recognised Muslims in America... Speak up and show tolerance and understanding of non muslims and condemnation of the lunatic fringe in your midst...

      Why is it that if muslims burn effigies of americans, behead people, stone women, throw acid on girls going to school, beat woman not wearing the proper attire... or worse yet question the Quran,or even draw a picture of Allah, absolute crap hits the fan and we are summarily sentenced to death by a bunch of lunatics...yet most muslims are quiet and somehow try to defend these actions by saying we should not provoke and mind our own business!! I think people are just tired of walking on egg shells and have shut up for far too long... This is why we have this backlash... I came to America (Canada) as a non believer (atheist) but I respect the traditions of the country that welcomed me in open arms...

      I am not muslin nor christian... Frankly speaking, I think they are all nuts! Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, whatever...If I was born in India I'd be Hindu, Muslim if born in Middle East, whatever... We are the product of our surroundings and for anyone to think they got it right, is a danger to society...and a threat to peace...

      Good night from Canada

      September 8, 2010 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Don

    The woman conducting this interview is ridiculous. How can she honestly say the Iman is trying to force peace on anyone? She is clearly not listening to him. She is just trying to be controversial and not an actual reporter.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Twinkling21

      I agree with U , she is not listening to Imam and asking ridiculous questions. I would rather have Larry King interviews Imam Feisal

      September 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • linda

      I agree. This whole thing is a media event that generates tons of dollars from advertisers. Smarten up America.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. RERoss

    I am really disappointed with Soledad O'Brien's interview. I fully support the building of the Islamic center in NYC. This is an opportunity to open the discourse on religion and diversity in the United States.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dave

    Soladad – I've respected your work in the past – but you are being so cautious and closed. Larry Kimg would engage and not just throw out canned questions. If you're going to fly under Larrys banner you should honor his approach. Not courageous journalism. Your guest is frank and compelling. You are coming off as closed and controlled. Pity.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Russ

    I don't know if I am spelling this right but I was informed that all muslims follow "Shareea" which is not only part of their religon but is there LAW. Under "Shareea" they can Lie, kill, do whatever it takes to promote Islam. So how can we ever believe they are telling the truth? How come this question in never asked to Ruaf, or anyone else. Why don't the good muslims get together and fight the extremeists, clean your own house first, then maybe others would be more willing to understand what Islam is really all about.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • adlady

      You got that right

      September 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • junaid

      hey, im glad your engaged and want to learn and asking questions.

      im muslim and i can tell you that what you have been told is wrong. Firstly, us muslims are not required to live under sharia law. In fact we are told to respect our community and adapt to their laws and regulations.

      secondly, we are never told to lie, kill, or cheat anyone into islam. What would be the purpose trying to force to into islam? you may have two arguments for this question and i will try to debunk them both. Firstly we muslims are just like you, we want to live our lives and just be happy. Do you ever want to go out and force anyone into your religion. no you dont and neither do we. We are only told to preach, and why do we preach, because just like anyone following a particular religion- we feel that our religion will lead us to heaven. And if i preach my religion its because i want you to go to heaven as well. I believe thats why anyone preaches. Also know that there is no compulsion in islam, you cant force anyone to become muslim, its a sin. This leads me to the second argument you may have, that i will be rewarded if i get others to convert. Well as i mentioned it is a sin to force religion on anyone, so if i forced you to become muslim then i would be punished and not rewarded.

      lastly, sharia is like our laws in the U.S., it has rules, regulations, and punishments... It would be silly to think that U.S. laws says that we can cheat, lie, and kill people into believing that U.S. is the best country on earth. In the same regard it makes no sense to think that sharia law would do the same...

      September 8, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. William

    The Imam made a profound point when he noted the story about the community center and mosque was published in the NY Times in December – and there was not a single voice of protest – for six months! Nobody said anything – why? Why wasn't it a problem between December 2009 and May 2010, but then it became a nation-splitting issue this summer?

    The responsibility lies with those who politicized the issue, and suggested it was a sinister global conspiracy, instead of simply a community center, which it is.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Republicans can cash in on this manufactured "controversy" for votes much more than they could have in December.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
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