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. M Seth

    I am proposing "Walk a pet pig day in NY"
    The route will from ground zero to two blocks from it.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • D.F.

      Who is that supposed to offend? Dietary restrictions don't mean anything other than Muslims can't eat pigs. I'm proposing that you'll be defiling supposedly sacred ground by doing that.

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

      Muslims would be at home with a hoard of Pigs and dogs!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • M Seth

      Dietary restrictions aside, they consider pig to be unclean and close to the devil himself.
      I consider my pet pig as my child and would like to walk him in Manhattan as and when I like.
      Would it be too insensitive to Muslims?? wink wink... hint hint....

      September 9, 2010 at 6:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. Codifex Maximus

    It looks as though the Imam needs to be concerned with angering alot of Americans.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. D.F.

    Okay, let's say by some chance this Imam is a radical. Why would he go onto national television to threaten the whole United States? Why would he go on and issue an ultimatum? It seems to me that "reading between the lines" here actually means interpreting the interview to feed a collective sense that a muslim community center, the whole muslim society, is a threat to "us."
    Guess what? Muslims are a part of us. I didn't know our nation comprised of only non-muslims, but if that's the case maybe it should be better publicized so the rest of us can get out.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Deron

    It bothers me to see the Soledad interview with the Imam as it seems she's lost her objectiveness towards the building of the Mosque by ground zero. We need to talk things out as it's clear that Islam does not teach what the 9/11 extremist perpetuate. Our country is built upon dialouge, and freedom of faith. There are extremist in all religions, and as a Christian I am appaled that other Christians are out there killing abortion doctors while calling themselves Christians. Does our country not allow christians to build where they want. This could really be a opportunity to open more dialouge, and learn from each other.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • maggi

      Islam is not like any other Religion, it was expanded by force in 700's and from that we can go to the Othman Empire and the kills of Armenia’s and in reset year Sudan a Christina persecution.
      With attacks from India to London and from Philippines to NY.
      Islam wants to destroy our America and a new like Arabian Kings
      We live in peace with Hindus with Buda’s with many other but Not Islamic why because they do only be force

      September 8, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Adam

    I am a muslim and i really don't think the mosque is a good idea. The original idea which may have had good intentions is obviously going to divide people instead of unite . Please don't build this mosque/multifaith centre, or whatever you want to call it.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. maggi

    Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression.
    But this Imam Islamic now are using US. With that classical say: “Laws goods when they are in my their favor but when they not well … they call them not fair yes ther is a freedom for his religin but However when they are not favor to Islam..well, remember when The Satanic Verses were publish? To us that book was only a part of the same 1st Amendment, freedom of press and expression what the Muslim reacting condemn to Dead to the historian Sir William Muir and big demonstrations yes in downtown New York , and when the cartoons of Mohamed same the creator condemn by Islam to a Dead penalty
    In Amerca we the laws are not only 1/2 thare are all inl one, this Imam is doing what ? only in my way

    September 8, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. D.F.

    Exactly, Arab – not Muslim. There's a difference between culture and religion.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. new york resident

    Simply put, this just doesn't feel right. Find another place for this. Perhaps in the builders native country is just the right fit.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ann in Virginia

      The Imam's country IS AMERICA. He was brought here as a boy, for cryin' out loud.
      He practices the peaceful Muslim faith . . . so where should he go?

      "They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."

      Pastor Martin Niemoller's words are well known but their context is not well understood. Niemoller was not speaking abstractly. He witnessed persecution, he acquiesced to it, he ultimately fell victim to it. He had been a German World War 1 hero, then a conservative who welcomed the fall of German democracy and the rise of Hitler and had few qualms the beginning of the holocaust until he himself was arrested for supporting it insufficiently.

      The principles he expressed APPLY NOW!

      September 9, 2010 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  9. jdk

    Dear D.F. your initials must stand for your intellectual quotient. you can put your one way trip to meca on me

    September 8, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jack Buchanan

    I watched the Imam's interview, and now watching Anderson Cooper's recap. As an American (and a Christian) I'm very ashamed by the two panelists in the center of Anderson's group. I'm very sorry for the woman's loss of her brother and could not imagine how bitter I would be. However, you are radicals and you're twisting the Imam's words to scare other Americans and insult the Muslim faith. This is not American. Your intolerance is more appropriate in a cave near Osama and not next to a hard hat emblazoned with the American flag.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      Couldnt agree more, best post this evening!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kat Nanton

    Soledad did a great job–she didn't descend into political correctness and treat this guy with kid gloves. She asked good questions and his fans don't like honesty. They prefer taquiya.

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

    I am what some might call a "born-again" Christian. That aside, generally, I have been a fan of Soledad. However, I am very disappointed with her in this interview. Rather than asking questions to enlighten the conversation, she is repeating and pressing quips on the side of those (especially on my side) who only want to degrade our genuine understanding of one another. With all the things I've gone through in my lifetime, I recognize that hatred only begets hatred and incitement (as I perceive her questions to be) only adds to that malaise. Shame on you!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Soltan12

    The Muslim world is not monolithic, just as the Christian one. Take a look:

    September 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mo Beasley

    Its not the religion that's the problem. FANATICISM is the problem. ALL fanatics scare me.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jdk

    Dear Mr Jack Buchanan,

    What does the Christian faith say about 'causing anyone to stumble'? If the Muslims are like us "Christians" – they would be sensitive to a core belief of what YOU should hold to, that is if you are a TRUE Christian

    September 8, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
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