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. HSM

    Is shameful to see how some Americans undermine the very foundations of the principles that have made this very country a great nation. Freedom – don't demonized an entire faith for the actions of a few radicals –

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

    I spent a few years in Pakistan and there was a church right down the street from where we lived that was respected by all in the neighborhood. I am a Muslim and we are taught religious tolerance especially for The People of the Book, Christians and Jews. People from all religions died in 9/11 and I can tell you that true Muslims hate (more than you can imagine) those that are misrepresenting our religion. This mosque is not about disrespect, we already pray in that building, it is about adding components to better the lives of young Muslims so they don't go looking for terrorism. The time is now for you to decide what you are really against. If its terrorism then join us because we can't stand it in any religion either. However, if you are against Islam like Pastor Troy then this is what you are burning, " This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear God; Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them; And who believe in the Revelation sent to thee, and sent BEFORE THY TIME (NEW AND OLD TESTAMENTS), and (in their hearts) have the assurance of the Hereafter. They are on (true) guidance, from their Lord, and it is these who will prosper.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Patrick Burke

    What are the chances or challenges of me building a Catholic Church in most places of the Middle East. From what I understand those odds are low. In fact displaying a Christ Cross is not permitted. I do agree in freedom of religion. But it must be equal. Build your Mosque I would respect that. Let me speak of my Christain faith in your land. Give me the same Freedom.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • sandy

      uh, there are catholic churches WITH crosses all over the middle east ... i mean, where do you guys come from??

      September 8, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Uhh, have you ever heard of missionaries? I'm pretty sure they just built Christian churches where ever they felt like it

      September 8, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenn

      Many of the folks supporting this are Muslims born and raised here, so this is their country. As for Christianity in predominately Muslim countries – which have you visited? I just returned from living in Egypt for a year and I saw a good amount of Christians and plenty of crosses. Maybe you could try visiting northern Iraq...or Lebanon...yes, Christians are the minority – but they exist and they're organized and they have houses of worship and they wear crosses. Give them a little credit.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SID


    September 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. No Mosque - Read this

    I think we need to relocate the mosque to a more "islam is a religion of peace" location... let's try:
    Somalia.... oh, wait...
    Iraq.... hmm....
    Afghanistan... maybe not
    Iran (their leader says 9/11 was a hoax), maybe not there...
    Saudi Arabia... wait... no bibles, churches or synagagues...
    Libya... but just don't fly over scotland on your way there...
    Oh well, never mind....

    September 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sammy

    Ms. O'Brien, I'd like to ask you one thing. You continually justify that because 71% of Americans (many who may not be radical in their opinions) are against the building of this mosque, why not move it, why not listen to the wisdom of that overwhelming voice? Why "force" the peace intiative? First of all, those who are against the building of this mosque are linking all Muslims to the horrific event of 9/11, when it was foreign radicals sent here precisely to perform this attack. The underlying premise of all those who are against this structure is that ALL Muslims are responsible for 9/11–like ALL Germans during the time of the Holocaust were responsible for it. Second, let me refresh your memory about a time when Lorraine Hansberry wrote a play about people not selling property to African Americans in certain neighborhoods. Maybe the Youngers should have just backed off b/c they shouldn't stir controvery. They should have just gone to live in their own "black" neighborhoods b/c a majority of the people inthat neighborhood didn't want them there. Oh, and how about that time when African Americans were "forced" to segregate into all-white schools? How dare they do such a thing? How dare the families send their children into mobs off screaming protesters, and hate-filled throngs? Why not just back down because let's just not stir controvery b/c the overall sentiment was against desegregation of the American schools. God, we never learn from history, do we? The "right thing" to do is always easier to talk about than do! And maybe it does have to be forced upon us at times, because we do lose sight of what is genuinely right.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pojeraci

      There's a lot of logical arguments on this blog tonight, and some not so logical, but I think you make the most sense of all.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Steve

    2 points from last part of conversation

    1 They already have centers like this in the middle east that are designed to get different religions together in conversations so we understand each other. I have been to these centers in Qatar and Dubai.

    2 There is a fight for the faithful within Islam. The radicals have a lot of voice and we are not helping by shutting down mainstream/moderate Islam. We need to encourage the mainstream/moderate side or the radical side will gain more support.

    BTW .... I am a Christian. I felt more open to discuss my faith over in the middle east than I do at home here in Palm Beach County Florida. If you accidentally slip and say Merry Christmas down here you can be cussed at with looks of hatred from our Jewish brothers. When I was in Qatar and Dubai in December, I had Islamic Arabs publicly wishing me a Merry Christmas with a cheerful smile. Why can't people here be more understanding?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chris

    Now CNN has Elliot Spitzer coming on as a host. Where does CNN find these people. Were scraping the bottom of the barrel in journalism at this point. Im gonna switch over to Fox now. Bye

    September 8, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Leila Khoury

    Shame on my American Christian brothers and sisters on this blog who are saying horrible and offensive things towards Muslims and their Holy Book. Have you lost sight of Jesus and His teachings? Have you forgotten that the message of Jesus is one of love and tolerance? Have you forgotten that Jesus said all that you did to my brothers, you did to me? We are all brothers and sisters of humanity. Where have you people learned such intolerance?

    To the women that is on CNN and saying that "you should move the Islamic center to the Middle East". I ask you, are you aware that your government and military has been creating ground zeros all over the Middle East? I ask you, since you have shown this picture of your brother who died in these attacks (may God bless his soul), would you take a look at the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi's that have died when your government invaded the wrong country? Americans suffered on 9/11, Americans need to also realize that many of us have relived a "9/11" over and over again every year? Terrorism comes from all sources, and affects all people of the world.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Pull your head out of the sand

      September 8, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Faith

      mis leila all the terrisom is from islam!!!! take your mosque and leave to mekka!!!

      September 8, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bugzilla

    Muslims take advantage of free world while they do not beleive or practice religious freedom themselves and in their own native countries. Will they allow another place of worship in Saudi or any muslim country? Why don't the muslim citizens while exercising their "right" in free secular world, campaign for the same principles of secularism and freedom to others in their native countries? Without this, the 9/11 mosque looks like an attempt to islamize America along with other famous policies like re-producing in dozens.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dave

    National security issue? Because muslims would be mad if he moved the location?? What about all the Americans who lost there lives on Sept. 11 and their families all the while these same Muslims were celebrating and dancing in the streets. He says he is concerned about the feelings of Americans, Really??? WHAT A HYPOCRIT and LIAR!
    Americans better wake up and smell the roses. This idiot doesn't give a crap about the feelings of Americans and the national security issue, yea it would be for his country not America
    Stop the building of this Mosque NOW!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Whitaker

      Imam is in the mid east trying to bridge peace between Muslim world & the US. But for people like you preferred distractions.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Lisa

    save up for an education my friend, or you might as well just share a cave with Osama Binladin

    September 8, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. John Whitaker

    Build the Mosque not 2 blocks from ground zero. Next, not 10 blocks, next not in New York, next not in the US. This is the day we loose who we are as Americans.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Stuart Ahrens

    Do all Moslems believe in terrorism???? Do all Christians believe in the KKK. Remember the KKK had the biggest crosses on display...especially when they were burning at a rally or on someones front yard.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Coyote

    The Cordoba House Islamic Center needs to tweak their claims for a MULTI FAITH CENTER and actually build that precise thing.

    The Imam seeks peace and moderation. It is accepted that the issue is religious radicalism. It is acknowledged that Muslim radicals started this very dangerous culture war. Then the purpose of this Cordoba House initiative should be slightly shifted to be focused upon the condemnation of ALL RELIGIOUS RADICALISM.

    David Gergen on CNN must be one of my fans, as he yesterday proposed the same as I have on Huffpost over the last 2 weeks. That is, that instead of one Muslim prayer room, the Cordoba House initiative should have four holy rooms.

    Three should be occupied by the Abrahamic faiths: Judaic, Christian and Muslim. The fourth should be open to a different faith on a rotation, say every month, or quarterly. Perhaps this fourth religion could act as chairman of the interfaith discussion over the month.

    The sole purpose of this Cordoba House initiative should be focused exclusively upon the need to defeat religious extremism by promoting interfaith discourse and understanding, AND by forcefully denouncing all attempts by religion to coerce non-believers.

    -freedom from religious extremism
    -freedom from religious coercion
    -freedom from religious demands
    -religion is a personal choice: keep it to yourself

    September 8, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
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