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. the Lyon

    Why you all suckers call AMERICANS somebody that lives in NORTHamerica or born ;Im from southamerica so I can be as well AMERICAN ;don't you have a brain!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jrt1098

    NOTE to Muslims EVERYWHERE.......Americans are getting really tired of getting lectured about TOLERANCE from people like you

    September 8, 2010 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. SID

    THE CNN ACTORS SHOULD WORK FOR THE MOB BECAUSE THE IS A GREAT HIT JOB ON THIS GUY....... after this night i am going to put cnn on my child block... never again will i watch this network...

    September 8, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jdk

    Dear Raja,

    I respect your views and we would have many common beliefs and discussions. For my thoughts it comes down to this: If this is truly a "Church" of the people, then do the "Respectful" thing and move it to another location. No harm no foul in that case. Why are they pushing this to the limits when most of the people do not what it here? Christian religion says "You will know them by their fruits" – What fruit are you putting forward to insist this holy place be there?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raja

      jdk, what I am telling you is that it is already there. Muslims already pray there. All we want to do is add the other components like the gym etc. And just so you know and you can visit a mosque if you like there is nothing in there. It is simply an empty room without hardly anything on the walls, and maybe a few Qurans in a bookcase. We wash as Moses was instructed, we bow to God as Daniel was instructed, in the Bible its says do not decorate your worship area with any pictures of what is in the earth, sea or heaven, that's why we leave it bare. When we pray we ask God to put us on the straight path and to glorify us like he glorified Abraham's people and we praise God. That's it believe me it is nothing to worry about. There is no priest screaming crazy thoughts into our heads, our prayers are between the individual and God.

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

      This talk of respect and putting it here and putting it there and hallowed ground is making a mockery of the whole thing. There are strip clubs closer to "ground zero" than the center – we are just a bunch of bigots who are using anything to justify it. Should we follow the founding fathers and become deists and not allow Christian centers near the site also? 9/11 was not a Muslim thing any more than Oklahoma City was a Christian thing – why do we need to make it such?

      September 8, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Merrill

    Interesting question: "What if"......what if a respected leader in the CHRISTIAN community proposed building an inter-faith center within 2 blocks of Ground Zero? Would the world take notice?

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

      Im pretty sure Merrill that the pilots of the planes were muslim chanting ALLAH AKBAR
      and were dancing in the streets at the news of PEOPLE being killed!

      September 8, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ryan

    Ok so listning to this and sorry for spelling while on my android.. we need to in america with the right to reglious freedoms to worry about what the relgious thoughts of the rest of the word.. is this not our hard fought freedom.. I do not in my right as a american agree with bjurning the quran but also that IS MY RIGHT not to agree.. it would also if I wanted it. Be my right to support it..

    September 8, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. GD

    the Iman is testing AMERICA, if we give in to this it will show that we are weak. the Iman gave threaten overtones in which I did'nt like. remember Adam gadahn the american traitor who turn to radical islam and speaks out against america,try looking up that knucklehead. in his words islam will conquer AMERICA FROM WITHIN, AMERICA NEEDS TO WAKE UP...

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

      Durpa Durpa – Murica – gonna git me sum fud frum Wal Mart n watch summor Fox Noise – ignorance is bliss my friend

      September 8, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. lucy

    As an American, a Christian Mexican-American, I strongly believe the center needs to be built. We need to educate our fellow Americans the difference between extremist- radical-unstable-misled people who claim to be Muslim and what being Muslim really means- what it preaches, its teachings. We need to focus efforts on educating America and peaceful and educational missions to Muslim countries and educate them about our policies and fundamental beliefs. education all around. To say that building this mosque on or near ground zero is insulting- means agreeing that you believe that muslims everywhere are responsible for 911. this is so very sad and frustrating and everyone needs to learn to respect our brothers and sisters independently of race, color , religion, etc...

    what can we do?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ann

    A thoroughly disappointing and highly irritating "interview" by Soledad O'Brien. I had no idea she was that AWFUL. Absolutely unprofessional, with Ms. Soledad, using the show to air her personal bias against the Imam. She revealed her unbelievable stupidity, by continuously harping on the "the 71%." Just because the majority thinks so, does not mean they are right. Remember the majority supported the Iraq war. The question is not: "why should they build it there?" The question is: "Why SHOULDN'T they build it there?" To bow down and move it elsewhere is to bow down to ignorance and prejudice against a people that have lived and prayed in that location long before 9/11.

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

    oh please I don't think you're sensetive at

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

    Islam has not earned it's day in the sun especially in the downtown NYC sun where once stood The World Trade Center and it's wonderful Towers of Freedom. Then the towers 1 and 2 shadowed the streets below and 9 years later a gapping hole still exists and the streets are full of new sunlight but no skyline. No more shades from the World Trade Center just dark memories. I say no! not now, let Islam repair Islam and show the world how sorry they are to have been associated with this horrible crime and go uptown maybe Harlem would be a good location.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • nru

      I would agree with this sentiment if Islam had attacked us – Osama and his ilk attacked us – and Obama is a Muslim cause I heard it on the TV

      September 8, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. InsertPictureofMohammadHere

    Okay, beyond all of the conspiracy theory type stuff (as valid as a lot of it may be)...

    Why, WHY, would they ever consider opening this thing on the 10th anniversary of 9/11? Did they really think that would be taken well?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jim

    Soledad was just speaking emotionally, horrible interviewing!!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jim Fincher

    So if the mosque is NOT built it will embolden terrorists...therefore it should be built? Is he so brazen and blind to make that statement?

    Excuse me but that sounds like blackmail or extortion to me....

    So the pastor in Fla wants to burn their Quran....but then that is going to make the same terrorists mad?????

    Pardon me but this old Marine just doesn't like this Terrorist sympathizer dictating to 70% of America what HAS to be done to APPEASE his "homeboys"....

    Yep that is what it sounds like to me...thugs just religious ones saying "in your face"

    If you believe this guy is for America over Islam you are dead wrong....

    September 8, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Quintin

    Why does America hate hearing the truth about what we have done around the world. The leader’s of9/11 attackers were trained by the CIA to perform this type of operation against the Soviet union military. Bin Laden in a 60 minute interview stated after they finish with the soviet the US was next. But it is easier to blame Islam for the 9/11 attacks than the us government who trained them and that is what the bush administration wanted He could tell the American people that we trained this terrorist group .

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