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.

Post by: ,
Filed under: Islam • New York • Religion
soundoff (1,302 Responses)
  1. Eileen

    SOLEDAD O'BRIEN needs to be FIRED for the god-awful job she just did.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cynthia

      Why were you so combative with the Iman. I don't agree with everything he said but it was painful to see you totally disrespect him. I wanted so bad to know how he would find the middle ground. you wouldn't let let him answer becasue you kept interrupting him and when he started talking about married couples you didn't bring him back. Then after an hour of you yelling at him he got passionate and wanted to tell his story which I wanted to hear you went to break and didn't allow him to get back to that. Next time he should let Racheal interview him. I've never seen you so angry.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. cc

    Isha would have done a much better job than Soledad.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LeAne

    The government has silenced church bells. No prayer in schools, no ten commandments in public places and a cross out in the middle of the Mojave desert needs to be covered up because it might 'offend' someone. Give me a break! Yet we need to be sensitive to one particular religion and not respect all?

    September 8, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TAN

    Obviously those of you knocking Soledad feel like YOUR agenda was not addressed. Like it or not 71% of Americans disagree with building the Islamic Center in the proposed location. It was an emotional interview but this is an emotional issue. She represented tthe 71% of American who want answers from this Imam who has been siilent since this controversy began. CNN made the rigjt choice to take the road of the majority rather than pander to the rightious minority..

    September 8, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barrack

      Amen Tan, I couldn't have said it better myself. I though Soledad did an Outstanding Job, the Imam was definitely uncomfortable answering the questions the majority of Americans wanted asked..

      September 9, 2010 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. jesus

    Join the party on Sept 11.....BURN A QURAN.....GOD BLESS AMERICA

    September 8, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. tina

    I think the center should be built. A lot of the dialogue i have heard just highlights the immense ignorance that too many americans have. muslims did not commit the 9/11 acts. we need more interaction – i spent a year in ghana, which has a large muslim population, and are extremely far from scary, radical people. most are people, hardworking, god-fearing people. We need more dialogue and interaction with muslims, i think it would only ease the irrational fears too many have.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tammy nd

    I believe that anyone who is against the mosque should exercise their right to not attend. It is ok to voice the objection to it's location however they schools have the right to practice their faith in peace. I am Christian I would not attend anyway so I don't understand the big deal it is down the street

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

    America needs a huge shot of Wake The F*c# Up!

    September 8, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. S Gonzalez

    Soledad O'Brien just lowered the bar several notches on neutrality in journalism in the way this interview was conducted. Her biases screamed so loudly that I cringed at times out of sympathy for her fellow journalists (I am not a journalist). The icing was Larry King proclaiming that it was an "outstanding job"-unbelievable. She obviously belongs to the over 70% of people (how many times do you have to say this statistic Soledad?) who are anti-mosque and sadly, just like the majority of this country, is missing the issue altogether. This is about tolerance of all faiths, be it Islam, Judaism, Christianity, etc. In every religion, every race, every nation, every class of human beings for that matter, there will always be extremists, the black sheep, the few rotten eggs who will commit transgressions and malicious acts against their fellowmen, and for acts committed by a minority, do we now have the right to condemn the entire religion, race or nationality that these radicals belong to? Please, let us not blind ourselves by allowing our passions to overtake our better judgments. Hatred is never the answer and if many more continue to fuel this anger, then indeed we are living in perilous times.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Coyote

    New York mosque Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf on 9!!:
    “It SHAMES us that extremists who PROFESS to be Muslim perpetrated murder on such a horrific scale for political gain IN THE NAME OF ISLAM."

    Leftists like to interpret that statement differently from the rest of us. They argue that the word "profess" means "pretend" in his statement. And that "pretend" defaults to NOTMuslim, thus the 9!! hijackers were NOTMuslim. This seems to be the leftist credo.

    But the word PROFESS also means: "to declare openly; announce or affirm; avow or acknowledge"
    SO, the following statement is also true:

    "It shames us that extremists who declare openly, announce, affirm, avow or acknowledge to be Muslim perpetrated the name of Islam."

    I would interpret this as an acknowledgment that this Imam accepts responsibility and SHAME for Muslims perpetuating violence and attempting to ignite a culture war. While he rejects these people as not being “true” to Islam, is he not expressing shame for their acts?

    Or is he attempting to argue that because these people were extremists, they were not Muslim, and therefore Islam had nothing to do with 9!!, as leftists argue?

    September 8, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Patrick Burke

    Greq I was there a month ago by Ground Zero. It appeared to me the location of a Mosque would not interferr with what took place. Again my question is can I build the same Christian Church in Mecca. The answer is NO. NOT PERMITTED.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      You are correct. We can not build a church in Mecca. They can not build a Mosque in the Vatican either. Both places are the center of a major religion and it is understandable that they do not have other houses of worship in their headquarters.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      Patrick, which is why you and many others remain here and not in other countries like Mecca! Get it yet? I hope you realize how lucky we are to be here with at least the principle of basic human rights and religious freedom even when it isn't upheld... the possibility of it exists...and with enough enlightened Americans, we can live in peace with diversity!

      September 8, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darrell

      Patick, because we are Americans, we are fearless, we have intigrity and we are a strong nation. We are principal and old. We have our differences but we ultimately believe what is right. We fear God and know we can be upset with bad people but can never denied a religon that believes in the same God that we believe in. Let the mosque be built, after all many muslims in America are Americans.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick Burke

      Steve, Darell and Susan,
      Thanks for your response. It is hard subject, all of are thinking are right. Maybe it just comes down to respect which I hope it does. Take care.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Darrell

      You're a good man Patrick. Take care!

      September 9, 2010 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. SomeOne

    Imam threatened America. I think all religions should maintain their set of radicals to get wrong things done the right way.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sam

    I was very disappointed in Soledad O'Brien's interview due to her biased questioning and antagonistic approach that displayed a very immature style. She clearly did not have the intellectual capacity to conduct an interview of such fundamental importance and it should have been handled far differently.

    It is concerning that moderate voices are being drowned out by ignorant fanatics from all religions who are making sweeping generalizations in this media driven frenzy. Should the real americans – the native americans ban all places of worship or culture due to the mass slaughter they were subjected to hundreds of years ago.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Coyote

      I would suggest that the "bias" was in your mind.
      She was a tough interviewer; nothing more

      September 9, 2010 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
  14. Don

    I don't understand the problem its not built on the WTC site its 2 block away. The Imam already holds prayers services at that building and has another Mosque like 5 block just north of where they are planning to build the new one. This is just crazy nut right wing conservative trying to bring fear back into the political spectrum. This country did the same thing in Irag murdeded thousand of citizens then build a 20 million dollar Embassy right in the captial i didn't see any iragis protesting that so why does americans protest a mosque being bullt 2 blocks from the WTC site. its called racisim

    September 8, 2010 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jdk

    Dear Raja,

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I am sorry your place is in the spotlight. I think you are an honest and respectful man. Again, if we as Christians and Muslims are alike – 1 Corinthians 8:13 "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall."

    September 8, 2010 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raja

      Dear jdk,

      I promise I will never eat anything that would cause you to fall into sin lol. And I really don't believe that a swimming pool could do that either. lol This is truly only a big issue because of politics just like the Shia Sunni divide. It is sad how ignorance, arrogance, misrepresent the very thing (religion) that speaks of compassion and forgiveness. Believe me jdk if I were in charge of anything Muslims would follow the Prophets Moses, Jesus and Muhammad who when faced with adversity chose to leave and not wish ill will on those who tried to harm them. But as this plan currently stands, Muslims are trying to bring co-existence, education and peace to Manhattan. If it were an issue of building a mosque and I was in charge I would pull out. However, the mosque section already exists what we are discussing is building those components that would help Muslims live a happy life devoid of terrorism.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54