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. iosepusmagus

    I lol'd that many Americans actually think Islam contributed to 911 and selectively forgetting how American imperialism in that region turned secular nationalists like Bin Laden into terrorists.

    Saddam? Yup, American funding.
    Taliban? Yup, American funding too.

    Get off your war addiction America and go back to your roots, let the Imam build his mosque and spare the books.

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

      THANK YOU!!! I agree with you totally. These folks on the panel who believe the Imam was sending a veiled threat only want to see conflict. They don't want peace. They can't see past they're pain and bigotry.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog


      September 8, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. GogoG

    What about Muslims who burn churches and kill Christians every day in Egypt, Sudan and Nigeria ..etc . they always blame US/West for their problems. There was no USA 100 years ago when Muslims Brothers attacked Christians in Egypt. There was no America 1400 years ago when Muslims forced non Muslims to pay Gazia ( Taxes ) or convert to Islam. I regret to say that most of Muslims are double faces.

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

      duble faces? i think you are on a dif planet ,because of islam there is all this knowledge everywhere read history when the west was in dark ages we had light,paper,litarature ,mathmatics so get your facts right mate.......................................!

      September 8, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lubna Haroon

    The Quran issue is truely sad, no one should burn any holy scripture from any religion , what I feel that no one seems to understand is that the men who bought down the Twin Towers were NOT muslims,but simply murderers,no religion condones a muslim It makes sad to see that some americans forget that muslims also died in that horrific episode.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lissa

    Been arguing about this for hours ... result... why not come to "common ground" instead of a "ground zero". If building a mosque, build a 'church' representing each of those that died on 911. There will not be an end to this without common ground.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. GrowUp

    It's not a mosque. Its not being build on ground zero. Grow up, the only pain inflicted is imaginary. Grow up, no one's memory is insulted by the building of this community center.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GrowUp

    It's not a mosque. Its not being build on ground zero. Grow up, the only pain inflicted is imaginary. Grow up, no ones memory is insulted by the building of this community center.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shala

      Grow up? Stand in front of a family member who lost their loved one that day and say that. Grow up? Ask Muslims to grow up and foresee the pain they have caused and now openly admit to regretting. Grow up? Ask Muslims to allow a Christian Chapel in the Dome of the Rock. Or women into mosques. Or women into the streets. You grow up and wake up. The Muslims don't want your tolerance or advocacy, they want your obedience or death.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      GrowUp, I think you should change your name to Get Over It to appropriately address Shala's comments.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Darrell

    One more thing people. did we forget that Muslims worship the same God that we do. did we forget about what God and Jesus taught us. Come on people lets get back to our grass roots and treat people the way we want to be treated. Lets us put God in the front seat. We all know in our hearts that God only sees "Good" Lets try to walk the walk and talk the talk. Your heart knows the truth.

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

    solution: put one of each church/monument representing the beliefs of the people that died on 911. Instead of ground zero...common ground.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Shala

    What so many of these people are overlooking is the fact that 9/11 changed the conversation of religious tolerance and the Muslim terrorists wanted it that way. We were all victims of 9/11 and lost so much of the country we knew and loved. They wonder why 71% are reacting poorly to this affront? We all lost that day and those who think it's time to get over it should not be charged with interfaith relations. We still have memorials and observances for the vets of WWI and WWII but 9 years after 9/11 we should be ready to move on? I wonder when they will push this nation too far...

    September 8, 2010 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mo Beasley

    The Mosque or Islam have NOTHING to do with the 911 attacks nothing!! Fanatics hi-jacked Islam like they have done to christianity. They've done it throught out history.

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

      I agree 100%.. it was some radicals that had nothing to do with one and another.. Do we, or should we group all people and or religins together because a select few go off on thei own and do something?

      September 8, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • amy b

      I couldn't agree more! Why aren't they making this a stronger point on CNN!

      September 9, 2010 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. mohammad

    the jews know the cristians know that islam is the true religion,This thing that america stands for justice is false ,if you dont want a mosque in your country ,then why do you want our oil.watched cnn seen a placard sayin no islamic settlements in america then why israeli one in palestine ?all double standards. all muslims dont be suckers and stand up. inshalla allah will punish the quran burner.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darrell

      Mohammad, I am shocked that you would say this. America has its faults. We are a very new country in the scheme of things. Please read up on your history. The person that is burning the Korans is an old fool and that is what you should think of it, nothing else. Remember this Moohammad, Allah that you pray to is the same God that i pray to, the same God that i love. Allah is Love. He has no hatred and when you pray tonight ask him to put is Love in your heart. As I said check out your history and you will not like what you research. we are humans beings and if you preach Love people will listen but if you preach hate people will fight.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Matthew C.

    I am surprized that people of this nation are scared. Terrorist won if we think this way. This is not America. America is about freedom. How dare we think that we can say some one can not build the mosque. how many Americans died in 9/11 but how many MUSLIMS DIED in 9/11 Christians did nbot make America but Christians Africans Muslims Jews and others built America.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. vespasian

    Americans are so uniformed. The imam is a sufi. Muslim radicals absolutely hate sufis. Sufis are constantly under attack in countries like Pakistan.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenn

      I wish this were talked about more! Sufis are like the hippies of Islam – all about peace and love and whirling dirvishes! They are also a minority in the Arab and Muslim world...but because they're liberal.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Barbara

    No one is asking the crucial question. We've heard the threat that if the mosque is not built at that sacred spot that radical Muslims could threaten American security. I'd like to ask what happens if the mosque is indeed built at that location. Will radical Muslims just fade away? Or could they use this as an opportunity to flaunt their success and portray us as weak and unable to stop further aggression? Radicals will find a way to use either solution to promote their interests. So if it's going to be a field day for radicals either way, then the answer is for us and for the builders to be sensitive to the hurt associated with the site and let the mosque be built somewhere else.

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

    I watched a listened to what the Imam was syaing, How can you say what he was saying was a threat?.. You are taking his words out of context.. Listen to the whole interview, and listen openly without the pre detremation that he's uttering threats.
    The American contractor that says you cant wipe the smile off his face.. therse are the people you need to be and or threatened by!.. typical American, any reason to find a reson to fight

    September 8, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barbara

      In no uncertain terms he quoted Petraeus, and he said clearly that if the mosque is not built there, the radicals would pose a threat to our national security. That's appears to be his only reason now to continue the effort to build the mosque counter the radical threat to our national security if it was not built there.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
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