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. Matthew C.

    Muslims died in 9/11 to
    Muslims died in 9/11 to and it is sad to think that as christians we are not tolerant.

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

    I do not understand the logic behind construction of a mosque at the site. Why not build a place for worship where people of all faith can come and pray – church, synagogue, hindu temple and mosque, etc . That will convey the messsage of solidarity. Muslims are the fastest growing religion. They are the ones who should be extending the hands of friendship and apologising since we are in minority. They should learn to live with others peacefully.
    How about building a church right next to Mecca as a gesture of peace? I think American Government should respect people's sentiments.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    If you want to bring up history, you can include the Spanish Inquisition, The creation of the church of England where all people were forced to be converted, and the crusades. The old testament is full of other examples where people were slaughtered in the name of god. All religions have a human element and can be considered to be guilty of injustices. It is better to learn for the past and try to improve things in the future instead of blaming people for past acts or acts done by others.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sara

    I'm a muslim and i dont agree with this IMAM!! he chose that spesefic location !! i mean God !! i think he's just willing to abset the public !! you got to understand that the Muslims aren't the same !!

    September 8, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick Burke

      In your view waht is different about Muslims????

      September 8, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Charles

    After thousands of years of religious intolerance and killing in the name of our god, I doubt that it will end any time real soon.

    None the less, if the intent of building the center is to foster understanding and generate tolerance, the obvious answer to the Imam's current quandry is to embrace a religious coalition of Christians, Jews and Muslims to FULLY participate in the center's development from funding to nuts and bolts.

    Seems obvious to this country boy.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Don

    It wasn't a problem until FOX NEWS started there usual spin. I read about this mosque in the NY Times back in Janurary no one complained then, until the UNFAIR AND UNBALANCE started saying something then its a problem, The FCC should take away FOX NEWS license cause its not news oh wait I forgot this is AMERICA freedom of speech and religiion except if your a muslim, I'm moving to Canada or something this country is ass backwards

    September 8, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barrack

      Don why don't you move to Iran, I'm sure the nearest Mosque will take you in..

      September 8, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. SID


    COME ON TELL US WHAT 71 % OF Americans think sole her dad

    September 8, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      Yep, you're probably right.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |

    Why not use those $100 dollars in helping the victims of 9/11 families, eradicating radical islam from this world, kill Osama and helping poors across the world and creating a nice small center of peace at the propose site.
    There is no way we can please radical islam by building an Islamic center... We should also not give-up against the threat to National Security if we dont build that mosque. Imam is warnig us that if we dont build this mosque, national secuirty is in trouble. We have a choice to listen to him and prove him that he is on the wrong side. This national security fear factor idea he got in the TOILET OF MIDDLE-EAST.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bess wildri

    enough is enough – just try to go and build a christian church or jewwish temple or buddhist temple anywhere in the middle east and watch what happens – we are not going to put up with your muzzzzlim bullying any longer – if you want it your way then have it back where you came from – not here and no longer on your terms – it is now on our terms – no more whimpy political corectness – the act of burning the koooren is an act of how fed up we all are with your eslam lies and crap – get out of the west you ignoramuses and go and stone your naughty women at home

    September 8, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      Go back to watching Pat Robertson and wearing your tin foil hat!

      September 8, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • mohammad

      its you who invade and teach evil with alcohol.naked women bunch of crap

      September 8, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick Burke

      No Bess is not far off the mark. Can I have the same freedoms in the Saudi as a Christian as a Muslim has in the US. Not asking for any special treatment just the right to build a Church. Maybe even too celebrate Chistmas...

      September 8, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Barrack

    I'm amazed by the amount of negative posts on Solidad O'brien. I thought this was the best Journalist Interview I've ever seen on CNN. Your job as a Journalist is to ask the tough questions that the American people want answered. This guy would not give a straight answer and spoke as a politician. He looked surprised as he thought this would be a walk in the park interview which is what most networks do today instead of asking the tough questions. She earned my respect today and exposed this Imam guy to America. We now know what the agenda is..

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

    If this were to happen in say...afghan or iraq etc...... That is a church being built. The MUSLIMS would car bomb it. Dont be fooled ppl we just got threated by IMAM

    September 8, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mo Beasley

      And protesting the mosque in America, anywhere, is being just like the car bombers. Is that who you want to be aligned with?

      September 8, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      Agreed Mo, the Christian Right is now equal to the Taliban

      September 8, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Corey

      no Mo not aligning myself with anyone, I fought to defend freedom of religion and Imam has the right to put that mosque anywhere. All my comment is based on is the TRUTH, just pointing out the obvious

      September 8, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • amy b

      your right, they would! But thats what separates our country from theirs...thats what makes our country, usa, one of the greatest countires in the world. We are free here, and we are suppose to respect and be tolerant of those who may have different beliefs...

      September 9, 2010 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Umm, there are churches in the middle east.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      and plenty of US military bases

      September 9, 2010 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  12. Vernon

    I feel that this all began as the american capitalist mentality. There was property available and I want to build a mosque. And like all capitalist endeavors the emotional and sensitive side is not considered until someone if faced with the opposition. Now that the issue has come to the forefront regarding the sensitive nature of the proposed location, like any developer looking to expand, the imam is forced to take a step back and look at the cultural impact of such a decision. But as an employee of the department of justice when 9/11 happened, and having many friends who lost close friends and family member, I do recognize the the radical islamic element can use this as an american attack on islam as a religion instead of it being a battle against solely terrorists.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. cc

    It's amazing how Soledad had used the word "they" so many times.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. TristanReno

    Are you serious? WHO CARES ABOUT GROUND ZERO! It happened almost 10 years ago. Old news, boring, pointless. Everyone freaking out about this seriously needs to get a life. Seriously, the 9/11 "victims"? They are milking this for money and fame. If they were true victims they would shut up, grieve, and then get on with their lives, not sit and whine about an Islamic Community Center at the site of an old Burlington Coat Factory. HOW IS BURLINGTON COAT FACTORY SACRED GROUND

    September 8, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      Agreed, one of the best lines I've heard was that New Yorkers really weren't all that nice to begin anyways... doubt this would've happened to the good folks of lets say... Nashville, TN.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Vernon

    I think the "they" mentality is exactly what the imam is expressing as the risk associated with how this handled moving forward.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
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