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. Debra

    Muslims expect us to be sensitive to and accepting of their law, their feelings, their beliefs, their dress, etc. – let us see some reciprocity, some sensitivity, Imam! Be a leader, set an example, Imam. Please do not build a mosque near Ground Zero, Imam.

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

    I think it's time for a new Abrahamic religion that Christians and Muslims can unite under, with the same positive teachings and without the negative connotations of their label. Start that religion, and then build a church for it where the mosque was going to.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raja

      Great idea but I think when the Word of God, the Messiah returns we will unite and all the negative connotations will go away, so stay tuned!!!!

      September 8, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Zari

    Although for some Muslims the planned mosque at Ground Zero is no different than any other mosque, because they don't associate themselves with the radical Islam that attacked the U.S. on 9/11 so they feel like since they don't have the same beliefs that were behind the terrorists attacks, why shouldn't they be able to build their religious center any where. But radical Islam will see the Muslim center as a symbol of victory over the U.S. and it is for that very reason that the mosque should NOT be placed at Ground Zero. The sensible Muslims should understand. They should understand that this is not against them. Ground Zero is a place where many Americans died because radical Muslims decided to kill them in the name of the Islam that they practice (which apparently is different than what many other Muslims practice). Therefore, we should NOT give radical Islam any symbol of victory, especially not on American soil.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sara

    there's something else i need to expline 🙂 .. Islam contains several sects (Sunni,She'ey,Suffy ....etc ) But the truest one is Sunnah (Sunni) .. so please don't mix between those .. we're not the same !

    September 8, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raja

      Stop it Sara, there is no truest one of the sects. The truest one is Islam that's it, these divisions are all astray and if you can't see the faults in your own sect then you yourself are astray.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Alex

    Lets build a synagogue in Mecca and a church in Tehran first.

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

      "they' would car bomb it!

      September 8, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Corsair624

      If you think you are equal to Mecca or Iran, I think the mosque should not be built at all! I thought the American values were different from those of the Saudis and Iranians.

      September 12, 2010 at 4:03 am | Report abuse |
  6. bess wildri

    you muzzzjerkovs build that musk and fer shure we ll be bombin and bernin that too !!!!!!! how s that for YOUR type of tolerance and acceptance of others ? get the fork out of america and go stone and kill all your BAD women according to your famous SHARYEA laws !!!!!!!!! you guys are still living 10,000 yrs ago – you are no more than caveman with clubs

    September 8, 2010 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. miriam korshak

    The imam seemed genuine and persuasive. I admire his good sense and logic. He 'sold' me.

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

    Good work CNN by shutting up voice of moderate muslim. Next day start complaining that why muslims dont rise against terror.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • vespasian

      The imam has devoted 25 years of his life trying to foster better understanding between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. He gave the eulogy at Daniel Pearls' funeral, for goodness sakes. And we're treating him like he's a monster. What is wrong with us?

      September 9, 2010 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  9. Msd

    This is a very sensitive issue. What happened on September 11, 2001 has nothing to do with what Islam is about. Innocent people INCLUDING Muslims died on that day as well. If you are one of the people who think that Islam teaches this then you need to investigate this further by reading Quran. See what it talks about before judging it.

    In Quran, it says that your neighbor has more rights than your relatives. It also says that if you kill a human being than it is like as if you killed the whole humanity.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      9/11 has everything to do with Islam ! Have you heard of Jihad? Google it. The laws set forth in Koran do not apply to non-Muslims.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Msd

      Alex, i am glad you brought up the word Jihad. Last week my neighbor came over and asked me what is Jihad. I asked what do you know about Jihad. The answer that i received from her, it was wrong. I asked where did you get this information from and she answered from media & internet. I say, if you want to know true meaning of Jihad really is then look in the Quran. If you want to get an answer to this, go directly to the source.

      As to Christians & Jews living in Saudi Arabia & Iran. Where did you get this information? Do you know this for a fact?

      September 9, 2010 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Miley

      Good job Soledad O'Brien's
      I was quite impressed with your line of questioning.

      The Imam in my opinion is a smooth talking , mumble jumbling stooge.

      Soledad brought out the beast that lurks below this lowlife.

      The highlight of it all was when he undermined the region hit by 911 as being non-sacred due to its history of nightlife, bars, stripjoints, etc.
      The IMAM completely disregarded what Americans considred sacred and he put his own demeaning definition to it much like radical Islam does to the American way of life.

      Shame on you IMAMAS, ... you cant fool the majority of the American public.

      Then the scare tactics, ... " we now need to pursue the build, lest we anger the Muslims of the world" And how will that be different then it is now

      Lets quit the BS and stop pampering these people, thats right I said ":THESE PEOPLE", they are no more a religion than the many Cults which has brought so much grief to our planet.

      People take time to heal and for some it may never quite happen, allways surrounded by mistrust and apprehension, so be it, the victims and families of 911 did not ask for this, they were Victims, and for a supposedly peacful Muslim Community to attempt to impose thier will by the building of this mosque is not only insensitive but antaganositic, the hallmark of the devil himself. (Figuratively speaking).

      We are worried about some right wing Preacher in Florida upsetting the Muslims, Cmon people , grow some balls, enough is enough.

      There is not enough energy left in me to continue but I am disgusted at the Imam and all his frickin followers not tro mention all the whiny muslims that feel it neccessary to impose thier will onto us simple minded folk.

      There is a lot of room to build and pray somewhere else, preferrably in a desert somewhere.

      Why the hell would you want to park your sorry asses in a non-sacred, sleazy part of town as the great IMAM eluded to.

      New Yorkers , stay true, dont give in and dont get fooled by these sleaze balls.

      And to the lonely man down in Florida, I think you nailed it, carry on son.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. Alex

    ... and if you point out that there are no more Jews in Saudi Arabia and no Christians in Iran, please pause for a minute and ask yourself "How come?".

    September 8, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Nikki

    The Iman is a real smooth talker but he can't fool the American people. Instead of transferring the blame to the politicians, etc., he needs to put it where it belongs – some of his own people and the henious acts of muslims in America on 9/11 and also in several European countries and this is why muslims are viewed as a violent religion, thus, 70% of Americans don't want this mosque built. It seems like every country they move to, trouble follows.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mohammad

    the biggest problem is who created exstreamists the americans they put in puppet goverment and when they show 2 fingers at the americans they are called terrorists, 9/11 was planned by the jews so they can label rhe palestinians as terrorists and steal all there land. next they conspire somethin new so they can attack iran ,so the end conclusion is the jews are playin with everybodys mind to fulfill there agenda the so called chosen ones [all the best] but you cant hide from god or jesus when he comes and u know that very well.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raja

      muhammad all i got to say is you are an example of what's wrong with Islam and its sad that you bear the name of a man that represented what was truth and compassion.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Corey

      umm the jews already own that land so that is jsut a silly thing to say.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Do you have any proof of Jewish hand behind 9/11? I am very interested in any facts. Shana Tova to you, Mohammad!

      September 9, 2010 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  13. Lsd

    you mid easterners shud ge the fk out NOW ! you always fall back and that fking book you call the koooran – your fear and ignorance is covered by a false book – no wonder we re going to BURN IT !!!!!!!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Corey

    The imam just sat there on CNN and threated the USA. Take the higher road?

    September 8, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zari

      You heard it too? I said, "that sounds like a threat to me." if we don't go ahead with the plans, etc. I saw some of the broadcast and i don't buy that talk of his one bit - "didn't know that building a mosque at ground zero would cause all these problems" Pleeeze!

      September 9, 2010 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  15. John

    Today, I have lost all respect and love for Soledad. Soledad was mean, unprofessional and rude. Looked like she was hired by tea baggers and only tried to corner that man bringing out Hamas and other issues instead of giving the man a chance to talk about his opinion and let people understand the situation. All she tried was to corner him in an unprofessional way. I thought I was looking at a female Orailly.

    I think the Imam was very articulate, calm, mature and made his point. You must encourage moderate muslims to defeat extreme radicals instead she wanted to slaughter a friend!!

    September 8, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
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