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. Scary Times We Live In

    In my family we have Christians, Evangelicals, and Muslims, and we all get along together! I am very dissapointed with the tone and manner of questioning by Soledad.. She was very antagonistic from the onset. Just because majority dont want the mosque to be built does not make it right. Is was not right for blacks to be denied eating at the same restaurant with whites, and IT is not right for the muslims not to be able to build a mosque there. If we are talking about sensitivity issues. Muslims were also killed by terrorists on 9-11 and alot of muslims contribute positively to this country. It is a shame that many people dont see that.. This is a scary time to live in a country when you have to constantly look behind your back because you are Muslim.. Look at what happened to the New York taxi driver.. he was simply working to earn a living and sustain his family, but he was almost killed in the process because he was Muslim. If people read the entirety of the Holy Koran, they would find that GOD places emphasis on peace and forgiveness. Very scary times indeed... unfortunately I fear that more innocent people will have to pay for this craziness. Soledad you definitely lost a lot of respect from this viewer.

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

      When a disscussion starts with one party crashing airplains into buildings, it is understandable for the other party to be a little bit antagonsitic. Don't you think?

      September 9, 2010 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Scary Times We Live In

      Alex, I do understand why the other party would be agitated but terrorists and al qaeda were the ones responsible, NOT American Muslims and Islam.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Pojeraci

      No, Alex, I don't think so. Please at least try to understand who the parties are. Let me put it in these terms for you: You've got the villains who had certain beliefs and a mission that were totally different that the moderate imam trying to build a NORMAL place of worship. The imam is the GOOD guy. Bad guys = 911, Good guys = Imam.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  2. birch

    Right ON Nikki !!!!!!!! Exactly the case !

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

    Staying out of the crossfire ... but what if we rename it from "Islamic Mosque" to 'Nation of Religions Center" ...that's what it's being sold as, yes? Accomplishes sensitivity & includes all.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mohammad

    well any way to all those good people .watever happens it is by the will god and god will punnish those who are wrong and i pray to god to protect all the good people watever faith from the ehudis salaam.

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

      Mohammad please read what I had to say above and If you are a real Muslim you will take heed.

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

    it s time for us to fly some planes into mekka drekka while they re all dancin and pancin round it

    September 9, 2010 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  6. amy b

    Can people please stop speaking for me! I am an American and you don't represent me! I can't stand it when people say, "that's what Americans want" like we all want the same thing!!!!!

    September 9, 2010 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  7. Sandy Fincher

    If I had a close friend burned to death on the vacant lot next to me, I would never want anyone to build there. Not a religious thing but human feeling. Tell those for the mosque to let us build a church in the Middle East next to a place we have killed their people. Husband says some should dump loads of pig grease on the lot.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. susan s.

    To truly "bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims" this Imam should respect the memory of the more than 3,000 Americans who were murdered at ground zero......bottom line. Arab-Muslim countries certainly aren't sensitive to Christians and other non-Muslims overseas.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  9. American Muslim

    I would accept the proposal of Gov. Patterson and would relocate to another location in lower Manhattan at the property offered by the state Gov. I think its time that we muslim show some compassion and consideration to the sensitivity of the location and heed to the majortiy of the voice. At the same time, I would urge all American to come forward to curse and condemn the buring Quran event by psychomaniac priest and do everything to prevent this from happening.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Finally, a reasonable person! Cheers!

      September 9, 2010 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      well said !!

      September 9, 2010 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  10. Aminata K.

    I think the Imam did a very good job in his interview. As a fellow muslim and teenage african american in America I feel the pain of how other religions group us together with radical muslim. I dont understand why they say we cant build a mosque near ground zero because on 9-11 people were killed because they were AMERICAN not becasue of any other reason. Many Muslims, Christians, Jewish, Hindu, And Other Religions died on 9-11. I think people are ignorant and need to learn about other people's religion. I think American society needs to change their mentallity becasue they are slowly making radical muslim get more followers because of the way they handle religion in America.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  11. amy b

    The real issue here isn't about the potential site of the mosque its recognizing that all muslims are NOT extremists. Just like not all priests are pediphiles!

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

    Raja ,
    Okay i'll stop it 🙂 but whether you like it or not that's the true about Islam and i just wanted to let you know about us before you judge ^__^ have a nice day !

    September 9, 2010 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  13. Muhammad Abdullah

    Jason and Msd ...I agree with your comments...

    September 9, 2010 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  14. Cody

    If the Mosque is not built, that is surely a gesture of compassion and sensitivity toward those who find the proposition so painful. Unfortunately, it is also pandering to to fear, hatred and prejudice. So, while such a gesture may be a is also tacit approval of the very worst in the human condition.

    Only an unprincipled man would see these considerations for what they are, and not feel the weight of them.

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

    The Imam makes some good points. However, he wants us (as American's) to be sensitive to what the Islam nations will think if we refuse this mosque. I wonder why we – in OUR OWN COUNTRY – can't expect the same from the nation of Islam? Why, Islam nation will you not understand that, though we embrace your right to worship freely we think that you, as a nation, need to be understanding that it was a radical part of Islam that killed thousands of our countrymen. Wait – and you forge relations with us. We will meet you half way – just let us heal. It won't happen quickly.

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