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. Jon Gutner

    Oh great, we've been warned that doing things that muslims don't like will get us in trouble with their crazy sect. We don't want to do that now do we! Thanks for the mild threat!!!

    September 9, 2010 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  2. gawd

    mohameet adbraadbrah – i disagree with all moooozlem comments – you are all snivelling lieing sheets !

    September 9, 2010 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. Faye

    I am reading the Quran. If you embrace teachings in chapter after chapter you must agree to be intolorant of anything outside Islam...willing to destroy all else. If you don't embrace the teachings, why be a Muslim? No other belief system I'm aware of in the US urges true believers to kill non-believers. I'm trying to understand the great appeal Islam has on so many millions in the world.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  4. debbie

    Just one more thing.... Please Imam, consider this question – what would the muslims of Afganistan, Iran and or Iraq say if we as American's wanted to build a church that worshiped Jesus Chirst in one of these countries?

    September 9, 2010 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Meg

      Really debbie?! Wht Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran say?! I will tell you what they say. They might first say "to get the hell out of their countries, stop killing civilians everyday that do not get any international media coverage, start engaging in a peaceful way. And since US troops are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq for freedom, equality and democracy that US portrays maybe this Islamic center is the most real exam/test for it democracy that US is so zealous spreading

      September 9, 2010 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
  5. Pat

    I am Catholic and am saddened to see the level of righteous indignation and religious intolerance among my fellow Americans in this discussion. Frankly, I wish that all religious leaders would work together to heal this country of its religious intolerance and make an effort to return to the basic doctrine that they claim to hold dear–to love God, and love your neighbor as your self.

    I can speak from my own religion when I say that far too many wars and violent bloodshed have been for the cause of defending a particular religious point of view or seeing to it that a point of view was eradicated from a culture. No matter what religion, I have yet to ever hear that any version of the Bible condones the burning of another religious doctrine or the defiling of another's religious symbols; the days of the Iconoclasts purging of religious symbols should remain in medieval history and should not be brought to the modern way of life. For a minister to claim to be a man of God and announce a plan for a burning of the Koran is an insult to all religions and to God himself.

    It seems that too many of us have forgotten our own religous foundations and need to return to them if we are to have an accurate understanding of the foundation of or country. In this time of great economic, social, and global chaos, we cannot afford to use religion as an excuse for a bloodbath and should, instead, be using it as the source of our national comfort and healing.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Patrick Burke

      What I learned today:
      1. I have never talked on a message board thread. It is fun and informative "Plus I found I can not spell that good"
      2. All people are thoughtfull, in there opionons.
      3. As far as I can tell God Rules no matter what label is put on the belief product
      4. We take daily events broadcasted on network news as being the topic of the day. We in most cases do not believe what is being told.
      5. It was a total pleasure reading the posted thoughts. As Darrell said " We all worship the same God."

      September 9, 2010 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
  6. cohrahn berner

    get it ? cOhrAhn bERnER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    what a BLAZE of TRUTH it is !!!!!!!!!

    September 9, 2010 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
  7. Sara

    Just comn down ! do you really think that muslims will agree with this IMAM !! HE DOSEN'T REPRESENT US !!

    September 9, 2010 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. Alex K

    As a 17 year old I might not have the world views or wisdom as other adults, however, I do recognize that this may seem like somewhat of a slap in the face to some Americans. However, what I think everyone needs to remember is that there are radicals of all nationalities, faiths and colors. Building a mosque near ground zero is their right. Americans need to think of our ancestors. We built churches and places of worship on the Native Americans land and furthermore what about the other countries who have opened their doors and showed tolerance towards Americans and our faith?

    September 9, 2010 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  9. Maile

    We all need to hear what this Imam has to say. He serves at a mosque just 10 blocks away. He wants to enlarge his capacity to serve all his people and all faiths. Why are we counting the number of blocks away from Ground Zero? Why can't we simply welcome a man of faith and a community center of faith? Yes, this became controversial for the worst of reasons: political gain for some and an expression of bigotry by others. The feelings of the victims' families are being exploited. Remember, Muslims died in the towers that day as well as Christians.

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

    I am a non practicing American Muslim and live close to ground zero. Never read the Quran and never been to a mosque. I do feel the level of Islamophobia in American society is already quite extreme. The level of bigotry is quite shocking really. Few people seem to realize much of what is happening in the world today is a direct product of American foreign policy in the Middle East and has little to do with religion. Truth be told, these policies for a good 50 years been quite anti-Islamic.

    The events of September 11 is truly tragic and coping with the loss of loved ones is not easy. I cannot even imagine the grief caused to those who were directly affected by this tragedy. And nothing can be said or done to compensate them for their loss. Utmost sensitivity must be exercised in order to ensure we do not trample on their feelings. I do wish those who are not directly affected by the tragedy will reflect upon how 9/11 compares with some of the other tragedies or injustices that have happened in the last 200 years or so.

    As far as the mosque is concerned, IT NEEDS TO BE ABANDONED - THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO NEED TO POUR FUEL ON THE FIRE. Regardless of the Imams views, whether he is moderate or extreme, regardless of whether there was or wasn't any controversy when the project was announced, in the interests of not aggravating the situation further, the project must be abandoned.

    The focus needs to be taken away from this controversy and we need to focus on a dialogue between the people of the Islamic World and the people of the United States so there can be a greater understanding and perhaps a resolution to some of the conflicts that have brought us here, so we can usher in a new era of peace.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Scary Times We Live In

      As a muslim, we should be able to build mosque there because American Muslims also died on 9-11, however I will be EXTREMELY SURPRISED if the mosque or interfaith center is built.. Unfortunately the issue will not die down, and the next question that will be raised in communities across the country will be HOW MANY BLOCKS AWAY do we want mosques from buildings that have the US flag, church, schools, places where we have numerous people like malls, 100 miles, 1 miles,etc. if all people focus on what we have in common, we would leave this world a BETTER PLACE.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
  11. Peace Lover

    The fundamental mistake moslems are committing is that they are trying to practice their religion after they move to United States. In fact people from any culture when they move to a place with a different culture should always convert themselves to that culture instead of trying to practice their way of life in the new place. That means religion also. If we look at world history and if we look at the state of the native people of each continent after the invasion of European Christians you can see that their entire society has got messed up. Think about native people of America north and south, Australia, Africa etc. They are all messed up cuz the folks who came from outside refused to change themselves to the native culture instead they tried to change the native people to the alien culture.

    The reason why one should not try to change the native culture is the following. A culture develops according to the natural resources available in that place. Like trees,plants,animals,rivers etc and climate also plays a very important part. So people who have inhabited a certain place for centuries know how to survive in that place without disturbing the natural resources in that area and also using them to their advantage. So to live peacefully in a mentally and physically healthy way its always better to change oneself to the native culture rather than trying to continue to hold on to ur previous way of life.

    Next comes religion. Almost all cultures of the world believe in a higher power called God. Now depending upon the natural resources, language, climate etc people of different cultures have developed ways to communicate with God in their own way. So when one moves to a Christian nation one should worship God n the Christian way. If one moves to a Islamic nation one should worship God in the Islamic way so and so forth for all religions.

    So in order for us not to disturb the existing way of life in America whoever comes from outside whether they r moslems or whoever else they should first learn English, then convert themselves to our eating habits, our way of dressing, our way of worshiping God etc and we also as a society should welcome outsiders since as a law its allowed for people to come here from outside. Right from school we should welcome other children with an open heart and make them feel welcome here and help them adapt to our culture at the earliest.

    If you follow these natural laws such problems of cultural clash will never happen in the world.

    peace out.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  12. Amy

    Separation of church & state. period. That is what this country was founded on. Take the emotions out of this debate.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Darrell

      Amy., It is people like you that brings this country down. You have know emotions and it is obvious you just don't give a damn! This is a very emotional topic. No one needs you "Cold" opinions. I am a full blooded American and I know what America was build on. We are a people with a strong faith , pride and hope for a better tomorrow.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      Agreed Amy, you want a state-run church, move to Iran

      September 9, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ann

    We americans have always sided with our values and freedom.Have fought wars and that is one of the reasons we were attacked on 9/11.The crazy 9/11 radicals wanted to break our american spirit and freedom that our country so unique in the world stands for.And giving up our beliefs would be a shame and insult to all those who have laid their lives in american histroy of time.The attack was not on vatican or an exclusively christian nation,it was on America,the land of free.All the haters here(christians,jews and moslems) this is "Unamerican".

    September 9, 2010 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. pearl64

    I consider myself a moderate. And I relate to moderate, tolerant people. I believe in the conversation of different religions coming together and standing together to bring people together instead of tearing everyone apart. I can relate to people who are tolerant whether they are Republican or Democrat, Protestant or Catholic, Muslim or Buddist, educated or non academic...The church should be there for our communities so that we have a place to go to that's above the talk radio hate mongers...I'm just tired of it all and wish we'd get along and also wish there was a church to go to that would be above all this.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. Rob Johnson

    Two wrongs don't make a right, folks. That is what it all boils down to in the end. Whatever horrible things SOME (not all) Muslims may have done against us, is no excuse for denying them their basic religious freedoms.

    The First Amendment wouldn't be necessary if it didn't apply to unpopular speech, or unpopular religions. Nobody is saying you have to LIKE them building this mosque, but not liking something and forbidding its existence are two very different things.

    Last but not least, as others have posted, the 9/11 attacks were motivated a lot more by American foreign policy than they were by any pro-Muslim, anti-Christian sentiment. They didn't attack churches or symbols of religion, they attacked symbols of American wealth and military/governmental power. 9/11 was NOT a "Muslim" act, it was an act of political terrorism aimed at American hegemony in the world.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
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