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. hrkaur

    I personally think building a mosque near ground zero would be a great testament for what the United States I believe stands for. So many different cultures and so many different religions and every one just respecting each other. And what better way to show the world 'hey it was Islamic Extremist who attacked us, but we understand not every Muslim holds their views and we respect their right to worship'.....but nope we got people making a big issue out of it. I cannot see a better way to respect those who died on that day because of hatred by showing tolerance and not classifying every Muslim with terrorist.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. laszlo Boros

    The present mosque is ten blocks away. So if not there, how many blocks away is right?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. avdm

    Source of the money - for the building, for its development, how much is it sharia-dominated for money donated ??? Questionable sources - Too many questions to accept what we hear and read.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. maggi

    “Huston we have a problem”, back to history this man in Interview for 60 minutes just after 9/11 he say”. Faisal: I wouldn't say that the United States deserved what happened, but united states policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • linda

      Maggi, the United States colonialism does and has created problems. Try a history book. Yes what happened on 9/11 was/is terrible. However, what about what the US has done to others. Please try to be a student of history.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. WestCoast Catholic

    The comments I had to read through clearly point out the need for this cultural center to move forward. The amount of ignorance and hatred that is being espoused by my fellow Americans is shameful. Listen to what Imam Rauf is actually saying on Larry King tonight. Even better yet go back and read the New Testament for all of the supposed Christians who are against this project and ask your self one question, "What would Christ do?" I believe in my heart that Christ would walk hand in hand with Imam Rauf down the streets of New York.
    Both the Bush and Obama administrations use this man to help bridge the Muslim and Western worlds...

    September 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. manny

    america dont get scare of radical muslim , Mr Ruaf we dont care for radical muslim ,pls move from the ground zero , we will respect you and muslims for doing this

    September 8, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Michael

    I think they should take their mosque and shove it.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • adlady


      September 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      This is why I think of leaving America.. it includes people who don't know where they came from. Have you checked to see where you came from? The only natives are American Indians.... sorry to say and if anyone has a right to tell anyone to shove it, it is them. So, there you have it and no, I am 0% native american indican.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sha.

    This is ridiculous. Imam is unfortunately and regretfully creating fear factor of National Security, if Islamic Center is not built at Ground Zero. It should never be built there as it will not improve national security.
    It will encourage more terrorists to visit US and that Islamic Center.
    How does this Islamic Center improve the National Security?
    Religious freedom can be enjoyed anywhere else but should not be allowed at that site.
    That site can have a name as Church, Jewish Center and a Hindu Center but no Islamic Center.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dwayne

      You need to wake-up to reality. It is the U.S foreign policies towards the Middle East that is the cause of the problem not the not a building. If you read the 9/11 Commension Report, that media fail to mention, it stated that as fact.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. vic nashville tn

    Building a mosque near ground zero NO we have to make move very diplomatic terrorist organization market this problem to raise money and recruit

    September 8, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dr. Virginia Lubell

    Through American History when integrative change has occurred, resistance has raised its ugly head. Soledad ... when you ask 'are you trying to force a peaceful change?' what would Rosa Parks say? Martin Luther King? If 'moderate Muslims' do not find a voice and place ... then the radical elements will rage louder and longer. Islam is going through its Inquisition just as the 'church' did centuries ago. The Iman is accurate ... we have a separation of Church and State and if we bring 'religion' into politics then we lose that separation. For 40 years the conservative 'Church' elements have been trying to bring their 'church' into our free government. The radical church sects in the US are trying to control our political conversations.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • linda

      Aah, a voice of reason. Thank you for your thoughtful post.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Fahim Lodhi

    The Imam is right on about this issue! Are we forgetting many Americans who lost their lives on 9/11 were Muslims. What about their families concerns? Don't they count as Americans? Are you just going to ignore them from this conversation? As an American and a Muslim, I will never support any one or anything associated with terrorism. This isn't a monument to the terrorists, or extremists for that matter.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary J in Kansas

      Fahim –
      The world needs more vocal Muslims like yourself. Unfortunately, that's part of the problem. When defending the Imam in the face of so-called intolerance the talking heads attempt to distinguish between “moderate” Muslims and the fundamentalist Islamo-Fascists who were responsible for 9/11 and subsequent attempted attacks. Where are all these so-called moderates? You’d think the moderates would far outnumber the extremists and therefore there would be plenty of denunciations by moderates of Muslim extremists. Not so much. In fact, it’s rare to see any Muslim denounce extremism in the media. It is not unreasonable for your average American to the equate the moderate’s silence to acquiescence. In other words, if these so-called moderates don’t care enough to vocalize their opposition to extremism, then they must support it. Therefore, the failure of the so-called moderates to loudly oppose extremists explains, at least in part, the widespread opposition to the ground-zero mosque, not intolerance or Islamophobia as the talking heads would have you believe.

      September 15, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. haon99

    Islam did not attack us on 9/11, islamic extremist terrorists did. Attributing 9/11 to islam would be the equivalant of tying Oklahoma City or a decade of terror in Northern Ireland to Christianity. By not building in NYC, the Iman is only solidifying the misconception that Islam is behind 9/11. However, given popular sentiment, building the community center is probably in bad form, but so is the idea that Islam is to blame for 9/11. This entire situation illustrates how far we have yet to come in understanding our fellow Americans.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • pauley

      If I hear one more time that Islam did not attack us,I'm just going to throw my hands upand declare everyone stupid!!!! By the way, this Iman is a total phony. I could care less if Americans not wanting the Mosque near ground zero will inflame the muslim population. A Crispy Cream donut without enough frosting will get them started. It's time for the Muslim world
      to open their eyes and become civilized!!!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. maggi

    So are the laws only for Islamic benefit? I Hope no.. As the law say we have pay taxes , do we like not , but for the good of the country we pay. I wonder how is possible that the US Department of State did paid the director of this plan a trip to the Middle East.
    What to Collect more money for American’s Jihad ?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Katy Mike

    Like he pointed out the controversy didn't start until this past May. I really don't understand why people are upset about this. Muslims died in the World Trade Center and I don't mean the Muslims on the planes. Muslims are victims of radicalized fundamentalists, all over the world many more Muslims have died at the hands of these radicals then Christians,Atheists, etc. Goodness, he's right. Why do radicals, on either side, get to control the discourse? They do feed off each other, and the battle front is between moderates on all sides and radicals on all sides. I just don't get why this is a debate.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. William

    The Imam makes an important point, that the community center and mosque was commented on in the NY Times in December 2009 and not a single voice of protest was raised for six months! Why wasn't the community center a problem for six months?

    Because no one had turned it into a problem – no one had politicized the community center as a sinister conspiratorial threat. At the end of the day, its a community center and poses no threat to anyone.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
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