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. John Hennessy Black

    I think the Center should be built exactly where it was planned to be built!

    I think Soledad was arrogant, rude and attacking, lacking any sensitivity at all in interviewing the Imam.

    I also think that both Larry & Rosaline on the panel after the interview are bigots, people full of hate and anger, and until they resolve their own personal issues – along with the other supposed 71% of American who are against this building – they will never be able to be happy within themselves.

    You folks have had almost 9 years to resolve your grief…

    September 9, 2010 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  2. etan

    Imam Rauf should spend his time and energy educating the American people about Islam. We are still generally not knowledgeable enough about moderate Islam. Every school in the country should have speakers educating children about all religions. This should be mandatory in our general education, since religion is one of the most burning and dangerous cause of unrest and violence today.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  3. Brent

    First, I believe next time there is an interview given the reporter should be non-biased & more open minded. I am a little disappointed in Soledad; I believe Soledad would of only be satisfied if Imam agreed to move the center, than truly listen to him as well as you to express the opinions of Americans in a nuetral manner. If you look back Soledad's body language & expression showed anger & frustration since her view was not being agreed to. I was also looking for Soledad to answer the Imam's question since she asked so many, but could not answer one. If you do not agree Soledad, then what is the answer?

    Again, I do believe if it is to be a multi-cultural center, then it should be reflected as a mulit-cultural center & also let the other faiths help to raise the money in a joint religuous effort & it will TRULY be a multi-cultural center.

    Whether the building is built or not, I think this is a chance for America to show it's true colors and to let the world know that we understand the difference between the true religion of Islam that teaches peace than those who claim Islam in a violent nature. It would be the same for any other religion that truly teaches peace & those who claim those religions & commit violence. Question??? Would we be making such a big deal about this if it was a Catholic, Christian, Jewish, etc... building being built if the attackers of 911 were claiming to be Catholic, Christian, Jewish, etc.... Or are we just singling out the Islamic community?????

    Remember our American history; we fought a civil war almost based upon whether slavery should exist? Or how about when women wanted a right to vote? Are we to oppress those who are Muslim & peaceful? Are we an country that will condemn peaceful Muslims because there are some who are clearly misguided promoting violence which is against the true Islamic religion? Why are we focusing solely on the negative aspects of the Islamic religion. I'm pretty sure there are positive stories of Muslims who have done great & generous things in America, but the only thing that is reported is the negativity.

    As for those who are free to practice their religion, are able to spread your gospel freely. My question is would you feel the same if your religion was under attack? If someone was on TV said, "Oh no, do not build or expand that Catholic, Christian, Jewish, etc.... building because then they will demand this & that." If the role was reversed, would you still make that same comment?

    Being humble, fair, just, & understanding is where we will show the world how great of a country the United States of America truly is!

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


      September 9, 2010 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Earnie

      @ AmericanGirl. I think you were referring to BLACKWATER right?

      September 9, 2010 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Earnie

      @ AmericanGirl. were you referring to the protection of black water?

      September 9, 2010 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Rachelle

      Well said! Soledad is not a journalist–I worry that the way she conducted herself will cause more sensationalism and further fear and hate. I hope that Americans will be able to see some of the parallels Brent mentions in our history and do what is right, fair and just.

      September 10, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Todd

    If radicalized Christians had perpetrated 9/11 in the name of Jesus Christ, would Americans oppose the building of a Church 2 blocks from Ground Zero? It would be wrong to let the emotions of 9/11 influence America to step backward and restrict Freedom of Religion.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ihsan

    I really lost respect for Soledad on this interview. I am all for tough questions and I do believe she got many in initially but the redundancy was incredibly tiresome and amateurish. She did not come off as a respected reporter or even logical interviewer. She came off like a rookie and and it was all about her big get – the interview with Imam Rauf. She should stick with her various unwatchable "_____ in a America" series.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. Shane T. Griffin

    I am a soldier, an emt, and consider myself to be a patriot and a christian. i believe in freedom of speech and the idea for justice for all, and that all have the right to practice their religious beliefs as they see fit. However, i do believe that this imam while talking about peace and trying to find a peaceful comprimise is not being true to the fallen heroes of 9/11 and their families. As a soldier i am apalled that the radicals who kill our troops are allowed to sway this decision,As an emt I am taught to care for all and do no harm. As a christian I am told to love those who anger me. As an American i believe in freedoms for all. I however also believe that if we don't stop calling this a war on terrorism and start calling it a war on radical islam then we will fail. this interfaith center wouldnt be allowed even in a more modern muslim country like saudia arabia. The majority if not all of muslim countries especially those with sharia law are intolerant of all other faiths. Even if you put this center at ground zero which i think is an abomination the terrorist will not stop. the majority of islam is radical and under sharia law and they will not stop until the western way of thinking and all other religions have ceased to exist. why placate those who will not heed to the call of change and comprimise? if we do this the only thing that will happen is that we will give up some of our liberties and security for those who would not and do not give us the same in their countries. I do not see a peaceful resolution to this and believe there will be none. i wonder how far we will go in this post modern pc society before we have passed the point of no return and america the way it was and was intended to be is no more. i am reminded of george orwells quote that ( and i paraphrase) telling the truth will become a revolutionary act. i see america on the verge of revolution and it saddens me. by the grace of god and chesty puller we will make it. god bless the 343 and the troops and those who serve to keep us free and safe.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      I agree with you 100%
      May God bless you and keep you.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      So you are saying that because Muslim countries who do not allow freedom of Religion should mean that the United States demonstrating it is the wrong thing to do? Perhaps if we provided them with an example, or acceptance they would become less hostile to us? You also cannot make the distinction between the peaceful Muslims and the once who are ignorant as many Christians are i would say. The Muslims wanting to building a mosque near Ground zero are not the same intolerant people in Saudi Arabia they are Americans who are tolerant. How can you justify punishment and disrespect for American-Muslims who are tolerant peaceful people simply because other people who call themselves Muslims are not. It's not right, Coexist.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
  7. john


    September 9, 2010 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      Oklahoma City. Not a Muslim.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Boogiedog

      IRA not muslims, various killing sprees across US (terrorist acts) not muslims, abortion clinic bombings not muslim, neo-nazi hate crimes not muslim, etc...

      September 9, 2010 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  8. Shellyl Pritchette

    My mother works at Seattle-Tacoma airport. When 9-11 came about that horrible morning she went to a side bathroom to cry in a stall. 3-4 moderate muslim women she works with came in and didn't know she was there and started giggling and laughing and celebrating the downing to the 2 towers. These are moderate muslims we work with eveyday that calim they are just normal muslims. NOT SO/...Anderseron, why don't you do a storey on this starting with the people at Sea-Tac Air;porr who are forced to work with these incom;petent horrible people. Now that is a story. My mom is a witness now the moderates are not moderates at all. I will be calling Fox next if you are not interested. It is a story......

    September 9, 2010 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tim

    What surprised me the most about the 360 show was how apologist Anderson Cooper, Soledad O'Brien and David Gergen were throughout the program but what do you expect from liberals ?

    September 9, 2010 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      I would expect anyone to see the difference between the 9-11 attackers and Sufi Muslims, law-abiding citizens, who live and pray in lower Manhattan and want to build something – anything – on their private property in the great freedom-loving U.S. of A.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
  10. Team

    As people commented and said before; why is ALL the Muslims treated like the villains? Haven't Christians made acts of violence in the name of God? Have you heard about the discrimination of the Tamils in Sri Lanka? Their discrimination is all done in the name of Buddhism, the so called "peace religion". Should we then blame all that is done on religion? The Florida pastor Terry Jones act is not very loving, shall we blame all Christians for his stupidity? People use religion as a tool of power. And you who start this anger against all the Muslims, you give the extremist, the terrorists more power. Building a mosque has nothing to do with 9/11. AND, people, there are a LOT of churches in the middle east. Try going there.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
  11. David

    I think it is somewhat disheartening that 25% of people oppose building a Mosque anywhere in America. If these statistics are consistent, then over 1/3 of the people whom oppose building the Mosque near Ground Zero simply are not willing to tolerate another faith. I do agree that it is insensitive to build the center in the current location, but this ignorance and bigotry towards average, every-day Islamics is uncalled for and pathetic.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
  12. Johnny

    The people who currently worship at this place and who want to use their private property to build an Islamic-based community center have nothing to do with the terrorists who attacked on 9-11. I am a Christian, born and raised in the South. There was a time in this country when different Christian sects persecuted one another. My ancestors were driven from Virginia for being Baptists by the Church of England. Fortunately, that sounds absurd today. Except it doesn't. We're actually having a national discussion in the 21rst century about denying law-abiding, peaceful, prayerful people the right to worship freely. Why are so many so quick to give up the mantle of being the freest country on earth? Perhaps this is another area in which a country like China is destined to pass us by?

    September 9, 2010 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
  13. Robert

    I am a 24 yr old male and I believe that the people that are so upset are not making the right valid statements on why we (America) should not allow or help another fellow Citizen of America to make a vision of his come true. I was taught blessed is the mournful for they will be comfort .I've lost many people that are close to me and I'm sure others have too but what we need to understand is by us acting foolish we pass that down to our kids (Our Future) and nothing changes it becomes the same cycle just different bodies are doing it .We need to stop being selfish and start learning to love and understand one another. Yes it hurts when life shoots you a blow that you didn't see coming but you must you must not let that hinder you from showing love, wisdom, and understanding. This Land has seen the most toxic events that man has done and for us to come so far from where we use to be would be a dishonor to the people who have fought so hard, that I believe most people take for granted. Let us be human and not alien towards ourselves.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
  14. Thomas

    An extremist Christian pastor is plotting to burn the Qur'an in Florida on September 11th, and thus leading to potential deaths of US troops. Does this Christian pastor represent every Christian in America? Of course not, so why would a few extremist terrorist who happen to be Muslim represent the mass of the Muslim religion. They don't and I cannot comprehend how any person who can think for themselves can't comprehend that fact. These Muslims and the huge majority of Muslims are peaceful people demonstrating their freedom of religion in the United States of America which was founded on these values. I don't see how this is a big middle finger to the 'victims of 9/11' for these people are in no way connected to the extremist, as you aren't with the extremist pastor. Also it is not a mosque it is a Community Center with a few rooms on the upper floor for prayer. This is being built for the Community that live around the mosque, asking them to leave simply because their mosque is located near ground zero is an argument only an ignorant biggot could make. I am an atheist but i believe strongly in morals and that everyone should be able to believe what they want. If this mosque is not built you have no idea how much of a devastation this will have on the entire world, and how much it is going to reveal the stupidity of the ignorant zombies who dwell in the United States. I guarantee the founding fathers of this nation would be ashamed that people are even suggesting not allowing religious freedom in the United States of America.

    September 9, 2010 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
  15. sam

    I am disappointed that all religions are not represented. A community religious center would be more appropriate. Not just Muslims, but all faiths.

    September 9, 2010 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      It's private property. They should build whatever they want to build.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
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