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. Valentin Fuhrer

    Can someone who opposes the Islamic center please tell me... Why is God not welcome, two blocks away from "Ground Zero"? Build mosques, churches, synagogues, and places of reflection and worship. The place where such a violent and tragic even occurred is exactly where God needs to be invited in.

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

    Is Miss Soledad serious in asking the question " People are grieving saying, I still can't find my loved one's body and they want to build a mosque there" ?Why would you do it?..Did she do any research in asking that question ?...The body flew a few blocks opened the door to the building, dug a grave , buried itself and they opened the building 10 years later.

    Get a real reporter with a serious question..."How will you get together $100 million dollars when most of the Mosques in NYC are struggling to keep afloat to keep their doors open ? "....ALL TERRORIST MONEY !!!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Luc

    Soleidad is not doing a good job at this... As for the Imam, he wants to make us feel like we are wrong one way or the other. That is what Muslims do. They use our right to freedom against us while they just don't care about it themselves. He is basically telling us that Muslims are only waiting for America to reject the idea of a Mosque near Ground Zero to attack us... Doesn't that say it all?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Activist

      She's behaving as if she is fearful of him. Fearful, perhaps, of asking the tougher questions. Terrible interview for her.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. shawn

    how would they like it if we built a church in the middle of baghdad they wouldnt it would be blown to shreds before it could be built i take serious offense to this it adds salt to the already open wound i will never forget that day i will have it branded in my head til the day i die may god bless those lost on that tragic day

    September 8, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Michael

    Try building a Christian church in the muslim world and see what kind of "religious tolerence" you get.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ra

      Ridiculous! In those areas that you are speaking of, there are Muslims...alone. Here in the U.S. there are MANY different religions. That's just ignorant.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • das272

      @Ra – sorry to say but he is right! Muslims are not tolerant of other religions. Try going to Saudia Arabia or any Muslim nation and build a church or carry a bible and start talking about Jesus and see what happens. You risk imprisonment and/or death. Its not allowed. Yet they come to the U.S and want to build mosques here and try to jam their religion down our throats and we are suppose to be tolerant of this? Just don't seem fair.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Eric T

    Waste of time and energy. Softball Fest. CNN just jumped the Shark.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. mary

    We need to stop, think, and learn to LOVE again. These Muslim's are not the people that killed our loved ones. No we will never be whole again, but these are not the people that did this. They are on our side.Why do we want to hurt them?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ra

    Who asked Soledad to do this interview? It is disheartening to see her interview and be this insensitive toward the FACT that we are all freee to do what we want to do. She is exactly what ignorant americans are about this and most subjects they do not understand: bounded, jaded, intolerable and out and out insensitive. I really wish for her to read this or another's opinion that's similar! I don't think that she's listening for making great attempts to get a reaction out of the Imam.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kirk Ryan

    One of the causes of the vast disagreement with the Cordoba project is the lack of voice by the Muslim leaders denouncing the radical factions' behaviors. For example when the preacher in FL said he was going to burn the Quran, there was immediate backlash about this from all faiths as well as from his own faith, christian, catholics, Jewish and others. So there is a self-sanctioning practice in play. Unfortunately, we see none of this from the Muslim leaders. Where are the leaders denouncing the inhuman and destructive practices by these radicals? This leads the average person to belive, perhaps rightly, that the leaders agree with these practices. Even if untrue, this is the perception. There would probably not be the anger seen if the leaders in the Muslim communities on the front line denouncing violence and the uncivilizied behavior by the radicals. Until then, there will always be distrust and anger toward the Muslim community.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary J in Kansas

      Kirk –
      You are 100% right. 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 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kat Nanton

    Doesn't Saudi Arabia need an interfaith worship centre more than we do. Build your Cordoba house there and stop threatening our national security because 70% oppose this thing. This guy is taquiya at work at its finest!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. val

    I a christian feel I need to tell Imam Rauf that he has a duty to build this center. He has a duty to show that his form of Islam is as far from radical Islam as any Christian is from radical Islam. Imam Rauf is absolutely correct when he says that we need to stop the radicals from running the conversation. God bless you Imam Rauf, and please do not give up for our sakes.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • American Non-Muslim

      Agreed. It seems like his plan will actually assist the U.S. in achieving its foreign policy goals in the Middle East...

      September 8, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. American Non-Muslim

    Are there ANY leads that connect this imam or ANY of the people in his religious community to ANY terrorist activity? Is there ANY evidence to such? The answer is NO! To call these people enemies is simply wrong.
    There are no ashes at the site, the building was donated to this imam's organization, and last time I checked, there is a separation of church and state in the U.S. Let them build this center where they want. They've had one 8 blocks away for at least 25 years and that hasn't been a problem so why make a big deal out of this now?
    AND it seems like this imam is a moderate Moslem who is just as nationalistic about the U.S. as anyone else. The building of this center is HIS contribution to actually improving the image of the U.S. in the Middle East. Or do we not care how the rest of the world sees us anymore?

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


      Soledad says – "Do you believe America was an accessory to the 9/11 attacks?" (Asked over and again). It doesn't matter if the Imam believes it or not – it's a statement of fact. He should have responded with a question of his own: "why did the terrorists specifically attack the US rather than any other Western nation?"

      Well, it ain't because they "hate our freedoms," I'll tell you that. Osama bin Laden and Khalid SHeikh Mohammed both unequivocally stated that the attacks were secular (political) in nature, not religious – 9/11 happened specifically because of our meddling in Middle East politics. I.e. aiding Israel's human rights violations against Palestinians, US bases in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim lands, deals for oil, etc.

      Soledad O'Brien is a reporter – her job is to inform us of this important information; yet here she is cornering someone who is merely doing her job for her and trying to inform us of that which we do not know. (Thanks to this main stream media, of course!)

      Your apparently naive..Do you think if the Palestinians got there own country that radical Muslims will fall in love with Christians and Jews ?...Read what the Koran says...Then you will know Bin Laden's search of a Fatwah. Make no mistake he is partly of the US's creation , but like any radical thinks "Those guys there , they are the devils, they are the ones depriving you from being somebody, maintaining and keeping your faith "

      There will always be an excuse for a radical , as long as people who are on the fence and don't want to make waves will stay silent against them.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. j.ann

    I'm am outraged that we as Americans are so unwelcoming to others. Isn't the site like blocks away. These are Muslim Americans... humans, that have rights. Do some of you Americans forget that your ancestors probably faced discrimination as well. why don't you treat others how you want to be treated. For all of you haters newsflash... America is growing it's not just white people ruling the country. Not every Muslim is a terrorist, are some of you that ignorant? They pay taxes they have a right to be here.

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

      Exactly. Muslims account for 1/6th the world's population. The Extremist Muslims were in left field–similar to some Christian Extremists such as DAVID KORESH in Waco, TX.

      1.3 Billion Muslims DON'T all think alike.. look at us Americans... 312 million people (1/3rd the size of the MUSLIM population as a whole) & even AMERICANS DON'T ALL THINK ALIKE!!

      Don't agree with me? I just proved my point

      September 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Steven Litwak

    The Muslim community has not reached out to the american population to reject 9/11 tragedy
    and now appear to be planting a flag of victory much like the marines did at Iwo Jima
    Thsi is why Americans are upset.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • orgdoc

      They are Americans, too. Did you forget? Just because a person practices Islam does not make them non-American. The largest percentage of the Muslims in this country are American citizens.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Laura

    It is a shame to know that only this proposal to build such a monument of hate in the States and especially on ground zero. U.S. is the only place those serpants can fool and penetrate by using its own laws to their benefit. If this project goes on, you will be erecting a times bomb in your midst whether you like it or not. The will be forcing their dark culture, religion, and way of like on you. Everyone in the islamic world will be celebrating your naivity and stupidity. To them, this but another islamic win. I'm not living in the United States, but this guy is like "IN YOUR FACE"!!!! Do not trust a word this imam Rauf is saying, this is a typical islamic style to gain grounds: soft and patient, but when they turn their back something totally different is said. LIARS. This religion is beyong fixing and co-living with. Your youth and people will be injected the culture of hate, fear and terror. The guy is threatening by saying that something serious is going to happen in the islamic world. Don't you get it, HE IS THREATENING.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • adlady


      September 8, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
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