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. maggi

    He just say that we should be scare? no America is not and as Presifdent Bush

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

      Look at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, placed right on top of the old Jewish temple. This is a twisted, silent, understanding among Muslims that winning this fight is the same as a 'victory lap'. as the name of this building represents.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Amy Libeman

    This man is a racist who supports terrorists

    September 8, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ray

    70% of Americans who oppose the building of the Masque in NYC ARE NOT RADICALS. The Imam cannot be trusted.
    I am tired of hearing that unless we are ready to give up our freedom of speech (the burning of the Qumran) or stop opposing the building of the Masque, Americans will be threatened with violence. Bull Feathers! Americans will not be held hostage by this Islamic mentality.

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

      Since the History of America... every group that was "not known" to have equal rights in the past was discriminated... Italians, Irish.. Chinese, black people.. women, Gays, lesbians... the consensus during those times had 70 to 80% opposition to those groups from assimilating into the modern world.... So it's only natural to knee jerk "discriminate" against Muslims..

      Stop the hate! There are 1.3 Billion Muslims... 0.312 billion Americans... not all MUSLIMS think alike.. just like not all AMERICANS think alike..

      September 8, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • linda

      Just because Soledad repeated over and over again that 71% of Americans oppose the building of the Mosque near the ground zero site, has anyone questioned this number. Again, this is a media event to generated adverising dollars. The 71% poll data could be inaccurate information. How do you know? Why would you believe that without the information to prove it correct? Smarten up America. Question your sources.

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

    This imam is a civilized, thoughtful, lovely man, like most Moslems I have known. He is leading in the correct way, making a bridge between peoples, opening his heart and mind to the community he serves. This is the way of the teachings of all the masters, from Jesus to Mohammed. A zealot, a fanatic he is not. Fanatics come in all stripes; Christian fanatics are just as dangerous as any other religious fanatics. Bless you Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. You are a wonderful example to all people.I welcome your house of prayer. There is no way to peace; peace is the way and you are showing the way t lead in peace.

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

      Agree Bonnie. the fact that he was open to all religions is the truth. He is not intimidated by others' beliefs ... again because God is too big for one religion. It was nice to see that someone else sees that it isn't the label but the teachings that make the difference.

      September 8, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Preston

    Everyone needs to read Unleashing The Beast. World domination religion. That is the ultimate Islam objective.

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


      September 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • American Non-Muslim

      You mean in the same way Christianity was during the Crusades, the Middle Ages, the Inquisition??? But no, it is ISLAM that is a religion of hate...

      September 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Molly

      Preston I read that book and I am starting to think you are right

      September 8, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. orgdoc

    I am a little disappointed that Soledad seems to have her own preconceived position about this issue – that the Imam should reconsider building at the proposed site. "It sounds like you want to force peace," was her paraphrase that really did not paraphrase what the Imam said at all. He is attempted to bring a rational, reasonable perspective for all to consider. So far, all her questions seem to all come from the place of a "devil's advocate," which is not really a professional journalistic stance. She keeps asking the same questions in different ways, and he keep answering the same way consistently. What ever happened to objective journalism? And I LIKE Soledad.

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

      I thought the SAME THING. Very astute observation. I've watched another 15 mins or so of this interview, and Soledad did not get any better either...

      September 8, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keisha

      She is only doing her journalistic duty by asking the questions those opposed to it are asking. I think she is clearing up all the rumours.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emily

      I agree, Orgdoc, Soledad seemed very opinionated tonight. Not great journalism on her part. However, Imam Feisal did sound like he was making veiled threats when he claimed that if it is not built there it will jeopardize American security. I think an islamic center there might be the very thing to inspire inter-religious discourse and cooperation, but the Imam should unequivocally reject terrorism, affirm that Hammas is a terrorist group, confirm Israel's right to exist and guarantee that no funds used to build the center come from terrorist organizations/governments.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ben Pinto

    Once America take their right to build the mosque never again Americans would have the right to criticize the radicals from other religions around the world, because Americans would proof to be just like them. Beside that America can never again be called land of freedom.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jim

    Certainly you have the right. Whether you should is a different question. Your building of the Mosque is as equally insensitive as the Koran Burners that threaten to destroy books that are sacred to you. You can't always build a bridge where you want too. The fact that you are unwilling to bend causes this reader to wonder whether in your heart of hearts you were not happy with the results of 9\11

    September 8, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Concerned

    Where can I build a Christian community center in the Muslim world? Egypt around 10 middle school girls beheadded walking home from a Christian school. Pakistan Christian aid workers kidnapped and killed.

    If this is about peace let us parter with this imam and build a Christian community center in Afghanistan, or any one of the other Muslim nations. Also let this man live there for 6 months, then we can talk about peace.

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

      Uh....because we live in America and pretty sure we fled England to avoid the same type of religious oppression.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Nacole

    I think when the Imam says if he moves the center"there will be a national security issue" as though he knows something we don't know. It seems to me like he was either threatened or told if he moves it something will happen. He knows more than what he is telling and you can tell, just listen to his words!

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

      yes like the radicals are gonna be mad.. thats not a secret

      September 8, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sam

    Larry King should have done this interview, I am very disappointed in this woman's interview skills

    September 8, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • D. Kent


      September 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sha.

    Imam is using fear factor..he should first go to Afgan and fight terrorist...what a lie of National Security he is. using...The islamic center can never convert radical terrorist to moderate islamist...Islamic center is a boost to terrorist and a reward of 9/11....go and kill all terrorist and then he should talk on National Security

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

    Solidad? The woman doing this interview skills are lacking and the interview is real bad and will not serve the viewers.

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

    How does this imam feel about people burning the qu'ran ? Its all in the name of freedom and tolerance right?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Please Ben, these are two very different situations. The Imam is not burning a Bible and not once has he criticised Christians or Americans. Quite the opposite.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Nicki

    why are we blaming all muslims for what happened on 911. This Imam or his builders were not the people in the planes. Do we stop Cathloics from building a church by school children. Do we allow christian churches in black neighborhoods even though slavery what supported by christian radicals. We have casinos on reservations to appease Indians. Why have we forgot our herritage of burning bibles and hate and hangings. We are still not perfect so give the muslims a chance. This is to build relationships. and who cares who builds the tower... how many illegal immigrant mexicans or felony offenders build your bridges and freeways and churches

    September 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
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