September 8th, 2010
11:20 PM ET

5 surprises from Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s CNN interview

Five big surprises from Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on Wednesday night:

1. Rauf regrets locating the Islamic center near ground zero. “If I knew that this would happen, cause this kind of pain,” he said Wednesday night, “I wouldn’t have done it.”

2. Rauf says the reason he can’t move the Islamic center now is because of national security concerns, saying parts of the Muslim world would be violently inflamed at the news of the center’s relocation.

“The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack… (there’s) the danger of the radicals in the Muslim world to our national security, to the national security of our troops,” he said.

“If we do move,” Rauf continued, “it will strengthen the argument of the radicals to recruit, their ability to recruit, and their increasing aggression and violence against our country.”

"If this is not handled correctly, this crisis could become much bigger than the Danish cartoon crisis, which resulted in attacks on Danish embassies in various parts of the Muslim world,” Rauf said later. “…. If we don't handle this crisis correctly it could become something which could really become very, very, very dangerous indeed.”

It's a novel argument and was Rauf's central point tonight. Will most Americans buy it?

3. When news first broke about the proposed Islamic center near ground zero last December, there was no controversy around it.

“It was a front-page article in New York Times," Rauf told CNN, “and no one objected. This controversy only began in May, and it began as a result of some politicians who decided to use this for certain political purposes.”

I didn't know that.

4. The New York Islamic Center will include a memorial for those killed in the 9/11 attacks.

The Islamic center had announced this earlier, but I doubt most Americans knew about it.

5. Despite the raging controversy, Rauf sees the current moment as a historic opportunity for Muslims to think about their place in the United States and for the country to think about religious freedom.

There’s “a silver lining here,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to speak about this subject in a manner that is sober, in a manner that is coherent. To look at what we are all about as Americans, to look at what it means to be Muslim in America. To look at how we are going to put back this genie of clash between the West and the Muslim world back into the bottle.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Houses of worship • Islam • Mosque • Muslim

soundoff (583 Responses)
  1. steven09

    1. "If I knew that this would happen, cause this kind of pain," he said Wednesday night, "I wouldn’t have done it."
    Sorry, but it doesn't take a lot of brains to foresee this happening. Either one is completely brainless, or has malintent to begin with.

    2. "Rauf says the reason he can’t move the Islamic center now is because of national security concerns."
    I don' tthink that moving it a few blocks will be considered intolerance. He's obstructing a simple solution to the problem. And avoiding responsibility for the gridlock we're in now.

    3. "When news first broke about the proposed Islamic center near ground zero last December, there was no controversy around it."
    I happened to read about it before the controvery began. And I was appalled. And I'm liberal.

    4. "The New York Islamic Center will include a memorial for those killed in the 9/11 attacks."
    Positive note made and appreciated (in addition to Daisy Khan's appearance with a Jewish leader on an Amanpour interview). However, they are stacking up a lot of negatives.

    5. "To look at what we are all about as Americans, to look at what it means to be Muslim in America."
    Perhaps the wise Imam in his 60s can take some lessons from Miss America in her 20s. "I’d like to say I’m American first, and I am an Arab-American, I am Lebanese-American, and I am Muslim-American." Kudos to her. I wish her well and all truly moderate Muslims.

    September 9, 2010 at 9:10 am |
  2. Solomon

    THe PERFECT SOLUTION to this problem: Have the pastor in Florida confront this Muslim wolf-in-sheeps-clothing with this proposition: I won't burn the Quran if you move the mosque! Then watch this rat-bag Rauf squirm and find another 5 reasons why they can't move it.!

    September 9, 2010 at 9:06 am |
  3. Thambi Dorai

    The interview with the Imam broadcast on CNN last night was shocking and at the same time revealing. Revealing in the sense that now we know the true colors of the Imam and his intentions. He said effectively that moving the Islamic center now would jeopardize American National Security. Who is he? Is he the National Security Advisor to President Obama? What audacity he has to go on national television and put forward a veiled threat to the US? The bottom line here is that Islam, with all due respect to its followers, is NOT a religion of tolerance. No matter how we Americans or anybody in the rest of the non-muslim world would try to impress upon them, the muslim world is NOT going to understand that we do not have any animosity towards Islam per se. They will always twist that fact and portray that we are at war with Islam. President Bush made the fundamental mistake of meddling into their affairs. Americans put their legs so deep into their affairs unnecessarily ( with a lot of lies to justify the war) during Bush's presidency that extricating their legs now is made more and more difficult. Now, we are stuck with the Pottery Barn rule that " if you break it, you own it" We are still paying for Bush's mistakes, with a couple of trillion dollars that we did not have, down the drain already, fighting a war charged to our credit cards. After the Imam's interview, it is now very clear that General Patreus can spend another trillion dollars in Afghanistan at the expense of several thousand more American troops and what will happen at the end? The reality is that at the end, the Muslims are still NOT going to understand OUR good intentions. They will always twist our broad mindedness and tolerance in our country as a fuel for the radicals in Islam. That was effectively what the Imam meant last night. No matter how many more trillions of dollars we spend, Gen Patreus WILL come out empty handed, because muslims are not going to appreciate and it IS going to be a thankless job. It was made very clear last night that the Imam is not a bridge builder and he will only foment the notion in the muslim world that islam is under attack.
    Who is he to come to this country and pose a veiled threat? After the CNN interview, it is very clear that building a muslim center at Ground Zero is NOT going to build any bridges. It is more like the Imam is trying a shotgun approach telling us " build a mosque here or else..." Let me ask a very fundamental question: Why is the Imam so bent on "building bridges" here? Why can't he go to the muslim world and try to "build bridges" there? Let us see whether he gets permission to build a church or synagogue or a temple either in Mecca, Riyadh, Tehran or Karachi or Islamabad. Or at the least, we would appreciate if the Imam tries to build an Interfaith and Universal Center for Religious Tolerance and Understanding in any one of the above cities. If he succeeds in doing that, that would send a clear signal that he indeed wants tolerance and understanding. I challenge the Imam to do this before he comes to this country and try to teach the Americans about Islam. We have learnt whatever we needed to learn about Islam on 9/11. It is the Muslims , who have to understand now that as a people, this great country is FOUNDED on freedom of religion, tolerance and understanding. So, Americans do NOT need to take any more lessons from the Imam about religious tolerance and understanding. As a matter of fact, it is WE who should be teaching the Imam about interfaith, tolerance which the Muslims do NOT understand. So, my request to the Imam is " Go back to your own country and preach about religious tolerance THERE. We do not need your LESSONS here. After last nights CNN interview, it is very clear that EVEN IF the muslim center was built near Ground Zero, it is NOT going to enhance anything meaningful discourse because the muslim world has an ulterior motive of thrusting their views down our throats and not at all interested in listening to our tolerant views. Quite frankly, I was shocked to see the Imam come across so arrogant in the CNN interview. It was a shame that the State Department has entrusted this snake oil salesman to go to other muslim countries to build bridges at the US tax payer's expense. What a waste of money!

    September 9, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  4. Tony

    All justification for all the islamic aggressions comes out of a threat and intimidation.. "we/it will harm your security".. Islam is holding entire world hostage.

    September 9, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  5. Becky

    The way I look at it is if they let them put this Muslim Center close to ground zero is just like letting the Japanese put a temple up right after they bombed Peral Harbor!!! Its their way of saying that they have taken over this area and won and they will continue to do this. They need to move it somewhere else if they want peace and want to keep it.

    September 9, 2010 at 9:04 am |
  6. Striker

    If the Quran burning and the Mosque in Manhattan near ground zero doesn't occur: Hate, prejudice, Fear and bigotry will escalate more in the United States of America. I guess no one remember the history of such things in this country, was it that long ago that slavery, the KKK happened. People fought and died to have such a reality change and America is falling right back into the trap. Communisim was fought and back then Russians were the enemy, China was the enemy.
    We now have business dealings with both and they are both friends to the US. Why are people being so ignorant and fearfull don't you see where this is leading us to. A country not of religious freedom and freedom in general but a country of a much greater Divide. People bring up they don't want government in their business, but look if it wasn't for the government the 9 black students who went to school in the south for the 1st time after slavery and aparthied was abolished wouldn't have gotten to that school if the people with their fear and hatred had their way. And to use god as an excuse to burn a holy book is wrong. How dare this preacher or a man that calls himself a preacher use god for hate. Who is he to do this, he is not an apostle of God. God is about peace and good will. If people that support the preacher to burn anything in gods name or support the freedom of religion in any way they don't belong in America

    September 9, 2010 at 9:03 am |
  7. J

    I don't normally post to these forums, but after reading the comments I felt compelled to add my own. In this country we are taught from a very young age to respect the faiths of other individuals and as a country respect the rights of those people to practice their faith. Unfortunately, such tolerance isn't taught by other countries. In fact, in many countries hate is the status quo.

    The issue of the mosque isn't an issue of freedom of religion as many of you have indicated. It's a matter of respect. Many, not all, but many Islams simply hate us because that's what they have been taught. They don't respect our religions and would do much worse than protest the building of a Christian chuch on what they consider holy ground. This is only echoed by the Imam's comments. More scare tactics to get what they want.

    I fully support freedom of religion, but I also fully support the use of compassion and common sense neither of which are being demonstrated. As a country, there is no right decision for the US. If we allow the mosque, we are labeled as cowards and, mark my words, the radical Muslims will claim victory. If we don't allow the mosque, we will be labeled as infidels and the radicals will step up their attacks. To say that not moving it will make a difference in our relationships is quite simply insincere.

    Regardless, we have already lost as a country. The country divided on this topic is already a victory for those who hate us.

    September 9, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  8. Banlow

    How can you say it is in our national security interest not to move it 'now'? YOU are COWERING to the extremeists! Stand up to them and show them it is best to DO WHAT IS RIGHT, not what they are forcing you to do with threats. When YOU cower in the corner – they win! That's what they want.

    Don't you see that???

    September 9, 2010 at 8:58 am |
  9. Amit

    If at all this guy Iamam Rauf succeeded in anything, that was in exposing himself on his agenda. None of his scare tactics against Americans worked. It's a pity that we have selected this guy to represent us in the Muslim world given all his outrageous remarks especially where he said that "America was an ACCESSORY to 9/11", "America has more Muslim blood than AL-QAEDA has of non-Muslims", "America created Osama", "Hamas is NOT a terrorist organization" etc. If this is the face of MODERATE ISLAM Americans wonder what could be the face of RADICAL ISLAM!!!

    September 9, 2010 at 8:55 am |
  10. Uncanny

    Why are people saying how dare the muslims build there? I dont understand why they shoouldnt. They didnt commit the acts of horror on 9/11. They instead were targeted. Muslims died that day too. And as a result so many innocent Muslims were killed in Afghanistan as well.

    Al-Qaeda committed the acts on 9/11. Not the one billion Muslims around the world. AL-Qaeda doesnt represent Islam in anyway. It is said in Islam that killing one person is like killing all of mankind and saving one is like saving all of mankind. And the word person is used. regardless of faith.

    People keep saying we should be sensitive to the families of 9/11. I understand that. Nobody can understand what theyve been thru. But again, why are the blaming someone who had no part in this? Is it ok to build a church in the same location? OR a synagogue? OR any other religious building as long as it doesnt have to do with Islam? I believe the US is bigger than this and again people should know that the real peace-loving Muslims had nothing to do with 9/11 and should not be punished for something that hurt them just as much if not more.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  11. JSF

    Better let them build it where they want ot they might hurt us!!!! What has our country come to?

    September 9, 2010 at 8:51 am |
  12. Steven P

    “If I knew that this would happen, cause this kind of pain,” he said Wednesday night, “I wouldn’t have done it.”

    Well, now you know it. Follow your own words.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:49 am |
  13. Morgan

    "They are simply being asked to be tolerant and understanding of Americans' feelings and requests."

    Never mind the fact that a good many of those "they" you speak of ARE Americans. But I guess since "they" are Americans and Muslims they don't get the same rights and freedoms as you do. I guess since "they" are Americans and Muslims their feelings and requests don't count as much.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:46 am |
  14. New to blog

    In these times PRAYER is the answer. No matter what religion you are or what part of the world you live in we need to have faith in something other than fear, ignorace and intolerance. This is the only planet we have to live on, therefore we should really try to understand our fellow man and remember the golden rule. DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THE TO DO UNTO YOU. No matter how much hatred or misunderstanding we have within ourselves and of our fellow man we should always ask and if this is how you would want to be treated and if your God would truly want you to treat others in that way. May God bless you all and guide your hearts through these very trying times.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:46 am |
  15. DounSouthAmericanBoy

    Do you like broccoli..??.. No, You are a Bigot!!!!! Do you like it when it snows..??.. Yes, You are a Racist!!!!! What in the hell..??.. You stand up for the fundamentals that this country was founded on & that makes you racist..??.. Well, then I must be the biggest racist in the USA!!! Now what do you want to talk about..??.. How about the matter of you developing a frigging backbone & standing up for something that means something... All of you tree hugging, baby-killers make me want to puke!

    September 9, 2010 at 8:44 am |
  16. eka

    An educated and worldly Muslim community leader like Rauf wants to build Muslim center close to ground zero, while the war and other thing is going, is this a common sense or decency have been exercise or just Muslims self-absorption and taking no responsibility of their own community conduct, they should not be crying like a spoil baby, when a ripple affect from their own conduct come back toward them (The Burning of Koran and fire attempt toward Muslim community were coming from his fake and insincere agenda on this building issue). Here their Muslim brothers committed evil acts that have changed our way of life, I did not see that outrage from Muslim community as the burning Koran or on this building issue. So should we be sensitive to Islam or Muslim? When they have not spoken up against their own brothers who were committed the acts of evil under the name of their religious faith. So give me a break on sensitivity toward Muslim and Rauf’s vision/agenda to close the gap of understanding toward Islam.

    I also found the Muslim community tense to forget in their own Muslims brothers’ indecency and evil acts. For examples: the irreplaceable Buddha figure stood in the cave, in the Afghanistan for over 1000 years was blown up by their Muslim brothers, I didn’t see Muslim community speak up against that as they have on this book burning and on the building issue. Bottom line, the book of Quran can be reprinted, but the Buddha stature that was a gift giving to world is irreplaceable and forever loss by indecency and purely evil act of Muslim bothers. So give me a break, when Muslim Community asks for respect and decency of other, when they lack of understanding a basic common sense and have none of decency toward other.

    In sum, the Muslim community surely does not respect and be sensitive to other groups’ belief/faith, yet they demand other to respect them by the mean of threatening in an evil act of violate, when they do not get their way. Muslims need to grow up, get a thicker skin, and get with the world social progress. Moreover, His vision of understanding and tolerant needs to start at the Muslim’s world, of whom still insist of living in a social stone age, not in the West. We have made social progress and have access to information, and a choice if we like the Islam or not. No need to throw in our face.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:42 am |
  17. foryouropinion

    this isn't racism. we are not bending over for another culture anymore. certainly not one that is so primitive and mean.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:42 am |
  18. bwelter

    1. It does, so move it.
    2. How convenient.
    3. ...and nobody was crazy about it either. Article states that they've sought to avoid publicizing because plans are too preliminary to reveal details, then later characterize the location as an overflow for another location. Not sure anyone knew it was a 'thing' yet.
    4. In a manner that does not exlude the Muslim hijackers, I'm sure.
    5. Nice sentiment. Those Muslim decision makers behind locating the mosque so close to ground zero should ponder less about their place in the United States and ponder more about their place in lower Manhattan.

    No surprises here. PR101.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:42 am |
  19. MS

    I think the problem is not the mosque location.
    The problem is rhetorics overtaking sanity in this country. Ignorance is the biggest threat to USA.
    I think a combination of ignorance and tendency to dislike people who are not like us have brought us here.
    1. 9/11 was done by Muslims.
    Ignore the fact that vast majority of Muslims disapprove and disagree with Al-qaiadah
    Ignore that vast majority of Muslims think those acts are against fundamentals of Islam.
    Generalize that small group to entire Muslims and blame Islam for that.
    2. Ignore the fact that Al-qaiadah has killed more Muslims than any other group of people. (they are killing Muslims that don't think like them almost every day in Iraq and Pakistan)
    Assert that Muslims are on Al-qaiadah side not our side.
    Now what political leaders doing? are they correcting these misunderstanding?
    No they promote it for more political gains.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:41 am |
  20. jhuyzinga

    Maybe the ethically-challenged Eliot Spitzer was not the right one to help us understand why it's offensive to have God's house there but it's not offensive to have two strip joints there. What was CNN thinking? Was it expecting too much of Soledad that she would prepare enough for the interview to know her guest's name? I'm sure he was amused by her repeatedly calling him "Faisool" which means "Bean" in Arabic. Was she unprepared, or was that a schoolyard taunt? NO ONE has any business telling ANYBODY where to build their house of worship or how. Roland Martin was right for once.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:41 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.