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. Sharoin

    It is amazing that Feisal Abdul Rauf knows so much about what the radical Islams think–act–and can predict what can happen-YET KNOW SO LITTLE ABOUT THE AMERICANS! He has lived here for how many years? A very–very long time!
    When He says he had no idea Americans would be so irrate–he isn't telling the truth! Or, he has traveled abroad more–spent more time in the Muslim worlds–spoke to Radicals more–

    This is a horrible incident–truth of the matter–the plan was in the works–probably since 9-11. It is a sign of trouble and for a man to say–"WE MUST BE CAREFUL NOT TO ROCK THE BOAT__I DIDN"T HAVE ANY IDEA AMERICANS FELT THAT WAY__SHOULD GIVE US A CLUE THAT HE IS MORE MUSLIM THAN AMERICAN!

    If Imam truly had the right intent in his heart, he would re-locate the mosque! Since this has been an issue ALL ABOUT MUSLIMS–I did so research on them.

    The Nation of Islam's headquarters is right in NYC–under Louis Farrakhan! The things on that website shocked me-statements such as: God is going to allow the Muslims to bring down America-other shocking things–hate language–there is no greater power than to have power of someone–in his magazine the FINAL CALL–there were so many things (hateful) things that I was completely shocked!

    I have always thought Isam and all the mosques were under the jurisdiction of Louis Farrakhan who is at the top of the list–the message about Americans brought the attack on 9-11 were due to the policies of this country (USA)–our practices are sinful in nature–appalling to God! Even if Imam is another Islam movement–the core statement of America brought the attack on herself seems to be a common statement among the Muslims!

    I don't really know what to think–you learn by reading the Qur'an–and about Islam! This is what I found! If this is true, is that why Obama–Pelosi–Dirty Harry is trying to change America's policies on our reasoning with the Muslims–could it be possible Pelosi and Dirty Harry believe it is their duty to change all policies so that we (America) could have peace!

    If this is so, does American want that kind of attitude such as: "it is great to have power of people" and the above statements. Go to the website-everyone get an English Qur'an–we are doing what has been encouraged by our leaders–learn and study decide for yourself-

    September 9, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
    • peace2all


      If you do *any* reading about Hitler's speeches and writings, you will find him referencing "God and our Saviour, blah, blah" many times in his communications.

      Just because he was an ignorant christian like a lot of you folk, doesn't mean he was ignorant in other areas like evolution. That is pure racism. He was wrong about that too.

      Just like you are wrong about Hitler and his Christian religion. Don't get so offended Keith..... he was just another bad seed to come out of the mythical world of christianity. Period.

      So, no..... you don't bother me in the least.


      September 9, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
  2. Franco T.

    Soledad O'Brien was a DISGRACE as an interviewer! Absolutely discourteous, unprofessional, very agressive (almost rude) and had no depth at all in her questions! So repetitive...

    Please, ask the imam back and invite a real journalist to interview the gentleman.

    By the way, WHAT was the reason for Larry King not interviewing the imam ?

    (By the way-2, is CNN thinking this through ? ARE you really gonna let Larry King go ? He is the best interviewer ! Well liked among politicians/celebrities/regular folks, very polite, and a professional who gets a lot of information from his guests.


    September 9, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
  3. Lee

    I don' admire or have any desire to live in a Muslim controlled country. The evidence of how Muslim control degrades the population and paralyzes growth and freedom. The Muslim controlled countries are the oldest "civilizations" (I use the term loosely) in the world and most people living in them don't have indoor plumbing. I was very surprised at Ms Obrien. She must have had some type of awakening since I've heard from her. She was dealing with a practiced liar. This guy is a political genius although I believe he made a mistake sitting down for this interview. Those people who have eyes that see will be more convinced than ever this is a bad idea just like it was a bad idea when Mohammad conjured up this system in 600 A.D.
    Don't worry Lib's we'll keep saving you from yourselves as we've always done 😉

    September 9, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  4. Laura

    This was not an interview – it was an on air interrogation by a seemingly inexperienced reporter with an agenda. Her goal was to attack and then move on. She had no interest in listening to the answers or dialoging – she just wanted to get out all her points. How did this person end up on Larry King conducting this interview when CNN has so many more seasoned reporters?? It was cringeworthy. By the way, I was not in support of the building, but I actually wanted to hear what the Imam had to say. What I learned is that obrien lives downtown, is against the building, is a terrible interviewer, and I will never watch her again. PLEASE CNN, your base expects more from you.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  5. Can ada

    It's very hard to keep a respectful dialogue with someone who lies through their teeth as the imam did during the CNN interview. Solodad wanted the truth. She didn't get it from Feisel Abdul Rauf. I thought she did very well considering having to sit across a desk from someone who was threatening that if this Mosque was not allowed to go ahead at ground zero America and Americans every where would face the wrath of Islamic nations. They are facing it now so what's new. I saw the coldness in his eyes as he spoke those words to everyone watching that interview. That was not a calm exterior as some claim. That was cold blooded hatred for anyone who did not agree with the building of that Mosque. Islam is a religion that instills fear. That man doesn't realize he's just a small small man in the eyes of a very big God and that God does not go by the name of Allah.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  6. canuck


    Ditto. And by the way it's so refreshing to see freedom of speech. Up north we'd be brought before a "human rights" tribunal for saying anything politically "insensitive".

    September 9, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  7. Jason

    As the father of two daughters and a husband I am constyantly offended in general by Islam's treatment of women's issues. Honor killings, lack of rights and in some cases the inability even to drive is shameful and anti democratic. Add to this the Islamic practice of polygamy and we are faced with a belief systems that does not live up to it's claim of the religeon of peace but one of oppression esepcially the oppression of those unable to defend themselves.

    I do not care what the Bible, Quaran, Torah, or any other ancient text written by men long dead says about the punishment of women. What I care about is the advancement of rights for men and women especially in this country. When we begin to tip toe around who can use the first ammendment for fear of offending radicals in foreign lands how long will it be before the jeans worn by our women come under fire.

    I would rather meet extremism head on and fight it out than to lay down in front of them in the face of constant threats of violence. America wasn't founded by men who were afraid of bullying extremists nor should we burn the constitution to apease them today. I think burning holy books to purposely offend the fanatics is a bad idea but I don't believe any book, document, or for that matter postcard is too holy to be burnt.

    September 9, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  8. AussieBob

    Let them build it, and then burn it. Easy.
    As for the interview; the fact that she was in his face and posing confronting questions proves she did her job well and made for a compelling piece of journalism. I laugh at the so called seasoned journalists within these comments who probably would've been very diplomatic had they conducted the interview. Let me tell you something. That makes for a boring interview and this blog might have been empty then. The more people talking about the interview, the better it was! Simple.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
  9. canuck

    @shafat – re: number of rapes in muslim countries. Are you seriously deluded or what ? The numbers won't be a true reflection of reality since most women in muslim countries won't report rapes because (1) the justice sytem doesn't care and (2) they run the risk of an honor killing or banishment from their families. I lived in one of these countries teaching english and i know the system. Typical muslim response "our people are so pure, women have rights, blah blah. Domestic violence in muslim countries is sky-high. So much for the value of women under Islam.
    @ahmad – I seriously hope you and other similar posters with deranged biases about the "evil west" are not in the U.S. or in my country to the north.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
  10. Sam

    Soledad will be the next Fox News personality and will soon join Glenn and Bill O.
    Her interview was embarassing, one sided and premeditated.
    CNN has lost a lot of it's previous integrity.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  11. Terry G

    If you are one of the few retards blaming Soledad O'Brien for her hard line interview, SHUT THE HELL UP!!!!! I guess your empty brains did not pay attention to the responses of this so called Imam using scare tactics as reasons to build a mosque. Not everyone is scared of these repentless, ruthless people. I guess you think they wont try to hurt us now...as long as we let them build their mosque. Well, wake up from your stupid dreams !!!!

    September 9, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • z

      Well I guess you are the genius that read between the lines and understood the underlying "threats".WHATEVER!!!!!!!!You are as smart as those ignorant fools that judge all Muslims based on the extremists acts.People want the truth and when it's out there no one can handle it!

      September 9, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  12. Dave

    Soledad O'Brien should be ashamed of herself and, for me, it will be a cold day in hell before I watch CNN again.


    September 9, 2010 at 10:46 am |
  13. Reality

    For the eyes of only new members: (and exercising my right to free speech)

    What drove the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon? The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means. Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed. Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein. Until then, no male Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere.

    The best solution:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" will quickly converge these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired. Ditto for houses and classes of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    September 9, 2010 at 10:33 am |
    • Lee

      If you pull Apostle Paul's letters out of the Bible and live by his teachings I think you'll find a great blueprint for the high order for humans you're describing.

      September 9, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
  14. lillian

    Posting the source of information for my previous comment ( which has yet to appear in the thread ) : An article by Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah in the Ottawa Citizen

    September 9, 2010 at 10:23 am |
  15. lillian

    We are a tolerant nation. Many mosques have been constructed in other areas of this country without controversy. But it is insensitive to build a mosque at Ground Zero. The effort to build this mosque can be considered an act of "Fitna" – or "mischief-making" which is forbidden in the Koran.

    September 9, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  16. Nerm

    I am 58 years old and retired from 35 years at the same job and I'm now working at another job, as we speak.. In the "old days" I had tolerance for all religions and groups. No matter what. "Now a days" I have NO TOLERANCE for any religion or group of non Americans whining like they deserve something. I have been trained (by those few) to absolutely hate words like MUSLIM, Islam, Mohammed, immigrant, gang member etc. Let me ask all the immigrants who have COME VOLUNTARILY to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AFTER guys like my father, grandfather and brothers built this grand country...what the hell are you thinking? I owe you nothing. WE owe you nothing. My brothers and sons owe you NOTHING. Insane, destructive MUSLIMS, illegal immigrants, non taxpayers, loafers, cheats, drug dealer cartels, killers, thiefs, gangs from South America and in general scumbags from all over the globe. The mosque is yet another slap in the face to what I've built over a lifetime. I didn't help build this country so a bunch of freaks could come and wipe it out because they don't like non believers. A two year old would have known better than to build this house of terror so near the area. "Cordoba'? Since when is that a Muslim word. Shoudn't it have "abad" at the end of it? I bet A-jadabad would be overjoyed if we wanted to build a "Christian Glass Palace" in down town Tehran. "No problem...build two of em'." "We love America."
    I hate you all and wish you would take your "religions" and your sick ass "group ideologies" and go the hell back to your own country. Oh wait a minute, you can't can you? Because the countries you came from are a tyranical bunch of lunatics with no future but death at a young age for the satisfaction of the few and you CAN'T go back. Is that why you came here? "Betcha". I am not a "supremacist" but NONE OF THIS happened until MUSLIMS. God or bad...MUSLIMS. Do you EVER hear about a group of fanatic Norwegians or Japanese, or French or Italians killing 3000 people at one time? The muslim community could put a stop to it, but they have no balls because they're afraid of the "fanatics." or maybe secretly they agree. Remember, you only die once. So you know what? All of you who have a "hard on" for America who are still using the medical facilities, food, welfare, education and social structure of this country, go the hell home and watch the face of this country change. You don't have the nerve to return to your own country to make IT better and leave this one the hell alone. We were doing very well until the "9/11 muslims" came along. By the way, all you people (including all the American cry baby liberals) who have never served our country in any way, shut the hell up. None of you have ANYTHING to say, not even insults. But go ahead and say it anyway. I have no concern what so ever for what a foreigner, or a "bleeding heart" says "NOWADAYS". And when you post, learn to speak and spell ENGLISH. You can possibly buy one at "Toys R Us." Or better yet, blow up the non believers bulding and take it. Isn't that what you do best? Oh yes and by the way..." strive to live your life with eyes open in all respects." Spew that dribble to the killers and Insane Clown Posses of the world. I'm sure they will take heed as they cut your head off with a dull blade. Such a nice bunch of guys and all.

    September 9, 2010 at 10:09 am |
    • Frank T.

      An interesting exercise to do with Nerm's post is to change its author (a middle-aged, white American) by a native American addressing the white Europeans who came to this country and destroyed their lives, their way of living, their nature.

      Nerm, I am not defending any of the bloody murderers you included in your msg. (nor the 'white Europeans' I added above, of whom you and I are descendants from), but you may start to get used to the idea of change that is happening in this country.

      Because for almost 13 thousand years this land was dominated and cultivated by native Americans, who took much, much better care of the land than our European ancestors (and us) did.

      Now, for "one day" (400, 500 years) Caucasians dominated this country...Well that slowly will come to pass, too, by sheer power of demographics.

      So we better find a way to leave "tolerance, respect, and freedom" as our best legacy for our future, mixed, generations (maybe a couple of hundreds years down the road), because they will have to get along among themselves – and it will be a very diverse America indeed.


      September 9, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  17. Duane

    Religious freedom in America has never meant anyone could do what they wanted where they wanted. In our early republic many states had “established” churches and to hold political office you had to be a member of that church.
    Religious freedom simply is intended to keep the government (i.e. the Federal government) from dictating a national religion or a “church” from running the government. That’s why we can elect a Muslim and he cannot institute sharia law.
    We can decide who builds a church and where without it conflicting with “religious freedom”.
    If the Muslim world is going to be violently inflamed (who’s surprised by this?) by relocating an Islamic center, then the problem lies in the Muslim community.
    This is a religion that since it’s’ beginning has been spread by violence and conquest. The Muslim world attacked us (remember 9/11?) we didn’t attack them. If this is a religion of mild mannered peace loving people, then they need to start cleaning out the cesspool that is spreading in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Where was their (the Muslim worlds) sensitivity and concern for religious freedom when Buddhist temples, statues, and holy sites were being systematically destroyed in Afghanistan?
    Mr. Rauf and other “moderate Muslims” need to put the violent radicals in their place and stop them. Peace loving Muslims need to turn over to authorities Bin Laden and any other violent radicals running around the Muslim world. Otherwise it’s still a religion being spread by violence and conquest.

    September 9, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  18. Erica

    I was absolutely appalled at Soledad O'Brien's approach to interviewing Imam Rauf and can now see why he hasn't spoken about the subject–we form opinions before we know ANYTHING about the subject matter, we're not consistent with any of our opinions and only want to hear answers to satisfy what we want satisfied, otherwise it's ignored–and that was evident all throughout the interview. It was obvious that Soledad herself was apart of the 71% CNN poll that opposed the Islamic center and her inability to be objective was disturbing. This was a chance for Americans to finally hear the view of the true nature of Islam, but instead, she was biased, misleading, un-professional and misinformed. She talked over him for the first half an hour and she clearly had no knowledge of the subject, including ground zero! I personally have gone "clubbing" right across the street from were the towers stood, trust me, that area is far from sacred! I never knew much about Imam but after that interview, I'm very impressed with the way he handled the situation. I was glad he took charge of those last 15 minutes to give some truth to what's really going on. I know he couldn't say it, but Americans pick and choose when they want to make something an issue, we pick and choose when we want to be rational and irrational and it's sad–I'm American, so I know this first hand!

    This is a VERY serious subject in which both sides, Americans and Islam, are being misled to be against each other. People need to do research and learn more about this!! "My Trip to Al-Qaeda" give much insight to how serious and deep this controversy really is and journalist Lawrence Wright is a prime example of the type of reporting we lack in the world and need more of, Soledad could take some lessons from him!

    September 9, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  19. Joe

    To many people take their own religion out of context. Muslims are supposed to be "peaceful" but rarely are. A religion founded on murder, rape and massacre can't be "peaceful". How can a religion be peaceful when someone will get stabbed, beheaded, ect for making a cartoon? But it isn't just Islam that does this. Even within American borders religion gets thrown out of context. In Florida, a Christian church is planning on burning another religious faith's holy book. Now, correct me if I am wrong here, but Christianity is all about forgiveness (or atleast it is supposed to be). And look at that crazy woman who desecrates the funeral service of a fallen soldier? How christian is that? So before anyone starts pointing fingers at Islam as a whole, look at your own religion. I bet it has its own bloody past and group of miscreants.

    September 9, 2010 at 9:22 am |
  20. Ninja's with no Brains

    For the morons with the opinion of "Soledad was terrible and extremely biased" – it's called good cop/ bad cop. She comes off as the bad cop and he plays the good cop and it pushes viewers to his side of the situation. This good cop/ bad cop gets used quite alot in the world to do just that.

    All you people need to read is reason 2.
    "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."

    That alone should tell you its no longer about the 2nd amendment. You Americans no longer have a choice. If you don't build it, there will violence. They will not tolerate you being intolernt to their will. This will be built or retribution will come.

    Funny how if its not built in that exact spot it will bring war. So keep supporting this "peaceful mosque" or face the consequences....

    September 9, 2010 at 9:15 am |
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About this blog

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.