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. RA

    Rosie, You need help.

    September 15, 2010 at 12:32 am |
  2. RA

    Rosie, In my opinion you are brain dead. I don't think you are good representative to americans.

    September 14, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
    • Rosie


      September 14, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  3. Rosie

    Suz, WE ARE AWAKE and that's what you and your ilk don't like. We're coming for you too. Just sit where you are nice and brain dead.

    September 14, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
  4. Suz

    Before getting to Soledad's biased interrogation (because it wasn't a journalistic interview!) and extremely unprofessional manner, it seems what 70% of my fellow Americans seem to not realize that THERE WERE ALSO MUSLIMS who were victims and died that day. Building a mosque should be no different than building a church or synagogue there because this catastrophic event was not caused by any religion, but by a bunch of stupid extremists. And this whole "sensitivity" issue surrounding the building of the center is a load of political BS that has warped the minds of too many Americans – and it totally disregards the families of those 60 muslims who were also killed – COME ON PEOPLE, WAKE UP!!!

    As for Soledad's "interviewing" skills – what a DISGRACE. Her interrogation (not interview!) was mortifying to watch; it was apparent what she really wanted to do was jump over the counter and strangle him. I would've expexted a more professional, unbiased interview from any member of CNN. Though the Imam did a good job at remaining calm and pretty much defending himself from her single track minded questions, her manner took away from the whole thing. Very disappointing.

    September 14, 2010 at 3:50 am |
    • Rosie

      You'd better tell Imam Rauf that his musings and statements about his "sensitivity" is a bunch of BS.

      September 14, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
  5. Rosie

    KUDO'S AND MORE KUDO'S TO SOLEDAD. GREAT JOB. You go girl (Woman that is). It is fashionable to be a hyphenated-American so let me say that I am a native born French-American and British-American. One of the high falutin' types from European descendants. That I'm sure makes me prejudice. That's o.k. everybody's prejudice about something. Only an illiterate denies that. It comes with being human. Some of us of course, are more prejudice than others, Roland Martin for example. I looked up "prejudice" in Wesbter today and sure as moderate Imam's are liars, there was Roland's picture. Anybody remember him telling a female panelist who was trying to get her point across on a show moderated by Campbell Brown in '08 to SHUT UP!! He didn't want anybody to hear her opposing opinion.
    If Soledad O'Brien should be fired for unprofessional, biased, rude, condescending, intimidating, disrespectful, obnoxious journalism, please be advised that 95% of present American journalist–big mouth, insulting, brain-dead Roland Martin being the leader–will ALL HAVE TO GO. Rich Sanchez majored in journalistic prejudice in college, if he went to college. Remember the sweats Campbell Brown would break out in just viewing Obama during the campaign '08 campaign. Even other journalist poked fun at her Obama hot flashes.
    All these comments about Soledad prove is that AMERICANS ARE INDEED PREJUDICE. Certainly all of the above are.

    September 13, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  6. izar

    From the second it clearly show that Rauf is like any other Islamic leader, either extremist leader, terrorist leader even a country leader, they always give threat statement, to raise fear. Even the interviewer are in state of fear.

    Actually it is in his hand to speak to his fellow Muslim all over the world not to react negatively into such actions described by Rauf.
    But instead he have to persuade Moslem newspaper all over the world not to print headlines of "Islam is under attack", instead it should print; I, Rauf has learn tolerance and freedom to change religions in America, it is very good, many (stupid) American has convert to Islam, also to print "the Muslim radical in the Muslim world" have to realize that the American troops are educating our barbarian manners into a modern democratic tolerant society such as me, Rauf has received here in America. Do not any violence against my country.

    But, his threat in the interview shows that he is still a barbarian, making the interviewer in a state of fear.

    Sure indeed, he has no intention to move the mosque, but to push forward.

    September 13, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
  7. RA

    Soledad O’Brien carried a lot of hate to Muslim. Unfortunately she showed it in the interview. Very disappointing. I hope she will consider her training and qualification. I am surprised that Larry king was happy about it.

    September 13, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
  8. max

    Soledad was very rude and condescending toward the imam and anytime she was loosing the argument she had to take a break. Lot of things guy was saying she didn't even understand and responded foolishly and in a attack mode. I also felt like she was extremely intimidated by guy's superior intellect. She really made herself look dumb and unprofessional.

    September 13, 2010 at 7:32 am |
  9. Peace

    On the proposed area it may be good to build Church, Temple, Mosque, and YMCA each occupying ¼ area.

    September 13, 2010 at 4:13 am |
  10. Tweety

    If the American public and the NY authorities allow this mosque, will Saudi allow a Christian Church and the importation of Christian icons and Bibles into Saudi?

    Will Iraq stop murdering the Chaldean Christian communities that has been there for centuries ahead of muslims?

    Will Turkey give fair treatment to Christians and stop the bloodless yet legal persecution of teh Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Greek Church?

    Ahh... they want tolerance but can't give tolerance in return! So one sided! What about those killed at 9/11 by some mad man shouting: "Allahu Akbar!" So is this the god you want to ram down our throats and accept us true – as depicted by your intolerance?

    September 13, 2010 at 1:22 am |
  11. Tra

    I can't even believe the judgements on the interview process and questions asked by Soledad. I don't think it would have mattered how she did the interview, she wouldn't have made folks happy. Given the fact that she interviewed a FALSE person, she was not going to be able to get any TRUTH from him at all. As for those of you who don't have a problem with the location of the mosque near near Ground Zero, shame on you..... search your hearts to see if you are TRUE Americans or just as fake as the Imam. And the fear this joker is trying to project onto the American people is none other than a scare tactic, which is a major thing that the so called "peaceful" muslims use frequently. I say, if you came to America to escape your own country for freedom, don't come here and expect our country to change for you. If you want all of your Muslim garbage, go back to where it was founded and where it is accepted. Be thankful I am not president, because all of you that are unhappy with the way Our forefathers built Our country on Christian beliefs, would be shipped back to your respective lands. We would be a country of Christians and Jewish people and the rest of you could practice your flakey religions back where they originated.

    September 11, 2010 at 11:18 am |
  12. Cheryl in Canada

    You are a horrid journalist, your first point is wrong. The Imam did not say he made a mistake in choosing the location, you did watch the interview didnt you? No wonder this mosque is such a controversay, the journalists, the connection to the public cannot even start with unbiased fact before dressing it in their own version of America.

    September 10, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  13. Joe Ritacco

    I was once a fan of Soledad. But as many others have observed I believe she behavediin a very unprofessional manner. She aoppeared to be beligerant and biased and did not seem to be able or willing to hear what wa being said.
    I was even further dismayed by CNN allowing her to report on the followinfg day a severe innacuracy. She assetrted tghat the Imam said the Center must NOT be moved. I heard him argue for keeping it there and I heard him say all options are on the table. This is NOT how Soledad reported it. I am disappointed in CNN and Soledad.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:37 pm |
  14. md

    Actually, if peace and community is the concern then he has the opportunity to educate the Muslim world by pointing out the number of mosques that exist in the US and to show that being good neighbors and a sign of respect to move it to a different location. The reason to not move it of angering the rest of the world of Islam is I am afraid a bit disingenuous.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:32 pm |
  15. sue

    Most viewers have been critical of Soledad's interviewing style. After hearing her post-interview comments, I had a very different take on how she personally views the issue.

    It made me wonder if she didn't deliberately use that style because it mirrored the incoherent, emotional and illogical dissent of apparently 71% of Americans. Adopting the style she did, enables the more thoughtful dissenters to reflect on the validity of their rationale for being anti Muslim or opposed to an interfaith center for the purpose of bringing people together.
    The construction worker was very revealing when he said that middle class Americans (hard hit by the downturn), are fed up with being ignored and that "this was the last straw". As in some marriages, the argument isn't always about the topic at hand but rather about a deep seated anger over some other issue. The anger erupts over something entirely unrelated to the real reason for the anger.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:00 pm |
  16. Michael

    Instead of a mosque for just muslims, why not make it a headquarters for all religions to come together regularly and discuss and study their teachings and how they may conflict and to gain insight and understanding by sitting down together and reviewing as a learning curve to religions and tolerance of it by all to teach others and give what they've learned as an insight to all the world.Televise its meetings.It would be a boon to everyone and an offering of universal understanding brought on by Muslims, a grand act offering by muslim community to help, all by this very center and a good gesture for coming together as an American who is supposed to support good values.A coming together for understanding building.

    Ask the owner to do this instead of a mosque just for one religions culture.How a community of Americans with different ideas and religions can come together and voice their beliefs and why it is so.Support America its time we all get together on one page.Stop the hatreds and misunderstandings of one another.This would be not only a great time for it but a place such as a United Understanding of Religions building could surface.Now that would be a great way of continuing on after 9-11or...we can fight argue and fuss over things we understand not, with no one stepping up to find common ground.Which is it going to be?Hate or understanding?You have the moment, seize it for humanity.Not just one peoples.

    September 9, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
  17. Iqbal khan


    September 9, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
  18. Hannah

    If I was SOLEDAD .. I would do our society a favor and commit suicide. Is she a reporter or is she a former Top Security Prison Interrogator?

    September 9, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
  19. Keith

    In response to the 'Ambassador of Death's" claim that there will be a monument to those killed on 911-we have monuments to our soldiers, too. The Vietnam Memorial the Iwo Jima Monument. All he wants to 'honor' is the 19 hijackers.

    September 9, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
    • peace2all


      And you know that he wants to "All he wants to 'honor' is the 19 hijackers." And you know that....how *exactly*....?

      Your are sounding pretty arrogant and like an ignorant bigot to me....


      September 9, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
    • Keith

      peace2all, Don't leave out 'intolerant', 'redneck', and 'fundie'.....I wear 'your' criticisms like a red badge of courage. I don't exist to please you.

      September 9, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
    • peace2all


      Well, spoken like a true 'redneck, intolerant, ignorant 'fundie'..... You didn't even answer the question..... Typical of your type, no intellect... everything is based on bigotry and hatred, without thinking about a topic, person or event. Just more inflammatory rhetoric.

      However..... I do wish you peace.....

      September 9, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
  20. brian keeley

    "Sacred Ground" ? There is a Stip Club there. No-one seems to mind a strip club on "sacred ground". You have the extemist "wing nut" Islamists pushing thier messed up version of Islam on others and then you have a billion peaceful Islamists. You can't paint the other billion as extremists. Practice true Chistianity and "love thy neighbor" and while you are at it "thou shalt not kill". Oops, sorry about the half million dead innocent Iraqis – our bad. Remeber – Hitler was a Christian.

    September 9, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
    • Keith

      It's 'Thou shalt not commit murder'. If you break into my house and are trying to harm my family-you're goin down. This commandment is often misquoted and misused. Hitler was not a Christian. Hitler was a Darwinian evolutionist. He believed the Jews had not 'evolved' enough and therefore should be exterminated. I guarantee you-Hitler is not in heaven.

      September 9, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
    • peace2all


      Actually....*true fact* Hitler was a christian. Look up your *facts* before posting ignorance. You seem to be able to reaaaaaaaally quote the bible well.


      September 9, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
    • Keith

      peace2all, No. Not Christian. Cult, yes. What's the matter, don't like the "fact" that Hitler was a champion of evolution? Do you know that Darwin didn't believe that black people were as 'evolved' as whites? That's another bitter "fact" pill for you to swallow. Geez, would that make Darwin a 'bigot'? peace....

      September 9, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
    • peace2all


      My response got put out of sequence to your post above..... look up above under the person posting as @sharoin.


      September 9, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
    • Keith

      peace2all, Just how many 9/11-type attacks will it take? How many will have to die? Will you have to have your head cut just halfway off or all the way off before you wake up? If you like Sharia-go to Iran. In case you haven't noticed, we all don't embrace these jokers like you do. So do you best(worst) at calling me names. Like I said before, I'm a 230 lb. pipefitter. I've got pretty big shoulders-I can take any drivel you can dish out. Good night.

      September 9, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
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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.