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. Iqbal khan


    October 7, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
  2. Iqbal khan


    September 26, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
  3. RA

    f you It Jordan. I think this Imam is sending a strong message to radicals that all 3 religion will uniting against their acts.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:44 am |
  4. Little me

    the funds for the Islamic terrorist school, sorry I mean mosque, are linked to Hamas and other terrorists – its true.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:23 am |
  5. lt jordan

    Healing wounds with the muslim world? They sure did a bang up job of healing wounds and keeping peace with America on 9/11. f them and their need for religious peace. they have plenty of countries to practice their religion..keep it there.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:44 am |
  6. RA

    I think the Imam idea to bring all 3 religions in one place is great idea. This why I am very supportive to his idea. Remember that people from all 3 religions were affected by the tragedy. I wish him the best.

    September 15, 2010 at 11:43 pm |
  7. Larry Gray

    The Imam states that if he knew the pain this would cause he never would have planned to build there. But then he passes off any responsibility of his bad decision-making onto the "radicals" who don't want the mosque built 600 feet from Ground Zero. If that wasn't enough he also basically threatened the nation with terrorist attacks if he doesn't get his way. This man is no "bridge-builder," he is a man with an agenda that refuses to recognize the legitimate feelings of 70% of New Yorkers and continues to insist that the mosque can be built in no other location. I don't think that we, as Americans, should have to bow to the wishes of Islamic terrorists just so they won't be angry with us (like they need an invitation to do that!). The Imam talks about this "crisis" that will be "very, very dangerous" for the U.S. is a crisis that he himself created. I think the Imam is a liar and has a hidden agenda and I'm sick to death of hearing his "moderate" words...backed by extremist Islam's actions and threats.

    September 15, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
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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.