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. wow

    Wow...Soledad might qualify as the worst interviewer ever. I mean ever. That was certainly embarrassing for Soledad, although she didn't come off as the type prone to any (self)reflection, but especially for our country,

    September 9, 2010 at 12:43 am |
    • Melissa

      Yes, she seemed uncomfortable and came off as unintelligent.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:52 am |
    • SimpkinsTheFirst

      I agree fully. I was shocked and disgusted at Soledad O'Brien's refusal to truly engage on a deeper level of interview and instead staying only on confrontation and silly stats like 71% of Americans oppose the mosque, which is refuted by other polls.

      And did Soledad recall the time when 71% of Americans opposed civil rights for her people?

      The American people are not right much of the time, especially when ti comes to cloaking bigotry and prejudice behind the label of "sensitivity to our feelings." Rubbish.

      Luckily Rauf was terrific. And he is right: it is essential for America;s soul that the mosque be built where it is.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:57 am |
  2. Melissa

    Soledad O'Brien sounds like she belongs on Fox. She continued to ask the same questions. It is as though she wanted to force the Imam to say, "Ok, mulligan. We will move." It is such a shame that this has become an issue, when the American economy should be at the top of everyone's agenda. People are out of work, and instead of focusing on creating new jobs, we are forced to focus on a Mosque near ground zero. The Imam was very clear when he said that this center is being created with the intention to forge relationships, strengthen ties, and increase awareness between multiple faiths and nationalities. He is absolutely correct in his assessment that the withdrawal of the proposed Mosque building will threaten National Security. It isn't rocket science people. You anger an entire group of people – there will be radicals among them who will seize the opportunity to lash out. It is especially crucial that the United States set a standard of tolerance for the rest of the world to see when we are engaged in a Military conflict in the Middle East. It is unreasonable to suppose that Muslim fundamentalists or radicals will allow this type of intolerance and Islamaphobia to go unchecked.
    And for the record: people that died at Ground zero are not dead patriots. They are simply people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time. If you die fighting for your country – with the knowledge that you are defending your country – that makes you a Patriot. Someone – who has by unlucky coincidence – boarded an airplane which happens to be hijacked and crashed into a building – is not a Patriot, nor a hero. The word Hero is thrown around so often that it is practically meaningless. The ground around the remnants of the Twin Towers, is not sacred. It is ground. Just like Antietam, Gettysburg, the area around the Alamo, and much of the United States where people have died in mass.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:41 am |
    • Youth Voice

      ahy, thanks melissa, I cant write that well..... you read every LITTLE bit of my mind.... its just a shame that some people WONT understand the meanngs of all this.... I mean, Im in my EARLY TEENS and I understand all of this, and you have a ton of guys (ADULT gys) here that have NO clue about what they are talking about

      September 9, 2010 at 12:51 am |
  3. Reality

    For the eyes of only new members:

    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 12:41 am |
    • wow

      You, are obviously, an idiot.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:45 am |
    • Youth Voice

      a RACIST idiot who doesnt RESAERCH before he posts, porbaly ANOTHER right wing nutcase

      September 9, 2010 at 12:52 am |
  4. salam

    Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis were killed by Bush (9/11,000), and every city in Iraq was bombed based on lies, yet there are hundred of Churches all over Iraq, Syria,...many Muslim countries
    The same American racists who enslaved Blacks, and killed Native Americans, and said Jews drink the blood of Christians, and discriminated against Catholic are the one who are being bigoted against this constitutional right

    September 9, 2010 at 12:40 am |
  5. Nathan James

    Uh Mohan, he is an American. You'll need to find a more homogeneous country.
    Peace is such a painful message for people to hear.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:40 am |
  6. Vonne

    It appeared Soledad has some emotional ties to the events of 911 and therefore was not able to be objective here. This issue appears no different than whatever those white folks were "feeling" when they tried to buy out the black family so they would not move into "their" neighborhood in a Raisin in the Sun. Don't excercise your rights so others can "feel" comfortable. WOW!

    September 9, 2010 at 12:39 am |
    • LisaLV

      ....something else they seem to so conveniently dismiss.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:14 am |
  7. Aknico Charles Heidengren

    And did this interviewer said that the families are concerned about possibly there being bodies that they never found at this site? is she crazy? who put her up to this? I'm 19 and a inspiring journalist with no experience except for high school papers and i would never ever approach an interview of this magnitude in such a manner she was clearly not the ideal interviewer and did not come at the subject in a neutral point of view.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:37 am |
    • Joy Bartlett

      I truly wish that you, a 19 year old journalism student had done this interview. I was eager to hear both sides of this issue. I had not planned to just watch Soledad, a seasoned reporter, just present her own personal feelings and to berate her interviewee. You would have done better than Soledad.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:14 am |
    • LisaLV

      You would have done a far better job!

      September 9, 2010 at 1:21 am |
  8. LisaLV

    Of course, US policies have led to this mess. Look what our own government does to its fellow countryman. No to unemployment benefits; No to tax cuts for small business, No, no No. Hell, yes and when the US stop playing the "I"m so innocent card" with not only with the lives of our soldiers in the Middle East, but with ours right here, they will live with blood on their hands.

    Ninety-five percent of the country believed in slavery. Should we have kept that too? Grow up, America! It's not hard.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:37 am |
  9. Juan el Andalus

    We are threatened. On to our knees in fear and trembling. Let us give in to their every demand. Now andforever the Guy is great.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:35 am |
  10. Sam

    soledad o'brien's interview was an un-amaerican example of biased journalism she is not to be trusted as a professional reporter. i am embarassed for CNN and feel America has been degraded by her. As the Imam said, he is where my Jewish parents were 100 years ago when they came to America and were spit on and degradde by Chrisitians and everyone else (almost) as undesirable, unholy and unclean foreigners. For shame, Soledad that you did not seem at all interested in allowoing the "other sider to be brought out se we could judge for ourselves. I can think of nothng more damning to a professional reported than to note that at least we know where you stand. Now please sit down and go away.. Finally, don't mistake my losy typing for lousy grammer. I probably spell better than you–I know I thinki more clearly.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:35 am |
    • Joy Bartlett

      Well stated Sam. She lost it tonight.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:12 am |
    • LisaLV

      Don't worry about your lousy typing or grammer or spelling (on my part) but you are right. What's wrong with America? Are they not responsible for the nastiness that is allowed to spew from Right-wing radio? Do they not know where the term "The Ugly American" came from? It certainly wasn't made up. And remember, America ATTACKED a country that had NOTHING to do with 9/11 for nine years, killing 100,000 muslims for what? Oil, that's what. Sacrad ground...

      September 9, 2010 at 1:18 am |
    • Guest

      pssst! it was her producer–you know, the one with the feed to her ear; most telecasters can;t even read they are just repeaters

      September 9, 2010 at 1:58 am |
    • Asim

      She is the best interviewer on CNN. She has the background information on this subject that most folks commenting here don't have.

      September 9, 2010 at 3:13 am |
  11. Nathan James

    Amazing to see Soledad O'Brien argue for Rosa Parks to go to the back of the bus!
    My wife says Soledad was more cordial with the Atlanta chid murderer.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:34 am |
    • Joy Bartlett

      I kept wondering what was wrong with Soledad tonight. I could not believe I was watching the same reporter that I have respected. Even though she obviously disliked the Iman and disagreed with him, she should have kept her journalistic respect. I agree that she made me think I was watching FOX. I would vote for her to go there. I will no longer set my tv to record her upcoming interviews.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:11 am |
  12. Mohan B

    How dare this imam appear on american national television and threaten america in this manner. Thisis sheer nonsense.
    If the muslim community explodes, let it explode.
    This is utter disgrace to the american administration, to see this imam speak like this on the our national television.
    This is the height. This has to stop now.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:34 am |
    • Ahmad Hosein

      how dare he? because your media needs him to make a buck. anybody can show up on your media, as long as he helps sell ad space! in case you did not notice!

      September 9, 2010 at 12:53 am |
    • Melissa

      How did he threaten America? By stating that Americans are endangering National Security by refusing to allow the building of a Mosque while we are fighting a war in the Middle East? It is common sense. You don't alienate a group of people who already feel they are not welcomed here. Especially when you know that there are radicals and fundamentalists in the Middle East who are watching us. Watching and analyzing what we do to Muslims. They want us to be intolerant in order to further their cause and reinforce their already negative image of the west.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:58 am |
    • Truth to Power

      This had nothing to do with the Muslim community exploding. It had everything to do with our nations separation of church and state. Speak for yourself when you talk about our nation. Why not take a civics lesson before issuing your rulings on this issue.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:11 am |
    • Asim

      You have to do things that please the muslims or else...is what he kept threatening.

      September 9, 2010 at 3:11 am |
  13. Barb

    Soledad completely missed the point. She gave the most unprofessional interview I've ever seen; getting more agitated because the Imam wouldn't say what she wanted him to say. If she were my employee she would be fired.
    One important thing the Imam said: the MODERATES in ALL sides need to take over the conversations about this issue; otherwise the radicals on all sides will continue to drag this into the gutter. He brought up one observation – the ranting about the mosque didn't start until the upcoming elections came into play. It is obvious the issue is being used for political gain by the radical right. It is the "us" vs "them" tactic so commonly used by those who wish to gain control of the public by fear. Fear is a powerful weapon that has been used throughout history. Once bitten by it's fangs, all reason runs away.
    Again, key point – the moderates on all sides need to take up this conversation now. Or will we smirk and continue to be dragged by the nose by those who would destroy peace?
    Do we truly want peace? Do we?

    September 9, 2010 at 12:32 am |
    • Ahmad Hosein

      moderates are called moderates precisely because they do not take positions and do not take up a fight to defend principles. so the imam is being IMPRACTICAL. a moderate is like a chicken, soft and wishy washy. you are asking the chicken to fight a wolf. you can collect 1,000 chickens and they won't be able to take on a single wolf. use some common sense and political realspeak for Gods sake.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:52 am |
    • JOy Bartlett

      I could not more agree. Soledad was almost embarrassing. I never would have expected such a biased interview from her. What a disappointment that changed my respect for her.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:06 am |
    • Guest

      @Ahmed Hosein
      Yumm! all this talk about chicken just made me hungry; found a great chicken recipe in an ancient text. check out 'pairings' at apageinthelife blog extra sweet if you have any programming talent

      September 9, 2010 at 2:38 am |
    • Asim

      I thought she did a terrific job! She brought the imam back to questions he wanted to dodge and asked questions that most patriotic americans wanted to ask.

      September 9, 2010 at 3:09 am |
    • Jose Nungaray

      Barb, I would rehire Soledad because she was absolutely correct in insisting about the 71 % of Americans that don't want this mosque to be build close to the place where radical muslims kill thousands of innocent americans. Barb have some respect for those innocent americans that died unffairly by the hands of crazy muslims, Last, would muslims let christians build a church close to any mosque? THANK YOU

      September 9, 2010 at 4:01 am |
    • Hammad

      Actually to answer Jose's question, the cultural center being built will actually have a mosque, church and synagogue in the same building! Lol

      September 9, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  14. General Dr Bad

    so much for "talk" or "nice",

    September 9, 2010 at 12:32 am |
  15. TimesTells

    Are we all american..I hate for most minority in America to be refers as them from the majority of America because its just a more indirect ways of being discrimination, without taking into account of what being done or said.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:31 am |
  16. Reed from NYC

    Imam Rauf : Many Christians say "What would Jesus do?" Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, Jesus taught us to love your enemy...This is what Jesus taught us to do. I would like to suggest that we all should to live by the highest principles of our faith traditions. I want Christians to be perfected Christians, and Muslims to be perfected Muslims...and Jews to be perfected Jews...if we judge each other by the worst of each others' behavior and by the best of our wrong, then where are we going?"

    Sounds pretty logical to me. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
    And if that resides within us, then who is really to blame?

    September 9, 2010 at 12:31 am |
    • Emeralds

      It would be nice if a few christians would at least attempt to read their own bibles.. that most of them have at their fingertips.. In Luke it is written that "Jesus" says: "Unless you hate your father, hate your mother, hate your children, your brother and your sister, and hate yourself also... you cannot be my desciple.

      Picking and choosing to make christianity sound so rosy is IGNORANT and Blissfully so while the rest of us must suffer from the deluded all around us.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:37 am |
    • Peter F

      @ Emeralds

      See, this is why the process of hermeneutics (interpretation) is such an important one for people debating or discussing ancient texts. In this case, the Aramaic word for "hate" actually means "to love a great deal less." Jesus is simply saying that anyone who loves family members, friends, himself, etc. more than God cannot be a follower of Jesus. Take that as you may, but I believe it is important to know what was really meant in that verse before casting judgment on it.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:55 am |
    • Reed from NYC

      Yes Peter, and this is why most radicals cannot be allowed to continue with these tirades... because serious men of faith spend their lives studying theology and practicing their faith, while the spiritual thugs roam the Earth with their bastardized interpretations which have been maligned by false prophets. Jesus warned us of such people, being sheep on the outside, but inwardly being ravenous wolves.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:11 am |
  17. Aknico Charles Heidengren

    I keep hearing attacks against Imam saying that is he implicating that we should be afraid of extremist.... is he threatening us? NO! he is simply stating the obvious.. it is obvious that in the past extremist have taken our actions against there community and there people and used it as fuel for there attacks.. and i believe that in Imam's efforts to build the Mosque it will show a Muslim Man a Muslim community in America that is accepted and is uplifted in such a manner that they can build a center rite dead smack next door to the 9-11 memorial and that will show the world that America is a place of peace and understanding ... and if we don't it will just show how much we aren't understanding and how much we are full of bigotry and how much we aren't ready for Change. because if you are open for change then there is no reason that this center will do any harm to any one.. honestly what harm will it cause? will people not be able to sleep at night knowing there is a center close to the memorial? and how far will this go? if they say no center for worship near the memorial then whats next no center in New York? no center in New England? no centers in America? Get a grip!

    September 9, 2010 at 12:31 am |
    • Frogist

      @Aknico: I do agree that Imam Rauf is stating an obvious fact, but I think people who are hardened in their stance against the center will only look for ways to demonize him. They will not look at his demeanour or his voice or his words in full. They will only see what they want to see. Much like the terrorists do. No matter what we do on this soil, violent extremists will always find some reason to hate and kill. But the Imam is right that our actions here can galvanize recruitment to extremism. The impressionable are now seeing america fall away from it's principles of tolerance and freedom and seeing muslims treated as lesser americans. We are pushing away those we need the most – moderate muslims who would have stood up against extremists for us. That is the real danger of our position now.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  18. General Dr Bad

    I have a Message for MY Troops.
    YOU Only Have One Job.
    Come Home.
    It Does NO Good if YOU Die Too.
    Dont BE A "Hero".

    September 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply

    September 9, 2010 at 12:31 am |
  19. LisaLV

    He would have been able to "get out of it" Soladad, if the MEDIA, once again, the ignorant, unlearned MEDIA, had not exploded the story just so that they could, what they thought, would score political points for the corporate Republican pals. The media exploited the subject, now they are responsible for the consequences. Go exploit "Pastor" Jones now. I bet you won't. Why? He's not racist, right?

    September 9, 2010 at 12:30 am |
  20. General Dr Bad

    Imaam mehdi ended The cease fire truce in Iraq yesterday. friday Ramadan ends.
    I have been asked for a Cease fire -truce for 9/11.
    NO Talks. NO Truce. NO cease fire. NO Deals.
    not MY Problem. YOUR Problem.
    are ALL of MY Troops now out of Iraq?
    and where is MY M.I.A. Army Nurse? Inshallah.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:28 am |
    • GI JOE

      Not sure what you are saying. Spelling and grammar count!

      September 9, 2010 at 1:29 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.