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. John

    Soleidad was a disappointment. She has very poor interviewing skills on this issue. She was so obviously biased, it was a disgrace.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:04 am |
  2. Scott van Beever

    Why has CNN decided to permit Solidad to conduct this very important and timely interview with such an aggressive and biased slant that frames Mr. Rauf as a terrorist who needs to defend himself? Throughout the interview she seemed openly hostile, repeatedly cut him off during answers and attempted to bait him to answer in a way that makes it seem he has something to hide. This is not journalism. Ms. Solidad has much to learn from reporters who can conduct an interview without making it seem like an interrogation. CNN should be ashamed of this interview and should have had a more tenured and responsible journalist guide what will be used as both propaganda for why Americans fear Islam domestically, and why those who live around the world view Americans as narrow-minded, self-righteous, and hostile. If this is how CNN wants to reach viewers to promote peace, they have failed miserably.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:03 am |
    • GI JOE

      Maybe Mr. Rauf is not what you think he is. Eyes wide open. Trust me when I say religious zealots will manipulate and use you. Religion is the first and most original form of politics. Modern Islam is the most insidious of these. Convert to agnosticism while there is still time.

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

      Scott, great point! CNN wanted to make controversary and put this bigotted woman for propaganda and inciting hatred.

      CNN did this type of racism against immigrants through DAILY shows of its other propaganda mouthpiece. It will turn out to be another miscalculation and like the first, this disgraceful woman will be sacked! She might enjoy her quick moment of fame gained by foaming at the mouth while spreading Islamophobic racism, but these kinda attention by nature are ephemeral!

      September 9, 2010 at 2:12 am |
  3. apara

    All this is BS. No straight answers and only using the American system in their advantage. I don't trust them and I never will after what happened on 9/11.
    They are only going around the bush. I know from my own experience that Muslims are never going to be direct and honest and you should always watch your back when dealing with them and expect everything. This is their culture and as much I would like to believe otherwise, I have no doubt about it.
    I really don't understand why US is allowing this game. Muslims are clearly against US way of life even if some of them are taking full advantage of it(many with hidden agendas). They want their way for the whole world and this is really unacceptable.
    If you are willing to pay this price, in the name of the Constitution, it's your loss and you deserve it. This may be the end of everything you believe in.
    This is no longer about Constitutional rights but about survival of the American nation and it's values.

    Highly concerned Canada

    September 9, 2010 at 12:59 am |
  4. Youth Voice

    dr bad needs mental counseling... HEY MY SCHOOL OFFERS THAT! WHY DONT YOU COME AND TRY IT!

    September 9, 2010 at 12:58 am |
  5. krn

    Imam Faisal 'Abd Al-Rauf's book What's Right with Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West was published in Indonesian in 2007 with a different title: Seruan Azan Dari Puing WTC: Dakwah Islam di Jantung Amerika Pasca 9/11. TRANSLATION:("The Call of Azan from the Rubble of the World Trade Center: Islamic Da'wa in the Heart of America Post-9/11").

    – This is what the mosque is all about and this is WHY he wont move it.Please ignore his lies ..the guy is a complete fraud.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:58 am |
  6. Jaleh

    CNN should FIRE this woman!!! The most flagrant RACISM I have EVER seen openly in a news TV!

    September 9, 2010 at 12:58 am |
    • Youth Voice

      dont worry.... you're not the only one that thinks this

      September 9, 2010 at 1:01 am |
    • Melissa

      I agree. I am going to complain to CNN. She is not a journalist. She is another biased mouthpiece.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:01 am |
    • bizarro elle

      muslims are a race?

      September 9, 2010 at 2:00 am |
  7. John K

    First I want to say overall I respect this man, he seems to be a man of God, but much of his arguments appear too disengenuous; and I worry what "his" God's rules and intentions are. He has a right to build a mosque, but forcing it in that location is NOT building bridges, it's thumbing his nose at the people he claims to be reaching out for. Not "ground zero proper"? No "bodies in there"? Poor choice of comments, many bodies were vaporized and parts were found all around the scattered debris field, and from what I've read, one of the plane's landing gear parts struck this building. Close enough to being ground zero "proper" in my book.

    I'm a bit troubled by some of the comments here. No one said he shouldn't be able to build because 71% of the people are against it, that point was regarding his consideration of the American public at large and not the politicians he tried to blame this on. If some one wanted to build a go-go bar next to a grammar school or a KKK museum at the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assasination, the people do and should have the right to say no. Not one Constitutional freedom is absolute, it's a social contract.

    His national security issue is a smoke screen and I am disappointed he is using it. If he would have immediately opened dialogue on where would be a more appropriate place nearby to serve that community, there would be no fear of reprisal. His defiance is what would fuel any extremist reaction, not a reasonable acquiesance of location. If he made it a choice to move a few comfortable blocks away, he takes the extremist fuel out of the fire. This is now on him.

    This man calls on foreign Muslim nations who cheered the 9/11 attacks but fails to truly condemn that attitude. He talks about the "wisdom" of church and state separation in America while supporting and apostolizing Muslim teachings and Sharia law – Muslim religion itself does not part with politics. Let him denounce the discriminatory barbaric laws of Muslim nations, let him publicly condemn any Muslim who cheered or took any joy in the 9/11 attacks. The reason why the Aemrican people have such concerns about where the line falls in Muslim faith vs. Muslim extremism, is because only the Muslim community can draw that line and denounce those afoul of it. Since 9/11 the international Muslim community has dreadfully, woefully, and maybe intentionally fallen short of delineating what is acceptable in Islam and what is just plain evil terrorism. I know individual Muslims that easily condemn these acts, where are their leaders? Their silence speaks volumes unfortunately.

    If he leaves his books open for review of funding with no money from terrorist linked sources, if he publicly condemns Muslim extremists as not following Islam, and if the 9/11 memorial is a relief on the front of the building which talks of tolerance and God's love while clearly condemning all the acts of the misguided extremists and terrorists against civilians THEN he can have the mosque right where he wants it. Then I will believe his claims that the mosque is to build bridges and not enflame or forward a not so hidden agenda.

    But that will never happen because it seems he is not the bridge builder he wants us to believe that he is. America is tolerant and diverse, the Islamic middle eastern world is not. This to me seems like a ploy to get the reaction that it got, and to say to the world "See! American's are hippocrits".

    And yes, the guy burning the Quran is an idiot for more than one reason. I have not read it but it is held to be the word of God for millions, and is due the same respect as the Bible or the Torah. He says it's justified and they burn our flag, but no real American would hijack a plane of a Muslim nation's civiilians and use it as a weapon of mass destruction. He needs to grow up and stop acting like he's a 4 year old. Strike that, my kid's had more sense at 4 years old.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:57 am |
  8. Vic

    Pvt bad, good try. You still don't have a clue. Have a great Marine Corps day!

    September 9, 2010 at 12:55 am |
    • GI JOE

      I'm a Soldier and I can tell you in defense of my Marine Corps brother that you have no idea what that would even begin to mean. Close your mouth or man up.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:15 am |
  9. pam

    Soledad O'brian is disrespectful and shows her bias in such a way as to suggest she is one of the radical bigots who oppose making religious peace in America. CNN should be ashamed.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:53 am |
    • Youth Voice

      yep .

      September 9, 2010 at 12:56 am |
    • Melissa

      you are right on Pam. Soledad seemed incredibly biased and unprofessional.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:00 am |
    • GI JOE

      Bias? When an opinion is different that your own, it is a bias? Dark days when you have yet to examine the situation at hand.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:03 am |
    • Youth Voice

      go play with your action figures dude....

      September 9, 2010 at 1:04 am |
    • zeenat

      You are so right.Soledad was literally foaming at the mouth with the whole "71% of the population think........".CNN should have had someone more professional and less biased to conduct the interview.Shameful really!

      September 9, 2010 at 1:06 am |
    • John K

      My God you people scare me......

      She is a reporter who performed a mostly mild interview with no bias exceot for what your obvious biases claim to have seen.

      How dumb must you be to not have realized she was simply raising that concern in response to the Imam's sudden surprsing claim that the resistance is all because some politician's are politicizng the issue. Soledad was clearly surprised by his cdeclaration and pointed out it was not just a political issue as he tried to claim, but a sensitivity and socialogical issue as the polling data unquestionably showed.

      And yes there was an article a year ago, but at that point there were many building, code and zoning issues yet to be addressed, as well as an issue of the building possibly being a historic landmark. It wasn't until recently that the project got the full approval to move forward. Where is your concern about the Imam's truthfullness on these points? Thats right, I forgot about the whole bias thing – you wouldn't be pro-mosque at all would you?

      Well I am pro mosque, just not right there.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:27 am |
    • bizarro elle

      so building a mosque will give the US religious peace? Do you know how many mosques are in the US? I doubt you do or you wouldn't make such a stupid statement. Were you yelling about the muslims that beheaded daniel pearl...or was that his fault for throwing his neck onto their blade?

      September 9, 2010 at 2:03 am |
  10. Jaleh

    The woman interviewer is using the Islamophobic fascistic environment of America to score a disgustingly cheap point for herself!

    She reminds one of the Nazi Germany where they used to put a yellow band on Jews to identify and harrass them, Goebble could have hired her as his press secretary.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:52 am |
    • GI JOE

      I am not even sure what I can say to you. How misguided. Wake up and smell the jihad.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:56 am |
    • John K

      "Islamophobic fascistic environment of America"? Please spare us your victimology and your race/religion card. This is about civility and respect. Too much in the Muslim world appears rigid and black or white. "You're either for us or against us you Islamophobic fascist American pigs!" Your idiotic statement classifying all America that way is akin to the few American extremist idiots who say all Muslims are America hating terrorists.

      America is a melting pot of diverse cultures. Forgive us for not "melting" so well with a religion that fails to alienate the extremists who have so little value for life and who repeatedly execute civilians – including children – in the name of their faith.. If true Muslims did a better job of saying "those idiots are not with us, and their beliefs are not in line with true Islamic beliefs"; I don't believe you would have such an " Islamophobic fascistic environment" in America.

      If this Imam had been more sensitive originally and said "Well what would you have me do?" I think a nearby, more appropriate location could be found, and many of those opposing the mosque would embrace it. I know I'd even be willing to make a donation personally if it relocates slightly – out of respect. I'd even make a point of going there to learn more about Islam if they showed more compassion.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:18 am |
    • bizarro elle

      how about muslims blowing up americans....does that count?

      September 9, 2010 at 2:04 am |
    • Guest

      @GI JOE
      hmmm, smells strangeky like 'flower bomb' to me by Viktor n Rolf

      September 9, 2010 at 2:43 am |
  11. LisaLV

    Strip clubs are on sacred land. Let's call it what it is. He's not building ON the grounds of 9/11. The seventy-one percent probably did not want slavery to end either. So what? Again, this was blown up to help corporate Republicans divide the country on a social issue because the demographics of the country is changing.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:52 am |
    • GI JOE

      Dark and ignorant soup. I hope you aren't a leader.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:13 am |
  12. jeff

    Soledad was extremely biased. If I was Imam Rauf I would have pwned her really hard. For example why is there US embassy in Iraq the size of Vatican where the US has killed millions of innocent muslim Iraqis? I would tell her where is the moderate westerner speaking out against these wars? I would go on and say why should I apologize for other people's action when you dont apologize for what your government did to millions of muslims in iraq, afghanistan with carpet bombing, cluster bombing, napalm and you dare to talk to me like that. And much more

    September 9, 2010 at 12:52 am |
    • GI JOE

      Jeff, I hear your anger. However, when you come to America in the name of Islam and attack us directly, there will be consequences. If a billion or more muslims must die to let secular government and the rule of law live, SO BE IT. I will not suffer the yoke of an oppressive religion of any sort – christian, jew or muslim. Let all religious zelots burn and suffer horribly under my boot.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:01 am |
    • Pat

      Millions???? Where do you get that figure?

      September 9, 2010 at 1:17 am |
    • jeff

      I didnt come to America idiot you did. I am native American who converted.
      A lot of blacks have also converted since the civil rights due to Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and finding out that their ancestors were muslims.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:26 am |
    • jeff

      United Nations. Im not talking about war alone Im talking about sanctions too which caused close to a million death in Iraq.
      Not to mention every god dam dictator was brought to power by our US government.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:28 am |
    • bizarro elle

      so...many millions of innocent muslims were killed in Iraq by the US with carpet bombing and cluster bombing. LMAO...millions? I"m sorry I can't stop laughing. You must be an angry, rebellious adolescent because hopefully no adult is that stupid. At least if you are a kid you have a chance.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:07 am |
    • Guest

      @GI JOE
      I came to America in the name of Prada, does that make me Miuccia?

      September 9, 2010 at 3:12 am |
  13. GI JOE

    I can't believe that we are letting any religion undermine what we stand for as Americans. I also can not believe that we can let a religion of any sort dictate laws or policy in the United States. If you want to build a Mosque at ground Zero, Fine. If you want to burn the Quran, Fine. I don't care. However, when you decay and defile the Constitution of the United States of America, there are men and women in and out of Uniform who will come crawling out of the woodwork to eventually give reconing. This cause will not be for a religion, race or creed or for that matter political agenda, but for a secular ideal – the Constitution of the United States of America. Be warned, the American People are upset by this erosion of our ideals and western principles.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:51 am |
  14. Vonne

    Youth Voice, what is your point? I really want to know.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:51 am |
    • Youth Voice


      September 9, 2010 at 1:00 am |
  15. jeff

    Now on the flip side where is the moderate westernofacist when millions are being killed in Iraq,Afghanistan with lies after lies? Where the hell are they? I dont see rallies against wars. All I see is Obama making false statement that we pulled out when infact there is still 50,000 troops in Iraq. Again where are the moderate westernofacist against wars? Now you might understand how it feels to apologize for somebody elses fault

    September 9, 2010 at 12:50 am |
  16. General Dr Bad

    yes avoid topic,attack solidad. destract,spam,argue,insult,lie,stall,ignore,deny,yell,laugh,
    none of you have ever even read your own bibles much less a Quraan.
    ten years of war and stil to stupid and lazy to know sunni from shiite.
    have fun you Godless baby murdering filth.
    "In Gold WE Trust'
    Go Enlist.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:48 am |
    • Youth Voice

      you, my friend, are an idiot. I study the qu'ran. they have an OLD testament and a NEW testamen. The OLD testament was for peace and justice. the NEW one was forced into it to give men power by corrupt politicians. dont give me this kind of crap.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:55 am |
    • GI JOE

      Already enlisted, served and commissioned. Divorce religion from your ideals of government and step into constitutionality. Understand the values for which this country should stand.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:12 am |
  17. Nick

    They have the right to build the mosque there but I question the wisdom behind forging forward bullheaded with this. Just because you have the right to do something doesnt mean you should. You have the right not to wear a seatbelt in New Hampshire but Id argue that its not wise to exorcise that right.

    He claims to be building a bridge to bring our religions closer together and instead what he is doing is adding coals to the fire while pumping the bellows.

    I wonder, how well received a Japanese buisness man would have been if he had unvieled plans to build a Japanese cultural center near Pearl Harbor a few years after the war, or how appreciated it would have been for an American to build a smilar center near the detonation points at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Heck while we're at lets build a tribute to Hitler across the street from the Holocost Museum or a Jewish Temple. If you have the money to buy the lot then why not right? IWhile in certain instances they may have the right and ability to do so, I think we can all agree it would be most unwise and disrespectful to those who have suffered. Just because you can do something doesnt mean you should.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:48 am |
  18. Pramod Poudyal

    a) United State President address on behalf Islam religion when there was raising issue to build masque in near land mark ground zero “Religion should not be tolerate in America everyone has right to practice their religion what they belief and where they believe therefore Muslim also has right to build masque on their private property like anyone else. It’s their constitutional right of freedom of religion” but majority of American people opposed it was the cause of future safety. However U.S. Government not supposes to give them positive aspect to build masque on around that area when it became a national issue. I believe their main prospective was to cover their dark side from the religious superiority but if we study deeply who they are promoting and funding them to build the masque may it seems they are also associates with the twin tower attackers we ever know. It has Press interview with imam of Muslim center of New York City. I like to classify his opinion we all live peacefully in one planet but who disturb in first place they know it; we think 24-7 but he say I hate to think why? Also threats us. If he try to come Muslim and non-Muslim faith in one institution he shouldn’t blame the discourse the access of peace and radicals, if they want peace. America not only freedom of religion there is public referendum also Government concerns about the Nation safety where majority of people already rejected he should not be there if he is American even he realize later “if I knew this would happen cause of this pain I would not done it” but he continue seeking the peace threatening to finding the way to co-existence it was his wrong path. Americans are not against of Islam but he is blaming to the Patriots saying radicals. bottom line, In my opinion we are on war right now they are creating unnecessary propaganda to divert the American focus in different direction this activities is radicals, it’s quite extraordinary who knows the game of mind but burning Quran is uncivilized act in civilized nation thank you.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:47 am |
  19. Vic

    Since we are a free nation, we should let him build this mosque and fly a large US flag above it.

    September 9, 2010 at 12:44 am |
    • General Dr Bad

      you mean a "United States Of Israel" flag, or mexico, or china or ,,,

      September 9, 2010 at 12:50 am |
    • General Dr Bad

      or did you mean a "made IN China American Flag" or "made IN Mexico" ?

      September 9, 2010 at 12:51 am |
  20. General Dr Bad

    oh I also had a request for The Neutron Bomb. That also is "Denied".

    September 9, 2010 at 12:44 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.