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. Steve In Murfreesboro TN

    Soledad did an EXCELLENT job. She asked the tough questions that needed to be answered, and was very fair in the way she asked them. Finally.... someone at CNN has grown a backbone!

    September 9, 2010 at 1:31 am |
  2. Ulises

    This is the United States of America. We should be a leader of peace and tolerance. The comparison of seeing what people say in another country by building a center they would clearly not want in a certain place is bringing down America to a lower level. We should not let ideologues nor those who have a festered hatred towards a group of people to dictate what rights they do or do not have.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:28 am |

    I am a Navy Veteran and what I see going on in this country over a building is priceless... The same people crying and moaning over a BUILDING are the same people that HATE our Commander in Chief. We have Muslims proudly serving in our ARMFORCES and serving with honor. I support the IMAN and I want his MOSQUE built wherever he wants... For all I care when the NEW TRADE TOWERS are built let there be a MOSQUE there. These FALSE Christians talk about Jesus but the do not practice what PUR LORD Jesus preaches. HYPOCRITES!!!!!! By the way I am a Christian and I LOVE all people...

    September 9, 2010 at 1:28 am |
    • atheist

      Thank you for your service! I wish more intelligent service men like you would speak out!

      September 9, 2010 at 1:42 am |
    • LisaLV

      Now, what you have said is straight talk. Amen to every, single word!

      September 9, 2010 at 1:45 am |
    • LisaLV

      And of course, MUCH, MUCH thanks for your service. My godson is in the Navy as we speak! Couldn't thank you enough for your bravery and intelligence!

      September 9, 2010 at 1:47 am |
    • John K

      First thank you for your service, it's because of people like yourself that we are free to have debates like this.

      Second, you may be one of the 29% who do not have an issue with the mosque being at that location – but you need back off your criticism of those of us who have an issue. It doesn't make us any less of a God fearing, all human loving citizen of the world to seek a little respect and civility.

      I live within sight of the towers and my community was greatly affected by the attacks, you have not lived what we have here in the NY area regarding this issue. I believe a mosque in the area would be a good idea for the right reasons, but not one in a building actually struck by parts of the planes.

      I think you might be more sensitive to this and less critical. In fact, your judging me is probably more against what Jesus taught than what many of us have done by seeking a more respectful solution for this house of prayer.

      Japan didn't attack Pearl harbor for religious reasons, and it was a military target, but for most Americans the USS Arizona and the waters around it are hallowed ground. Maybe that might help put this area more in perspective for you.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:59 am |
    • Don J.

      Thanks for your comment! I am an Air Force Veteran and a Christian. I also 100% agree with you.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:16 am |
    • MikeM

      By supporting islam, you are promoting intolerance of non-muslim population. How much does the muslim population need to grow before they impose their beliefs and intolerance on others. How far do they have to go before you stop tolerating their intolerance. All countries with high Muslim have this issue, so it is bound to happen sooner or later. We can show an evil ideology that feeds the violence will not be tolerated by not allowing this mosque

      September 9, 2010 at 3:34 am |
  4. curious

    The Imam's five points are ridiculous:
    1) He didn't know anyone would object to building a "Cordoba" victory mosque–named after the Cordoba mosque built over the destroyed church in Span to mark the Muslim conquest–a few feet from where co-religionists killed 3,000 Americans in the name of Islam. Yeah, I really believe that one.
    2) He can't move the mosque now because it would upset radical Muslims and endanger American security. Well, I'd rather irritate radical Muslims than mock the memory of the dead with this grand victory mosque.
    3) When news of the proposed mosque first broke, no one cared; it was "politicians" that made people object. As soon as I heard of the proposed Cordoba mosque, I cared. And, I'm not following any politician, most of whom seem to be in favor of the mosque.
    4) The Cordoba mosque will include a memorial to the 3,000 dead Americans. Yeah, I'm sure that helps.
    5) It's a historic opportunity for America to think about religious freedom. Sorry, we did that 200 years ago; and don't need any lessons from people who believe in executing "apostates" and who don't even allow churches and synagogues in their holy cities.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:28 am |
    • GI JOE

      Right on. Keep going!

      September 9, 2010 at 1:33 am |
    • Guest

      I c that you suffer from an affliction prevalent in US society–a poor education in social studies/historyl that particular Church@Cordoba was actually found in disrepair/ruins/disuse; the Moores, rather than demolishing it renovated it in their style/manner of architecture and did pray there; had you ever visited or even seen images of the interior you would know that it was not desicrated by the Muslim Moores and what they had in fact done was restore it to a house of worship worthy of commemmorating God's name; for the Muslim perspective of world reliogions visit "woman is to War,,," at apageinthelife

      September 9, 2010 at 2:22 am |
  5. LV_nonanaon

    By his own logic, we should make him move because that is a strong statement. Otherwise, we are weak. Which one will 'inflame' radicals and help their recruiting effort? And since their past decade of recruiting and wishing has resulted in no action on US soil, what do we have to fear?

    September 9, 2010 at 1:28 am |
    • Ulises

      He is saying that what the radicals are saying about americans, that we are intolerant of islam, will be shown to be true since we will not give the right a muslim group to build a building where as if it were a christian building then no one would have a problem. Those that oppose building a mosque would then by logic be against having a black family live in or nearby a certain place where there was a muder of a person of another race. Clearly that is ridiculous as is this whole sensitivity bologna.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:41 am |
  6. LisaLV

    Moving the community center/mosque is like backing down from the bullie in the school yard. Stand up to him and squeal like a, well you know. So no, let's not back down.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:27 am |
  7. Paul

    I'm pretty sure this is going to be Soledad O'Retarded first and last major CNN interview. Although we could see much more of her on Fox

    September 9, 2010 at 1:26 am |
  8. Phil

    I caught the threat the first time through. We HAVE to appease the radicals so they don't get radical?? They're ALREADY radical, and nothing short of the destruction of the Great White Satan will appease them. The only people who don't know that live in caves. I can tolerate a lot of things, but suicide bombers can't be ignored.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:25 am |
    • Ulises

      The radicals will have fodder to intensify the flames of hatred against america. The propaganda they spit will be justified by americans opposing a building due to the fact that it is being built for a muslim group.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:45 am |
    • Frogist

      @Phil : You are right that radicals will always be radicals but the moderates, the ones in the middle are being harmed by this too. We are helping to recruit for "them" when we could be helping recruit for "us". We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
      But even besides that, we should not be hypocrites in what we stand for. We reduce our standing in the world as a tolerant and compassionate country when we ignore our own rules. If we want the rest of the world (esp places that are in upheaval like Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, etc etc) to follow our lead in recognising the benefits of a working democracy and human rights, we have to lead by example. We have to honour our own rules of religious tolerance and property rights and free speech no matter how uncomfortable we might feel.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  9. Guest

    Note to Self:
    Tsk. People like you choose to be deliberately obtuse about some issues and only think of the world from your egocentric perspective. When you and others like you eventually do make it to Heaven you decide it is not good enough because there are all these 'others' there and THAT is why Hell was invented–so that you may have somewhere else to go. Earth is always there because it continues to be the only plane of existence where frting does not have ramifications!

    September 9, 2010 at 1:19 am |
    • GI JOE


      September 9, 2010 at 1:25 am |
    • Guest

      @GI Joe
      Wide Awake, Pal. R U? Sirius?

      September 9, 2010 at 3:03 am |
  10. curious

    National security ranks right up there with wrapping oneself in the flag, as the last refuge of a scoundrel.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:16 am |
  11. Demi God

    Soledad's interview was a fun watch. I have to say that people usually go onto Larry King show to get an easy pass. I laughed my butt of when I saw the Imam was stucked with a tempary host. And being a temp host/reporter, they try to do their job. Larry's easy questioning style brings in more celebs because celebs like it easy. The Imam got screwed. So funny.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:15 am |
  12. Pat

    I have NEVER heard anything, from any politician other than Michael Bloomberg, who is in favor of it, which I'm sure has some financial gain for him. Politicians DIDN'T start the protest, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE DID. See, the problem is, anytime we get involved in other countries business, i.e. Iraq, etc., it ends up bringing the problems over to our soil. Fact is, we have enough religion in America, and we don't need yours. So keep it over in the Middle East & leave America alone, because we do not trust you.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:13 am |
    • Ketah

      Pat, this is precisely my problem with all this. The American people didn't start the protest. This lady did, and she started last year: http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/about.html This is in effect a highly successful ad campaign, orchestrated by a handful of people. Geller, and possibly the Kochs of Koch Industries, who you may have read about in The New Yorker in August.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:21 am |
    • Frogist

      @Pat: You didn't hear Palin or Gingrich or Obama or Patterson on this issue? Then I say you go do some research and try to inform yourself. Then come back and share a helpful comment.

      September 9, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  13. The Raven

    I think the most amazing thing the Imam said was not covered:
    "The real fight is between the moderates on all sides and the fanatics on all sides." Wow – what a brave soul he is! I am as white as it gets (German and Swedish) but Faisal Abdul Rauf is my brother even if I wind up dying by a Muslim hand! May peace be with us all.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:12 am |
    • GI JOE

      May you die as a martyr to the western secular cause. Maybe then we will wake from this politically correct slumber.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:21 am |
    • Guest

      Micael? Can I get Dibbs on The Raven>You know Poe is my favorite Amer, poet & methinks he'll enjoy the ride.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:55 am |
  14. yesiwould

    Wait just one d@mn minute.This imam piece of sH!t is threatening us! If you can't see it you're blind!! Get him OUT of the US NOW and let's see how much threatining he does then. Off WITH HIS HEAD!!!!

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

      See Note to Self.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:28 am |
  15. Vonne

    Youth Voice You are talking loud and saying nothing. Stop with the name calling and make an intelligent statement about the facts. Maybe you are too young to know that White America picked on the Italians, African Americans, etc. and now its the Muslims. It's simply just using hate to fear monger.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:10 am |
  16. Ketah

    The real story is not being covered. What was the role of Pamela Geller and Stop Islamicization of America in creating the anti-mosque movement? Who funded Geller and the movement? Did David Koch or Charles Koch contribute? Who is behind the movement? Instead, we get superficial coverage. Dig at the root instead of looking at the leaves. Ask the questions.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:09 am |
    • Phil

      I believe Geller is a Jewish name...

      September 9, 2010 at 1:21 am |
  17. Common Sense

    Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch (D) said on Fox News today that though "the vast majority of Muslims" are "not terrorists," there are "hundreds of millions who are."

    Of course the vast majority of Muslims, there are 400 million, are not terrorists. But there are hundreds of millions who are. They want to kill every Christian, every Jew, every Hindu who won't convert. And we ought to put it on the table.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:06 am |
    • GI JOE

      What about the agnostics and atheists? We're coming for you.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:07 am |
    • Truth to Power

      Do you even know how many Muslims are in the world. I can assure you it is not 400 million

      September 9, 2010 at 1:15 am |
    • GI JOE

      We know how many Muslims there are. And we know it isn't 400 million regardless of how wrong you read this banal article. Either way, the rule of law will prevail.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:24 am |
  18. Paul

    Having watched the Soledad O'brien interview, I just realized how good Larry King is and how difficult it is to conduct a proper interview with someone you may not necessarily agree with. Soledad broke a very important rule of journalism, which is not to get personally involved in the interview and stay impartial. She should go over to Fox Network, where that kind of journalism is encouraged. This was a shameful display of journalism, and infact she looked a fool, in the process. I am not a muslim or necessarily agree or disagree with Imam FAR (for short) but Soledad kept asking questions and before he had a chance to complete his response she kept cutting him off. First she pronounced his name ten different ways, then she got so upset that she turned red, and continuously interrupted the man. Soledad O'brien should switch to Fox and follow Bill O'reilly, she has a good name already for Fox.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:06 am |
  19. atheist

    Soledad was the worst interviewer I have ever seen. She kept on asking the same question again and again. Solidat, you suck! Go to work for Fox where people like u belong.

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

      Good Call!!! I share the same sentiments...

      September 9, 2010 at 1:07 am |
    • John

      fareed zakaria would have been better, larry king too.

      September 9, 2010 at 3:14 am |
    • Can ada

      Soledad kept asking the same question because the imam wasn't giving her a straight answer as usual. I'm sure you'd do the same if you were confronted by someone who kept lying to you when you asked him a simple question and you knew he was lying. Nothing is worse than talking to someone who is a chronic liar. It 's very frustrating. You just keep going around in circles. I thought Soledad did very well confronting a man who has fooled for years the earthly powers that be in Washington. Who on earth would hire a fox to guard the henhouse? Washington would and did.

      September 10, 2010 at 10:04 am |
  20. Pramod Poudyal

    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 feel guilty saying “if I knew this would happen cause of this pain I would not done it” but he continue seeking the peace to finding the way to co-existence threatening in America 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 1:05 am |
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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.