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. jeff

    Soledad was extremely biased in this news interview. 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? Why is their churches near CHILDRENS playground or CLINICS?
    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.

    September 9, 2010 at 2:24 am |
  2. steve jaubert

    I don't often agree with Pat Robertson but I thought he had some good points about what next. So are we a testing ground for islam who wants rights at the expense of others and it can be used as a daily insult by the fundamentalist associations. Let them have their rights a few blocks away. What's next a statue of HoChiMinh at the Vietnam Memorial. How about a Timothy McVeigh Federal Center for anarchists. There's rights and that includes rights for consideration for other rights in this country. The iman didn't reach out to other families and neither did any muslims before picking this site. This is an inflammatory site and it will continue to cause problems and insults to americans. These moderates still follow an antiquated koran that in so many ways conflicts with american culture and their religion is so tied to their state that it will continue to be like trying to mix acid and water. The claim of the iman that this is a religious center and not a muslim 'victory' center not being built now would cause radical outrage seems like a veiled threat and that is surely a sign of more to come. What is the next push the limits rights of muslims that will slowly undermine our american stability. Their very religion is not one that assimilates with others but holds them away. Their peace is to defeat their enemies and that is every nonmuslim. Soledad was not in my opinion representing american opinion in general. All this bleeding heart let's hear him out is nice but a lot of spin and the iman is pretty good at it. I like one suggesion that if its like the iman says a religious center then let's make it an all religious center. The truth though is they won't do that because its a muslim victory mosque. I salute boycott of working on this center. I hope they have nothing but bad luck for their lack of respect for other americans and I do not consider the mosque as peaceful and their faith has brought nothing but trouble to everywhere they go. steve jaubert

    September 9, 2010 at 2:20 am |
    • 2+2=5

      Ho Chi? what would be so bad about that? and don't kid yourself, my father served in Vietnam, please brush up on that history of yours. Or better yet, take a good look at Vietnam today, sorry but fail, bad example.

      September 9, 2010 at 3:36 am |
  3. muslim

    I am a muslim , the people that were responsible for these 9/11 attacks are not "muslims" in gods eyes, they might have been amongst theirselves, thes people in gods eyes are evil creatures.this is not islam and its totally ashamed that these people point this religion to be this way. Read a quran, bible, torah, before judging anyones religion, do not base it on the news, etc. I have much respect for all the lives that were lost in the WTC as some of those lives that were lost were, christians, jews, muslims, korean,pakistani,spanish etc.. This is a country that symbolizes freedom. this mosque is just a place of worship not a hezbollah training camp.regardless of the location it is being built for the conveinence of muslims in that particular community. it is 2 blocks from ground zero it is not being bulit on top of ground zero. Grond zero itself should be a memorial place and she never be touched. but if seeing a mosque near ground zero on your way to work angers people than its the same as seeing a muslim standing to look at ground zero should anger those families also(this muslim might be crying over these families and what they have suffered ). then this means this country is not united. i have christian friends, jewish friends,pakistani friends never would i say to them don't build a church or temple in my neighborhood regardless of what might have took place there. back in time prophets(messengers) of all religions died in place of the dome of the rock, the wailing wall , people died for the sake of their religion and there are temples churches and mosques built in those places . the buring of the quran is wrong yes people have freedom in this country but the lack of respect for someones belifs are disgraceful, if this man and the 15 others is allowed to burn a quran then it will only influence others to do it and it will soon maybe become a tradition. does this mean if i am a christian that i should go burn a torah on christmas day because i believe the jews killed jesus "no"! . no matter what religion you are god does not say make enemies but make peace. plz dont make immature comments if u agree just say "I"

    September 9, 2010 at 2:19 am |
    • N1cholson

      Wasn't it the Romans that killed Jesus? And doesn't your Quran say that Isa (Jesus) wasn't killed and that Allah made someone look like Jesus and that the imposter was killed? Why are you suggesting that the Christians should have enmity against the Jews?

      September 9, 2010 at 2:31 am |
    • John K

      I enjoyed your post very much and found it enlightening and refeshing. Thank you for your points and I can definitely see your side of the issue now.

      I appreciate your perspective much more than many others who posted here with such negativity. I will make an effort to read the Quran as you suggest, thank you.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:31 am |
  4. Amit Desai

    i agree with Melissa and Paul. Soledad needs to be fired immediatley. she is THE WORST interviewer I have seen. She lacks knowledge and objectivity. What a shame to ask this retard to do this imortant interview.

    September 9, 2010 at 2:18 am |
  5. N1cholson

    Americans are good people and many of us would like to believe that if we have enemies, it's because of something we're doing wrong. They also want to believe that Islam is just other religion that teaches peace, tolerance and goodwill to others. Our open-mindedness allows us to be welcoming to immigrants and people with ideas that are different than our own.

    But the religion of Islam evolved to be a totalitarian ideology that seeks domination rather than peaceful coexistence. That's not just me saying this, this is what Islam's mullahs say. When Imam Rauf quotes the peaceful sura of the Quran, he doesn't mention that those verses are abrogated (superceded by later, more hostile verses).

    When Imam Rauf says that Cordoba house will have mutlifaith workship rooms, I wonder if there are plans to change the Muslim prayer Al Fatiha (which they say 5 times a day) such that it no longer disparages Christians and Jews as those that have gone astray and and have earned God's anger.

    We are in a WAR with political Islam and unless the political aspect of that religion is excised, we are not obligated to accord it the priviliges of other religions.

    September 9, 2010 at 2:17 am |
    • muslim


      September 9, 2010 at 3:05 am |
    • Guest

      like, duh! nobody here reads Arabic just koranabook

      September 9, 2010 at 3:23 am |
  6. Amit Desai

    I completely agree with most bloggers here. I think Soledad had her own agenda and was biased to begin with. She was asking tough questions but they all had a slant. SO WHAT if the imam has criticized american foreigh policy in the past and siad that it might be partly responsible for the attcks on 9/11. It is a known fact that America supported the mujahadeen anf left that coutry to dogs when their interests were completed. It is well known that America is hypocritical when it criticises venenzula and cuba but supports the most horrible dictato ships like saudis where women are treated as second class citizens. Should only "so called" journalists like her self be able to criticize United States foreign policy. I am extremely saddened to see the imam apologize about criticising america; therby falling into soledads trap of being gulity of something when he is not.

    September 9, 2010 at 2:05 am |
    • jeff

      your a good person. As a muslim I always respected hindus the most. Thanks for your comments.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:31 am |
  7. anab

    soladed was unproffesional she repeated many times whay ground zero. what iswrong over there. it is free country. cristians have more percentage than muslem doesnot mean they belong this country.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:58 am |
  8. LisaLV

    Cliff May, the Republican whatever, just said since Christians FOUNDED this country the center should have a Christian center on the top floors, followed by a Synagogue, THEN the Muslin prayer center on the lower floors and he didn't see the bigotry in that statement. First of all, Christians didn't FIND anything when they landed here. Native American Indians beat them to it. Secondly, who is he to dictate how somebody should build anything? Boy, Republicans are really showing their hand now.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:55 am |
  9. Keith Alaska

    So the Islamic center is going to have a memorial for 9/11 a whole two blocks away from the actual memorial. Thats really terrific, what a really great way to try and pacify Americans. Perhaps you could save the money and just put up a sign saying "WTC memorial two blocks that way."

    September 9, 2010 at 1:55 am |
  10. Jaleh

    MUSLIMS around the world should boycott CNN INTERNATIONAL for propagating Islamophobia unless CNN FIRES this fascist woman! CNN international, DARE TO show this show in the Muslim countries!!

    What is next in CNN PROPAGANDA? incite religious hatred until the illeterate among Americans (that 70% who seem to be the likes of that retard 9/11 woman, or an illiterate bigot like that construction worker in the show) LED by the the woman Gobbles, the LEADER, burn muslims in streets of USA?!

    September 9, 2010 at 1:52 am |
    • John K

      Go for it jaleh!

      During your boycott watch some real, truthful news reporting like say....Al Jazeera.

      Why stop there, boycott America! Go live somewhere more free and honest like where women can't drive or are subject to severe discrimination and/or honor killings.

      You are so off base it's scary. This is America, she was doing her job as a journalist challenging him and catching him when he claimed it was only politician's against the idea. To argue otherwise only makes you appear more foolish.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:19 am |
  11. bizarro elle

    Amazing how we coddle to terrorists because we "might" upset them. They have been blowing up people for decades, do you really think this matter to them one way or another? Why not CONDEMN THEIR ACTIONS instead of making excuses for them. Are you kidding me? Tell me...what was the event that upset them so much that they murdered 3000 people at the world trade center, himm? What enraged them at that time? Guess what.....nothing. They do it because they are wacko.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:52 am |
  12. jeff

    There is a huge difference between burning the flag of a nation and burning a sacred book. You are welcome to burn flags of a muslim country. You will never see bible burning by muslims nor indicent pictures of jesus by muslims. Mind you as I speak our nations are burning their lands to the point where they cant grow normal crops in afghanistan. It has been bombed by russians, colonized by britain also bombed and now NATO. Burning our flag is nothing in comparison to us burning their land with carpet bombing, cluster bombing, depleted uranium, drone bombing pretty much killing over millions with lies after lies on top of that there is people like you insulting their belief every step of the way causing many to side on the other side.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:51 am |
    • bizarro elle

      LOL no they will never burn a bible, they are too busy beheading people or blowing something up. They wouldn't think to waste the time on burning a bible. BTW, the American flag is quite sacred, special, etc to many people. There is no difference between burning a quaran or burning the flag. To try and make such an argument is plain silly.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:54 am |
  13. Observer

    The reason for the Islamic Center as I broadly understand it is to promote understanding and reconciliation between Muslims, Christians and other faiths in this country. That being said I have two points....

    #1 Whatever the reasons behind the conflict between Christians and Muslims, who acted on those feelings? Muslim radicals attacked the US and everyone says that there is deep hatred for the US across the Muslim world and the US is under imminent threat. Presuming that is a fact should not the Iman establish Centers in Muslim countries so there can be a discussion there to defuse the situation? Why have a Center here to establish a rapport with people who aren't yet acting out on the frustration? Seems like the priorities are reversed.

    #2 If there Imam reallly wanted to have a Center for reconciliation, learning and understanding why did he not engage with other religious leaders in order to truly suceed. Instead of creating an Islamic Center he should have met with the ArchBishop of NY, the Head Rabbi of NY, the Hindu Priests of NY, the Orthodox Christian clergy of NY, etc. etc. and established a committee of religious leaders in order to build a TRUE multifaith center with the input and participation of all religious communities.

    Thanks for reading.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:50 am |
    • John K

      Excellent, thoughtful post.

      Now watch as all the Imam's supporters attack you personally as a bigot. Don't take it personally, it just means they can't offer a legitimate counter response to your cohesive points.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:15 am |
  14. Hmm Politics

    Who have the best political Strategy?
    If there is any politics involved in this mosque issue and some politician (Republican) using this as their winning strategy then if the opposition (Democrats) come up with a solution about this mosque situation just before the election then what whould be the outcome! and who will actually win the heart of american people?

    September 9, 2010 at 1:48 am |
  15. Amit Desai

    Soledad did an absolutely horrible job with this interview. Her interview was confrontatinal, one sided and biased. Soldedad several times said that more then 70 % of people in the US dont support the mosque. To that I would have said there are many things historically that the majority has not supported including emancipation of womens right to education and vote, and abolition of slavery. Does that make the majority right. It is for this reason the consitution protects the rights of the minority against the tyranny of the bigoted majority. In our case the tyrannical majority is all the xenophobic white christian majority who oppose the mosque. All those who oppose the mosque are ultimately saying "we are consciously or unconsciously fearful close minded bigots who think that there is no difference between the crazy lunatics who hit the towers and moderate islam which is truly the norm".

    September 9, 2010 at 1:47 am |
    • Scott

      Recommend. And I thought I was the only one. I hope Jon Stewart is all over this one tomorrow.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:55 am |
    • Guest

      I was at the gym when this was on in the lockerroom and so glad I focused on the really important issue-blowing out my hair; so I understand the Kochs of New York are trying to force a sale in this case so they can commandeer what they are eying as prime pc of NY real estate while everyone else is distracted with this balderbeebop

      September 9, 2010 at 2:59 am |
  16. Nick

    At its core, this isnt even about religion. This is about COMPASION and UNDERSTANDING, this is about DECENCY. It is far easier to move the site of a building then it is to bury heavy emotional feelings over such a tragic event. Millions of americans and families will think a lot more of this Islamic community if they show some compassion, understanding and decency for those who lost people they loved to this tragic event and choose to move the site elsewhere in NYC. I'm not against Islam or them having a mosque or center.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:46 am |
    • John K

      Bravo! Nice to finally see some intelligent comments.

      Now sit back and watch how many call you an Islamofascist hating American racist......: ) When people don't understand the issue or can't make an argument against something they simply try to tear it down by discrediting or devaluating it. Notice how we are not attacking Muslims, Islam or the Imam the way all his supporters feel the need to call us racist.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:11 am |
    • Frogist

      @Nick: Ok let's play this game for a second. Let's talk about sensitivity and put this in perspective.
      So a muslim uses the house next door to you to kill your brother then himself. Then a muslim family wants to move in on the other side of you. Do you get people from across the neighborhood to stand outside the house yelling with signs saying, "Muslims are murderers." Do you go to them and say, "Please, my brother was killed by a muslim, be sensitive and don't live next to me." Or do you move out? Or do you let them live their lives on their own property and you live on yours?

      September 9, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  17. Nathan James

    Why is it so hard to understand that to move the Islamic Center is to say that Ground Zero is a Judeo-Cristian area only due to an Islamic attack upon non-Muslims? Please note that Muslims along with other religious people are dying in this fight against the fanatic ideaology behind 9/11. Would we ban a Christian church from the Oklohma City bombing site? There was a time in America when the majority said, "We have black schools so why do black kids have to come to my school?" We would have heard that the majority were not racist.

    They don't object to strip clubs at the site because "they did not have anything to do with the attacks." This suggests an Imam who risks his life everyday fighting fanatical ideology, DID have something to do with 9/11. It is this false premise that is at the heart of this debate.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:39 am |
    • bizarro elle

      post some articles or video links of this imam risking his life against the radicals. I'll wait

      September 9, 2010 at 1:56 am |
    • John K

      No one is suggesting the Imam had anything to do with 9/11 here so don't start that rumor.

      EVERYTHING WE KNOW is that Islamic teachings, bastardized or not, had EVERYTHING to do with the attacks on 9/11.

      And it's not a Judeo-Christian thing as so many of you would like to frame it, it's a matter of respect for those that died there, and a request for sensitivity from another religion that should want to do everything to show it had nothing to do with it.

      If Buddhist extremists did the 9/11 acts, I would be hesitant about a buddhist temple built so close to the site. can u at least understand the respect and sensitivity angle without trying to frame everyone against you in some personal attack?

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

      right on Nathan!

      I wish the stupid Imam instead of being so defensive responding to the biggoted woman, would have studied possible questions and had better answers! I think you would have put the interviewer to SHAME right after her first IDIOTIC question that she kept repeating like a retarded parrot!!

      September 9, 2010 at 2:18 am |
    • Frogist

      @bizarro: umm did you read this article? Or hear the interview? There is your proof of the Imam risking his life. His willingness to speak openly with americans, encourage anti-terrorist stances, and call for moderates in Islam to stand up is exactly what extremists don't want. And he still goes to the middle east to talk about how tolerant america is for muslims even though we clearly have some issues there. What would youhave him do? Pick up a gun and kill some terrorists? He is a holy man. Would you ask a catholic priest to do the same? Go re-read the article, this time takes the scales out of your eyes.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
  18. John K

    As far as Soledad's interviewing went, too many of you seem to be naive about what you watched. This was not a celebrity love fest with Larry King in his diaper drooling and asking Jerry Seinfeld whether his show got cancelled or not, this was a journalist asking hard questions.

    The Imam has avoided answering any questions till now, instead sending his wife to the talking head shows. he finally gives an interview and Soledad had a responsibility to challenge him, especially when he was being intentionall disengenuous with his responses. She was cutting him off for not answering the question asked, or for saying something he should have known was not accurate. I am glad she didn't do a Larry King powder puff softball interview.

    I would hope that tomorrow she has the people who started this movement against the mosque, and I hope she challenges them the same way. That's what journalism is about, not just asking the questions the interviewee wants, and letting them answer by any means they choose truth be damned.

    Or better yet, I hope she has the Quran burning priest on and challenges him equally. I'm absolutely certain she would.

    It's journalistic challenging for the truth not bias, get your heads out of your own obviously biased backyards.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:39 am |
  19. LisaLV

    Anderson Cooper just ran a clip from Pat Roberton or whatever that Rev in Tenn name is, and it couldn't be more racist and bigoted ever. So much for any Republican Senator to win that seat this November.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:36 am |
  20. LV_nonanaon

    Why doesn't he lead a Million Muslim March on DC to protest Islamic radicals? Oh, yeah, they might become 'inflamed' and hurt him. Even he is afraid of his own kind. His silence on radicals and fear tell us EXACTLY what we're dealing with. Let's not deny the evidence piling up like a steaming, smelly mush - Show strength, not fear, and never tolerate a call to be moderate from those who would subvert others without losing a minute's sleep.

    September 9, 2010 at 1:36 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.