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. malsikcuf

    The Imam was very sly. His subtle message to the Americans is that, they better accept the location for the mosque at ground zero or something terrible might happen to America again. Isn't this an indirect threat to America? Is America going to be cowed by his message? What is so difficult about relocating the mosque? Why do they want it at Ground Zero, if it is not for glorifying Islam? Why don't the build the center in one of the Islamic country? Would they allow the Christians to build a similar kind of center in one of the Middle East country like Saudi Arabia?

    September 9, 2010 at 3:30 am |
    • MikeM

      No one here bothers to think about those questions. For most folks here, if something does not hurt you personally right here, right now you don't bother to think about before taking a stand in its defense. You happen to live in a free country, but you want open its gates to something that can harm the country and its future. But as long as it is not harming you right here right now, you could care less. It is such irresponsible people that compromise the safety and security of the rest of the citizens.

      September 9, 2010 at 3:41 am |
    • Fed

      That is exactly how I interpreted it to.

      September 9, 2010 at 3:51 am |
  2. Carole

    As an American who lives in a moderate Muslim country, I agree 100% with Imam Rauf's assessment. We don't need to throw yet more fuel on this unfortunate fire.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:29 am |
  3. Obinna Modum

    It saddens me that only one person on CNN, Roland Martin, had the nerve to say it as it is.
    70% of the American people (or what ever portion is polled) are wrong! Being in the majority does not make your position right! The public needs to be careful not to let their gut emotions affect their rationality.
    They have been times in the past when the majority have been wrong too: Japanese internment in WW2; people fighting to prevent desegregation in the 50s etc.
    America needs to decide; They cannot have their cake and eat it too. Americans cannot claim this is a place of religious tolerance while publicly acting otherwise. You can't be offended about being labeled an Islamophobe if you advocating an Islamophobic action.

    As for Soledad's interview; I would like to believe that she was playing the devil's advocate and didn't intend to be so unprofessional!

    September 9, 2010 at 3:24 am |
  4. Snowboarderf

    @Self – there is a Jewish worship place near the dome of the rock – the wailing wall! Get your facts right!

    September 9, 2010 at 3:20 am |
  5. Abhijit

    One simple question to Imam. Since he is invoking vision of religious freedom in the USA. In that case, does he disapprove and will fight for religious intolerance in islamic nations. As far as I know, i don't know of any islamic nation that is not "Islamic", is secular, and is tolerant to other faith.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:18 am |
    • Carole

      Turkey. I live here. Turkey took in and protected Jews expelled from Spain. Here there are synagogues, Orthodox churches, Christian churches and of course, mosques.

      September 9, 2010 at 3:32 am |
    • K

      I'm getting sick of all the talk of infidels. An infidel is not someone is just not Muslim. It's someone that leaves Islam. So, if you were never a Muslim in the first place, and you aren't a Muslim now, you aren't an infidel.

      September 9, 2010 at 4:37 am |
    • K

      "As far as I know, i don't know of any islamic nation that is not "Islamic", is secular, and is tolerant to other faith."

      Are you kidding me? Did you just say you don't know of any Islamic nations that are secular and not Islamic? Me neither. I also don't know of any Christian nations that are not Christian and are secular.

      September 9, 2010 at 4:40 am |
  6. harry

    First, A post by DonJ says it all.
    Second, Soledad is no different from other journalist who are not biased and must show that they are not "easy" on muslims. Its is the Muslim bashing time. So much for fairness and the spirit of America..

    September 9, 2010 at 3:13 am |
  7. Hilary

    I am one hundred percent American, not Arab it is UNBELIEVABLE that other AMERICAN'S are not EVEN aware there are MANY American's Muslim's. I have been a Muslim for twentey yrs and I have to say WOW where are ALL the intelligent people like the person Named -What A Fraud These Conservatives Are.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:09 am |
    • Fed

      Misunderstanding has nothing to do with it. 71% of Americans do not need a lesson in tolerance from a Muslim. Islam is the most intolerant of all groups in the history of planet earth.

      September 9, 2010 at 3:54 am |
  8. John

    CNN we demand you fire Soledad. SHe proved she is a bigot. Soledad was trying to get rating from the 70% other bigots I guess. Fareed Zakaria would have been excellent instead.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:08 am |
  9. John

    Fire soledad she is a disgrace to CNN. She was biased.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:06 am |
  10. caliprnces

    "Time heals Wounds". I wanted Imam to say something to help me to understand why this location. I didn't get that. As the spouse and sister of soldiers who have served multiple tours in Afganistan and Iraq, I believe this mosque should happen but with soldiers being killed in this war as resent as yesterday it is too soon. Something like this, in that location, at this time just poors salt on open wounds. We can't talk "peace" which is what this center represents, when we are still "fighting".

    September 9, 2010 at 3:02 am |
    • Obinna Modum

      You said you have family who had served in Iraq?
      Well, the Iman Rauf also has family who have served in Iraq, too.
      Does he not have as equal rights as you in this country?
      American Muslims died on 9/11...
      American Muslims have fought and died in Iraq too..
      Why are they fighting for a country who wouldn't even recognize their right to build a place of worship several blocks from ground zero!
      Your first mistake is equating the acts of several radical on 9/11 with an entire religion of almost 2 billion found all over the world!

      September 9, 2010 at 3:33 am |
    • caliprnces

      First off you should learn how to understand what you are reading. I actually agree that they should build the mosque for some the same reasons you've stated and more. Your so ready to argue and fight you don't recognize when someone is on your side. I simply believe that we have 71% of people who have a probelm with it because it is too soon. The wounds of 9/11 are still fresh. The sacrafices my family make on a daily bases (YES MY HUSBAND IS DEPLOYED AGAIN!!!) are not something we take lightley and I can understand why families in my situation and those who have paid the ultimate sacrafice arent't ready to have this discussion.

      September 9, 2010 at 9:00 pm |
  11. GUEST

    "Solidad or however you spell her name was extemleydisrespectful to her guest. iv never seen a more biased, aggresive approach to "trying to understand" something. Journalism at its WORST. cnn has changed so much in terms of Biased and unbiased reporting.... i dont believe half the stuff i watch on tv because they pick and choose what THEY want you to see.... and if its not in their liking..you WONT see it... or get fired for it. Such a shame" you are right tedd.

    This is disgraced. you need to treat everyone equal.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:01 am |
  12. matt

    First do I think what happened on Sept. 11 was horrible? Your damn right... But to hear that 70 percent of the American Public is against Religious Freedom, o wait that's not the issues here its that "THEY" are building a community center with a place for prayer 2 1/2 blocks away from a sight of a tragic attack.... but wait then again that's not really the issue either its not understanding, not knowing the full facts, its taking advantage of a situation a fear that Americans have of being attacked...

    As a journalism major i am sadden by the work of the so called journalist at FOX, CNN and MSNBC who jumped on a controversy and did little fact checking and that was evident tonight in the interview. Instead our journalists helped fuel what became a political issue.

    Now with that rant out of the way lets start at the Constitution...

    The first Admendment and I quote
    "Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    Second religious works as we know are powerful tools in shaping how people think and the way they act... As a christian have I seen the original writing? Of course not, so their original meaning has been lost over time and I have been told what each of these works means. Christianity has been used countless times to justify actions just as we have blamed Islam for 9/11.

    Third I think people as a whole need to educate them self on what this proposal is do some research because believe it or not with broadcast cable news, you are not getting everything you need to know, they like to package their news.

    And i hope that we can begin to see that our fears have been exploited against us as we come to vote this November.

    September 9, 2010 at 2:58 am |
  13. Teddy

    Solidad or however you spell her name was extemleydisrespectful to her guest. iv never seen a more biased, aggresive approach to "trying to understand" something. Journalism at its WORST. cnn has changed so much in terms of Biased and unbiased reporting.... i dont believe half the stuff i watch on tv because they pick and choose what THEY want you to see.... and if its not in their liking..you WONT see it... or get fired for it. Such a shame

    September 9, 2010 at 2:51 am |
  14. muslim

    thank u john K for your understanding a true muslims point of view and being very open is always the best way to do it, i would love for this mosque to be bulit so i can go pray nearest to those who lost their lives(SOULS) and wish god to give them peace .

    September 9, 2010 at 2:50 am |
  15. John

    Fire Soledad. doesnt the bitttcch remember when 95% were against her civil rights?

    September 9, 2010 at 2:47 am |
    • Darly


      September 9, 2010 at 3:32 am |
  16. muslim

    no nichlson thats not what i am implying at all its your mind thats taking it the wrong way . if i were sure who killed jesus i would say it but only god knows what true religion is out there thats why i did not directly say it.i am just trying to tell u the way i look at it not the way islam looks at it , im sorry if you felt offended , by the way belive me one of my best friends is jewish 🙂

    September 9, 2010 at 2:45 am |
  17. PearsRed

    The thing that is rotten about Islam are the handful of hardliner folks who are doing all sort of things in the name of Islam. A religion which is hardwired in the old times and does not allow evolution is a ticking time bomb. Christianity had it's dark ages and much bloodhsed happened before it evolved and moved on. Islam refuses to do so. One of the reason could be that there are not enough moderate Islamists to raise their voice against the social injustices and cruelty etc that are perpetuated in the name of Islam. The Islamic religious leaders and the morderates need to introspect and take a hard stand against the hardliners islamists / terrorists instead of preaching to the rest of the world on how lovey dopey Islam is and waste time creating Islamic centres etc. They need to bring revolution , empower the women and bring them in the center of power, thereby creating a balance. The perception and the whiplash will stop only when the rest of the world sees the effort that Islam is making to live utp the 21st century. Today, there's a 99% probablity that where ever there is an unrest and elements of terror, islamic elements are involved, and that's how the world sees it and will continue to see it.
    Take, Bosnia, Serbia, the whole middle east, south asia (India) etc etc.

    September 9, 2010 at 2:31 am |
    • Mandrake

      How very true. Only if these so called Imams spent time educating and preaching within their community rather than to the rest of the word....sigh!!

      September 9, 2010 at 2:45 am |
    • lsk

      People from all the countries , cultres of the world , who have sizeable muslim populaation know that muslims got a foothold in the country by blood or deciet and then in a few decades they swamped the landscape, fought local beliefs and made muslim the dominant religion or a parallel government. When they are less in numbers they use local laws , local hosts to their advantage and once they have the big numbers they they start talking of muslim law, sharia, infidels and we know what follows : Bamiyan buddhas, temple demolition in pakistan and lots in india , greek orthodox community reduced to gasping minority in turkey, lebanese , iraqi christians fleding to usa, breaking up of countries on religious grounds, wars as in africa and other fellow citizens would know the story in their own country and they should make us aware as to how we are going to be duped by them.

      September 9, 2010 at 8:48 am |
    • Boorish

      This Imam has the gall to say that taking a stance back and not build or relocate the islamic center will have a negative effect in the muslim world. He is more worried about the the negative impact in muslim world than respect the sentiments of the folks who died in the WTC. How dare he even contemplate an Islamic centre near ground zero. How dare he feigns ignorance lied about the fact that he was not aware of the proximity of proposed centre to ground zero. He deserves a taste of his own medicine for blasphemy (read even considering an Islamic site near a sacred location to so many communities ...Ground Zero) and be stoned.

      September 9, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  18. Jerome Bernstein

    Soledad Obrien's interrogation of the Imam tonight - to call it an interview would be a farce - was outrageous and a disservice to the issue and a glaring example ofun professional journalism. She obviously came with an agenda, did not do her homework and was too often confused by some of the history and facets the Imam gave, was disrespectful in tone, attitude and facial expressions to a man of faith and often gratuitously insulting. Above all, she neither listed nor heard - she repeatedly distorted several of the Imam's points. It was disgracing - and harmful and a time when the country needs to have real dialogue.
    I think that the Anderson Cooper show which followed the Obrien interrogation was well balanced and AC did a very good job of containing the various opposing and intense points of view, flushing out the essentials in the statements, making appropriate links, and furthering dialogue on a very difficult topic. It had the Hallmarks of good professional reporting, notwithstanding AC's obligatory nod to Soledad for an excellent job.

    September 9, 2010 at 2:31 am |
  19. Rhonda Morrison, Lake Arthur, LA

    Rhonda H Morrison I am SO confused about how the MAIN sentiment of the people opposing the mosque is being ignored. The ONLY thing in common that the terrorist have with the NY muslims is the muslim faith, there is NO association between the terrorist & the Good muslim people ... then WHAT THE HELL are they asking us to be sensitive to? I WILL NOT be ...sensitive to people who believe that opposing ALL muslims in response to the tower attacks is appropriate!! If there is NO connection between terrorist & the Good muslims ... then the action of opposing the mosque is in EVERY WAY preventing the freedom of religion ... this is the REAL 'sentiment's of the opposers of the mosque. I am VERY, very disappointed that CNN has NOT placed enough emphasis & enough dialogue the SENSITIVITY that the opposers keep talking about ... have them DEFINE clearly why the mosque is against the sensitivity. And what the HELL is this poll where 75% of people oppose the mosque ... are we REALLY going to throw out our Constitution?

    September 9, 2010 at 2:27 am |
  20. Peace and Justice for all

    read, educate yourself

    LOOK EVERYONE ! I want to say we need the Islamic center/Mosque because it seems the nation is un-educated about Islam. Islam never supports terrorist, Osama bin ladan and extremist are evil terrorist they do not represent a nation or religion of 1.8 billion muslims, they do not speak for us either. Islam means: submission and obediance, Muslim means: to surrender, and Salam means: Peace. We must try to educate this nation because non-muslims are being feed the wrong messeges, and by not building this center it will be like saying we were the people involved for those terrorist acts, we were victims just as much as anyone in those buildings on 9/11, remember every culture or religion is going to have "rotten apple" like one small example the Oklahoma city bomber he killed those people for his God and his religion, but still we see churches in that town, we are not to punish the whole religion for a very some group of people that don't represent that religion. we want to clear everyones mind Islam doesn't want to kill,we want PEACE read it yourself or ask a local mosque they will be happy to tell you all you need to know. this nation is Islamophobics because they are un-educated and they think they understand Islam, there are even people claming we have verses in the Quran about killing non-muslims, these words are NOT in the Quran but the opposite, JIHAD doesn't mean holy war, it means struggle and strive for anything we do, the only time a muslim can kill or fight any religion muslim or non-muslim is during combat war for self-defence and there are a list of rules like: never harm women, childern, elderly or people working minding there own buisness {like the twin towers victims} we can only fight for self-defence combat zone and surrender if the opposing team surrenders, it is some what of an eye for an eye theory. Muslims respect ALL religions, so if you choose to burn the Quran read it you'll find what we believe is very similar,and it will show you how much we respect all the prophets and praise Jesus and even a chapter about the virigin Mary, before preforming nazi teachings, innocent civilians Muslims are being attacked all over the world for being a muslim so this proves the nazi theory. I understand there are evil muslims and they are trying to terrorize and erase Islam's true messege a messege of peace and equality, they are trying to kill muslims and change the words of our God sent to our prophet. Islam is stronger then Osama and the terrorist groups these men are murders NOT muslims no one will follow these idiots and God will send them straight to hell in this life and the after. we are a nation of freedom and we clam not to be racist but the non-muslim never even heard the other side with an open mind.

    We need to treat people like we want to be treated so we can stand together to defeat and distroy Osama and these evil groups, but how can we do that, we treat all muslim like terrorist that is unfair because muslims are not raised to be evil, we were all created from dirt/clay no one has the right to be more supperior to any other group no matter what we are equal, we give Muslims labels they have no assoication with that, Just like child molesting priest who are the teachers of Chirstainty, not all Chirstians are Molestors we are not to assoiate all Chirstians with evil people form their religion. I never mean to offened anyone I want people to educate themselves towards the people they claim them to be their enimies. PEACE TO ALL I hope this nation keep the consitution of America such as freedom of speech, religion and Peace thank you !

    September 9, 2010 at 2:26 am |
    • John K

      You've also made a fine post with many excellent comments, thank you. I hope what you say is accurate and I look forward to reading the Quran.

      September 9, 2010 at 2:36 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.