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

    Is the Iman telling the Americans, he has no control over the relocation of the mosque at ground zero because the Islamic radicals are dictating to him what to do? If that is the case he must be in co hood with the radical islamic terrorists.

    September 9, 2010 at 4:34 am |
  2. Travis V.

    Everyone please read the response from Don J at 1:31am as it was the most brillant response to an interview i've ever read.

    What right does Soledad have to even act like she is representing herself or CNN appropriatley? She was so absurdley rude and disrespecful that while watching this tonight i was ashamed to be an American. Im 28 and i too never reply to blogs but after seeing this interview with Imam i feel like its my social responsibility to say directly to CNN "what are you thinking with this woman?" As a media giant please dont forget that by allowing this to take place on television YOU CNN are condoning her behavior and should be ashamed of yourselves!

    Trust me when i tell you that my generation agrees with Imam. We all want peace at whatever cost it takes. Imam wants to share faiths and we bash him? WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?

    Allow me to say that myself and many people in my generation were moved tonight by Imams idea of celebrating faith. We all should be so lucky to have people that selfless and genuine trying to help this country.


    September 9, 2010 at 4:32 am |
    • Jose Nungaray

      Travis V, muslims don't want to celebrate faith they want to dominate the usa and the rest of ther world. What planet are you living in, wake up and smell the coffe. Also CNN has the right to do whatever they want, they are on american soil not in Saudi Arabia. Travis, I'm very proud that CNN is clear and not hipocritical. So, if want to celebrate faith start by converting all the radicals from islam to the love of Christ. Thank you

      September 9, 2010 at 4:45 am |
    • steve jaubert

      So the Trojans at long last moved by the Grecian departure saw the gift of the wooden horse upon the plains as a victory prize and in their pride could not help but believe in the gods and they took it into the city and they fell into a fateful sleep.

      September 9, 2010 at 4:59 am |
  3. Jose Nungaray

    Everyone in this country speaks about rights and yet, they don't stop to think that the people that found this nation were born and race in a christian household. The christian faith is hated by the muslim leaders. Our nation was found in freedom and islam teaches subjection. Why are we letting the minority dictate to the majority? I'm not a bully but enough is enough. Everybody is welcome to the USA to obey our laws and pay their taxes not to impose their laws on american soil. If americans don't start taking their freedom back from all these radicals. We will be the next Venezuela. WAKE UP AMERICA, YOU ARE THE LAND OF FREEDOM AND COURAGE.

    September 9, 2010 at 4:32 am |
  4. malsikcuf

    America, do not worry about what the radical world of Islam is looking at you, as a warning by the Imam. But be very worried what the non-Islamic world are looking at you for leadership. If you allow the ground zero mosque to be built, it will signify your very weakness to protect the free world from the threat of radical Islam!

    September 9, 2010 at 4:24 am |
  5. K

    As a journalist, I found this interview to be absolutely disgusting. There is a very big difference between holding someone's feet to the fire and simply arguing against them.

    I'd like to see the math behind this supposed poll that says 70% of Americans are opposed to this center. Forgive me for sounding "unpatriotic", but I highly doubt that 70% of Americans are even aware of this center. My undergrad degree was in stats, and I am fully aware of how polls like this mean "70% (+/- whatever margin of error) of people that were willing to talk to pollsters", which is entirely different than the entire nation.

    Legally, and according to the IDEALS and VALUES that Americans should hold dearly (since they are guaranteed in the constitution and the founding fathers wrote extensively about their importance), there is no reason this center should not be built at the proposed location. In fact, it's completely unAmerican to oppose this center. The problem is, people are stupid. For some reason, they have it in their head that 9/11 was Islam versus America, and not a group of Islamic individuals that attacked America.

    Let's use a very similar comparison: a boy I met that was molested by a priest kept quiet for years because he thought he "sinned." In other words, the priest justified his actions to his victim using his Christian religion (and yes, Catholics are Christian. In fact, one could say they're the original Christians). Therefore, Christianity is a religion of pedophiles. Using this reasoning, it wouldn't be hard to restrict where a church of any sort could be built.

    This whole issue makes me waiver between sadness and anger. I'm sad because Americans have forgotten the real values that literally built this country into an independent, free nation (things like free expression, a government [ie-politicians] that keeps their political noses out of the religious world). And I'm angry because I think people just seem too lazy to think about this issue rationally.

    September 9, 2010 at 4:23 am |
    • Rosie

      The Bible does not teach that pedophilia is o.k. But what about the Quran teachings toward nonbelievers in Islam and what does it teach you about enforcing Sharia? Be careful about your answer. Remember, you do not want to burn in hell.

      September 15, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  6. Really_Soledad?!?!

    SOLEDAD YOU ARE A DISAPPOINTMENT... You were nothing but unprofessional, ignorant, even border-line racist!
    1) You didn't even listen to the guy, you were simply bashing the guy all night long
    2) I'm not sure if this is your fault - but there was a commercial break taken after every question. It almost looked like you were trying to cut him off and not allow him to say anything.

    It's one thing for an uneducated idiot to bash this guy, but we expect more from you miss distinguished journalist. Replay that interview and watch how angry, rude, disruptive, and almost racist you were...You're a disappointment Soledad!

    September 9, 2010 at 4:02 am |
    • Christian who is disappointed with this interview

      Did you notice that during the breaks, Soledad did not even make eye contact with the Imam? She oftern cut him off as he was attempting to answer her questions? I just did not like her interview at all and it made me get off my couch to come here and blog about it...

      September 9, 2010 at 4:12 am |
    • Pro

      You must be the twin sister of Sarah Palin. Ignoramus at large.

      September 9, 2010 at 4:29 am |
    • Phil in Oregon

      I agree Soledad was combative in a way and didn't really listen. She kept kind of rudely challenging Rauf and didn't seem to acknowledge him in how he was answering her questions. I wish Larry King could have interviewed him instead there would have been a better tone to the whole interview.

      I felt that Rauf did a great job of staying relaxed and didn't get ruffled even though it seemed she was kind of respectful and didn't really hear him and respond to some great points that he was making.

      September 9, 2010 at 4:36 am |
    • jhuyzinga

      You nailed it. I ended up feeling even more sympathetic to the poor imam. Then after listening to what came next I wondered if there was enough good will left in NYC to even go through with the project. What was more disturbing, those two bitterly angry 9-11 bigots (get that hysterical woman off my tv) or listening to Elliot Spitzer of all people trying to help us work through an ethical decision. Hello? What was CNN thinking??? The gentle imam walked into an ambush. After the job Soledad tried to do on him followed by Anderson's two guests, I would not blame the imam for just saying screw you, call me when you are ready to have a rational discussion.

      September 9, 2010 at 5:56 am |
  7. malsikcuf

    Why are the Muslim reacting so badly to the proposed burning of the Quran when they have been burning the Bible and insulting all the other religions. If they do not like it then they shouldn't be doing to others what they do not like to be done to them.

    September 9, 2010 at 4:01 am |
  8. MRW

    My father -a veteren of 2 wars is turning in his grave. He fought for FREEDOM of religion. What is happening to our great country when the basic founding principle are turned into " I don't feel it's right". When did people think there feelings are the founding principles of a great nation?

    September 9, 2010 at 3:57 am |
  9. malsikcuf

    I think the iman was too sly for the CNN interviewer. As far as I can observe, the iman was a wolf in sheep skin. He keep talking about peace and reconciliation, but his ulterior motive is to have the mosque at Ground Zero to show Islam conquest and to glorify Islam. Otherwise, why must he insist the the mosque has to be built there and also he had a very subtle message that if the mosque is not built at the very place, there will be more terrors for the American. Come on America. Wake up! It's time to stand up to all this threat unless you want to America to be Islamise in the very near future.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:56 am |
  10. Christian who is disappointed with this interview

    I am very disappointed in Soledad's interview. She came across as very confrontational, angry, rude... She continually asked the same question and seemed to attack the Imam... It makes me wonder, what was her agenda? Why did she do the interview? Was this interview personal to her? I feel that her interview did nothing for the debate. CNN probably should have utilized another commentator for this interview. I must admit I usually enjoy Soledad's reports but I was highly disappointed in the unprofessionalism displayed in this interview. I was very happy when the Imam asked her "What is it that you propose that we do?" she looked stunned after he posed this question. Sorry, she was attacking this man...

    September 9, 2010 at 3:55 am |
  11. Pro

    Soledad O’Brien was pathetic interviewing Imam. Most of the journalist are not only ignorant about Quran, Shiriah and Hadit, they have not done the home work to learn history of Islam. How it has been forced on the people by the Mugal invaders. I want Imam or any one claiming that Islam is a religion of peace and Muslims are peace loving, show a video of a single Islamic religious or political leader publicly condemning 9/11 immediately after the attack. It is time our President and others stands up to the Muslim World and not be afraid of them.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:53 am |
    • Christian who is disappointed with this interview

      The president did stand up and said that it was a religious freedom and he was attacked. I do agree with you, Soledad's interview was a mess, I did not like it and felt that she was attacking the Imam. I have Muslim friends and while we share different religious beliefs, I do support my Muslim friends and their culture, especially during this time of Ramadan.

      September 9, 2010 at 3:59 am |
  12. bollywood

    Build ,build build your Mosque,
    Gently down the Block
    Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
    Life is but a dream.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:51 am |
  13. ELI

    I think Imam had no idea that this matter can be politicized this much. He chooses a place based on his vision and convenience. However, this place has already lost what he means to do there in terms of multi-faith religious activities. This place will always be a difficult spot to achieve his vision, as it is a controversial place and will always be targeted. He should consider moving this community center to a different location and trying to diffuse the tension between two faiths. The movement of this place to another location will be a good impression from his side and not a defeat to Islam. Remember this is not about locations or bigger or better places to worship. Religion is about loving to God and shows love and care to people.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:50 am |
    • Christian who is disappointed with this interview

      I agree, FAITH is about what beliefs live inside of you... it is not about the building. I do disagree with you, he should be able to build in the same community where he has worshipped for many years. If he is 12 blocks away, maybe finding something closer to his current location, ok maybe be a little better, but it is still in the same neighborhood. I also agree with the Imam, if we can have strip clubs etc. in the same area without any uproar and consider this "sacred land" we need to evaluate our thought process. We need to stop lying to ourselves about what we believe and keep it real... Islam did not destroy the world trade centers, Arabs that happened to be Muslim did...

      September 9, 2010 at 4:05 am |
  14. Asim Javed

    What is wrong in hating the hateful teachings of islam? Its not hatred for muslims but for an evil idelogy that divides people and creates concepts like infidels and is cause of discrimination against non-muslims where ever muslims are in power. Muslim nations have absolutely no respect for other religions, so why can't a non-muslim one freely demonstrate what they think of islam?

    September 9, 2010 at 3:48 am |
    • Pro

      I hope the following quote from Quran will enlighten all
      Surah 4.89 Seize and slay the infidel where you find them. Surah translates to verse. Infidel means non believer,which includes atheists, agnostics, Budhists, Christians, Jews and Hindus

      September 9, 2010 at 4:06 am |
  15. Phil in Oregon

    I wish Larry King had done this interview. I don't know why bu it seemed as though Soledad O'Brien was constantly challenging and almost attacking Rauf in a way. He kept trying to convey the importance of the 'frame of the discourse' shifting from radicals on both sides that have taken over the discourse changing to the moderates taking over it. It seemed as though Soledad O'Brien could not hear or acknowledge what Rauf was saying.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:47 am |
  16. malsikcuf

    The Muslims are always crying foul that others are not being sensitive to their religion, but they are not being very sensitive to the victims of the 9/11 and other religion by insisting on building a mosque on the site where thousands are being killed by the Islamic terrorists.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:46 am |
  17. MikeM

    You find a nice muslim next door who is kind and good member of society and think Islam is a beautiful religion. But he is in fact following just the 5% that is good in it, the core of islam is barbaric 5th century and that should not be welcomed into any civilized country.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:44 am |
    • jhuyzinga

      5th century? Amazing since Islam didn't exist till the 7th century. Do you think just maybe you need to do some reading first? I'm just sayin.

      September 9, 2010 at 6:27 am |
  18. Confused

    I think that when you state that you are a peaceful religion then you need to guide those, even radicals that you speak of, and show them that peace is best rather than fighting in a negative way. It's all about picking your battles in life and this is not one of them. The Americans are not saying they doesn't want the Islam religion preached ANYWHERE, they are simply saying not RIGHT where "proclaim" Muslims bombed thousands of people in a negative fight. Where there victims still may lie under the exact soil.
    If we dont work on teaching radicalls about peace and positive approach to make a difference then we are all guilty and this will never stop. Ever. We will continue to kill each other to prove who is right and so on and on and on as we have for thousands of years. What has ever become of peace offerings and makings?
    In this case I believe Imam should not back down, cause that's not what it is, but simply say, "okay, I get it and respect your feelings so I will relocate BUT I hope that you will take time to educate yourself and time will prove that it it takes all kinds to make war or peace no matter what religion you follow."
    Otherwise there is another point he is trying to make and I don't feel it is a positive one. Wounds are TOO fresh. Bottom line. I agree that it would be great to see all middle eastern countries welcoming all other religions and church creations as well even where there may have been terror in history. The Muslim religion is too strong to ever let that happen. Sad 🙁

    September 9, 2010 at 3:39 am |
  19. malsikcuf

    The Muslims are using the very freedom America has given them to screw America. When Jesus said, "Love Your Enemy" it does not mean you should take advantage of the love you have been given. It basically mean you try to tolerate them because they are misguided.

    September 9, 2010 at 3:38 am |
  20. Fed

    The Imam is afraid of Muslim reaction if it is not built; but he is NOT afraid of the reaction of 71% of Americans that oppose it. That speak very poorly for the religion of Islam. And when he says that, it sounds like a threat.

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

      I totally agree

      September 9, 2010 at 3:49 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.