"We have two audiences," the Imam told ABC News' Christiane Amanpour late Thursday afternoon. "We have the American audience and we have the Muslim audience. And this issue has riveted the attention of the whole Muslim world. And whatever we do, and whatever we say and how we move and the discourse about it is being watched very, very closely. And if we make the wrong move, it will only expand and strengthen the voice of the radicals and the extremists," he said.
"There are any number of wrong moves. But the basic theme of the wrong moves is if there is a perception or the perception is created, real or not, that Muslims are under attack," Rauf said. "Let's say we moved under this current circumstance with this dialogue. What will be the headline tomorrow in the Muslim world?" the Imam asked rhetorically. "'Islam under attack in America.' That's the theme of it. 'Mosque forcibly removed by whatever.' That will feed the radicals. So diffusing terrorism is a necessity for our national security," he said.
"My major concern with moving it is that the headline in the Muslim world will be Islam is under attack in America, this will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment, this will put our people -- our soldiers, our troops, our embassies, our citizens -- under attack in the Muslim world and we have expanded and given and fueled terrorism," he said.
"Do you think that is a legitimate reason not to move it?" Amanpour asked.
"It is an extremely important consideration," the Imam said.
Imam Denies Speaking With Florida Pastor
Rauf strenuously denied that he would move his Islamic community center and mosque in return for a Florida pastor not burning Korans, as the pastor, Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla. had claimed.
Rauf released a statement to ABC News: "I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Qurans. However, I have not spoken with Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we here to barter. We are here to extend our hand to build peace and harmony," the statement said.
In her interview Amanpour asked the Imam whether he might not build the center if the Florida pastor promised not to burn the Korans.
"You can't equate the two, Christiane. This is…now the moment between the radicals and the moderates. We are to look at it from the point of view of those who are trying to create a breakthrough for moderation against those who are trying to create a breakthrough for the radical voices," he said.