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September 20th, 2010
03:54 PM ET

Imam behind NYC Islamic center avoiding New York, getting protection over security concerns

The imam behind the proposed Islamic center and mosque near ground zero is largely avoiding New York City because of security concerns and is receiving protection from the New York Police Department, according to those close to the imam.

Video: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf explains why his organization has chosen to build an Islamic Center so close to ground zero.

"There's just a lot of crazies and that's why he has police protection from the NYPD," the Rev. James Parks Morton said Monday of his friend Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.

"I know that he's being guarded, that he's not been staying in the usual places, that he's not working from his office and that he's concerned for his safety," said another friend of the imam's, Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon, in an interview Sunday night.

"He's staying in an undisclosed location, as they call it," said Matalon, a rabbi at B'nai Jeshurun on New York's Upper West Side.

The New York City Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Asked whether the FBI was investigating threats against Rauf, New York field office spokesman Bob Margolin declined to comment.

A media representative for Rauf, Seth Faison, would not comment on any security concerns.

Morton, former dean of New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine, said the imam was mostly avoiding New York, where he typically works, since returning from a State Department trip to the Middle East two weeks ago.

Morton has known Rauf and his family since the 1960s and works in the same office building as Rauf on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Rauf did not attend a Monday morning press conference at Park51, the site of the proposed Islamic center. Zaheer Uddin, Executive Director of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York, said security concerns kept the imam away.

Another Rauf associate, the Rev. Chloe Breyer, said the imam skipped a New York board meeting of her group, the Interfaith Center of New York, on Thursday. Rauf is a vice chair on center's board.

"He is laying low," Breyer, an Episcopal priest, said of Rauf Monday. "He isn't coming into New York."

Rauf was traveling in the Middle East on a U.S. State Department sponsored trip for much of August, returning to the U.S. on September 5.

Video: Former President Jimmy Carter says the controversial Islamic center should be built

He appeared at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York last Monday for a speech and question-and-answer session about the controversy over his proposed Islamic center.

Saying America has let extremists "hijack the agenda," the imam said at the forum that he wants to create a platform where the voice of moderate Muslims can be amplified.

"We come together at a time of great crisis and danger," he said. "What began as a dispute over a community center in lower Manhattan has spawned and grown into a much larger controversy about the relationship between my beloved religion and my beloved country, between Islam and America."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Houses of worship • Islam • Mosque • New York • United States

soundoff (784 Responses)
  1. cnm

    Religion is the cornerstone of intolerance

    September 21, 2010 at 4:46 am |
  2. No problems but all of them

    The article quotes Rauf as saying, "We come together at a time of great crisis and danger," he said. "What began as a dispute over a community center in lower Manhattan has spawned and grown into a much larger controversy about the relationship between my beloved religion and my beloved country, between Islam and America."

    I say "the emperor wears no clothes." (apologies to those who immediately thought of Emperor Palpatine naked)
    And I would like to point out that this did NOT start with his so-called "community center", but that he is one of the people who would like it very much if you thought of it this way.

    It started with the Constltution when it was written to include the Bill of Rights all those years ago.
    It started with the First Amendment.

    If Rauf cannot "submit" to the laws and freedoms of this country, then he is heading for trouble.
    But that would be separate from his "community center" unless you want to view the whole thing as deliberately inciting a "riot" and the like- as some do, including me.
    He may have all the right building permits and "freedom of religion" on his side, but he does not have the right religion.
    But then I consider most religions to be wrong. Very wrong. Very nasty and two-faced to the rest of the world.

    Stuff like this only shows (to me) that I am right about religions in general and Islam in particular.

    As a religious leader, he has encountered (perhaps deliberately) the weak spot in the First Amendment, but nobody will address the problem from this angle. They shout about "sensitivity" and other things that are only incidental to the problem and not among the causes of it.

    For the sake of that one woman who drew that cartoon, I would expel all Muslims from this country, but all Muslims have had little or no involvement in her situation other than being Muslim, so that wouldn't be very fair, just prudent.

    But by the same token, I would expel ALL religions from this country and make of it a secular country only...but that sure wouldn't work, would it? Hmmm. Nope. I'd be outnumbered there. Maybe I should go someplace where they don't let these things happen by using rational laws enforced rationally. (oh, wait – there is no such place. sorry)

    Nope, I guess we'll just have to sit through some more attacks by religious nuts and other crazies. Our Armed Forces will have to submit to the will of the religiously blind who have infiltrated their ranks.

    Consider the methods of a spy, and then consider that the spy may be spying for a religious authority of whatever stripe.

    Now how do you catch him/her? (scientologists infiltrated the FBI)

    Such a spy is protected by the First Amendment due to his/her religious intent and effective motivations.
    Now let them fight for their rights and win because this isn't often brought to light in a legal sense, although there have been plenty of examples...nope, we're screwed.

    Nevermind.
    I will sit back and watch while sniping from the sidelines. Aren't blogs great? But my head hurts from banging it against the walls that protect the insanity that rules the world. Who would've guessed? Just my readers. Thanks for making it this far.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:19 am |
  3. Specs

    I find it funny and ironic that this guy (the Iman of NYC) is suddenly seeking security and protection from so-called 'death threats'. Not long ago, cartoonist couldn't seem to display their depictions of the Islamic prophet due to death threats. While the drawings would be considered 'insensitive' in nature, I also believe the idea to build an Islamic community center near the location of of the old World Trace Center is just as insensitive.

    I guess the BS can fling both ways

    September 21, 2010 at 3:46 am |
  4. Vince

    I want to fly a plane into this guy - and see how he feels about the Islamic Center afterward... what a zealot of Islam - another crazy fundamentalist religion freak who's out to destroy the hearts and lives of honest, decent, non-pedophiles...

    September 21, 2010 at 3:07 am |
  5. kishta100

    Here is what religious tolerance is. Saudi Arabia does not allow a single church to be built in their entire country. We will make a deal with the tolerant Muslim. For every church they build in Saudi Arabia we will build a hundred mosques in New York. We are waiting on the tolerant Muslim to accept this offer.

    September 21, 2010 at 1:56 am |
    • zinab

      You mentioned Saudi Arabia where the true Islam is practiced. Saudi Arabia is not tolerant to any other religion and it is no surprise that the majority of the hijackers of September 11 were from Saudi and it is not by accident that the proposed islamic center near Ground Zero will be funded by Saudi Arabia to honor their hijackers whom they consider martyrs. If they had their choice they would build a mosque for each one of them and probably will. Do not be surprised if the hijackers names appear on the islamic center. Wake up America.

      September 21, 2010 at 2:37 am |
  6. stasis

    Instead of cursing the dakness ligt a light: If you are a real cristian help finance a cristian cultural center right next door to the proposed islamic center. Make it 13 stories high as well.

    Think about it and see what the muslims say.

    Prolog: I am sure that if cristians wanted to buld a chuirch too close to Islamic holy places in Saudi Arabia the Muslims woud protest

    September 21, 2010 at 1:28 am |
  7. free2comment

    Since God has turned into a Boson, can Mike get me out of here before He reverts back to Almighty? "Life Goes On" apageinthelife

    September 21, 2010 at 1:25 am |
  8. ArmyVet

    I just have one question for the Iman, Why does this “Cultural Center” have to be built here? Wouldn’t it show that you want peace to build it somewhere else? I understand that if he can afford the land, and the building then he should be able to do it, but why in this specific spot? He knows it will create an issue, so why not be the bigger person and concede and build it elsewhere in the city? The issue will never die with some people and it may be in bad taste after everything NYC has gone through but someone needs to step up and be the bigger person here. Just a thought.

    September 21, 2010 at 1:13 am |
  9. Ruby

    This is absolutely ridiculous. This man should never have to worry if, or what American citizens will cause danger to him. He has done nothing but preach his religion in a very respectful manner. Americans are essentially religiously persecuting this man. As redundant as it is, this country was based on the principle of religious freedom. Extremists exist in every religion. The koran was written thousands of years ago, times have changed, and so have people. However, the location of the mosque could be changed out of respect for the thousands of died on 9/11, and for the reason that the general population disagrees.

    September 21, 2010 at 1:08 am |
  10. lufe22

    Not that I agree with his plans but...the minister that wanted to have a mass burning of the koran has been served with a bill for the extra security the local police department deployed in response. Whose paying for this?

    September 21, 2010 at 1:05 am |
  11. ArmyVet

    What started out as a forum to debate this Mosque has turned into childish name calling, party bashing and blaming, and religion bashing. Nothing deflates a statement quicker then name calling. Alot of the posters here need to grow up.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:52 am |
  12. joopitor

    Reality- Are you really that stupid or are you just pretending? No wonder there are extremists in this world when there are people in this world like you who denounce moderates like Imam Rauf and validate the extremists' interpretation of the Qur'an. Many of the versus are open to interpretation and should not be quoted out of context- if Imam Rauf was a true Muslim according to you then he should be looking for your head right now. Instead he is the one under police protection-I guess he has a better reason not to trust people like you rather than visa versa..

    September 21, 2010 at 12:33 am |
  13. -db-

    So if Islam is so great and all that .. why is it that the Muslims want to immigrate to the lands of the infidels .. should they not be happier staying in their own land . I know I'd be much happier seeing a christian working airport security

    September 21, 2010 at 12:33 am |
  14. fdsgrdgrhr

    FCK MOHAMMED that fake prophet.
    I'm going to draw cartoons of him having s3x with a g@y camel and post it everywhere.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:12 am |
  15. Toby

    I have no problem with people believing whatever nonsense they wish to believe. The simple fact is that NONE of these religions have any credible evidence in support of their supernatural claims-absolutely none. It's getting so absurd that I've read arguments on over whether or not Jesus was actually "God's son" or just a prophet. People, NO ONE knows whether there is actually a god out there or not, so arguing over the divinity of any unproven offspring is just nonsense. I'm sure this will offend some on here, but all properly educated people know full that nothing in our universe requires a supernatural explanation-absolutely nothing. And to the ignorant claim that "something can't come from nothing", well then where would this deity come from if even HE had to come from somewhere? I like religious people, I truly do. But this obscene level of ignorance in support of unprovable, untestable, unfalsifiable supernatural propositions is just beyond the scope of rational discussion. Let's all just agree to lives our lives, believe what we will (or at least claim to believe as many I know do), and get on with the business of living and making this world a better place for our kids. Peace.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:09 am |
  16. fdsgrdgrhr

    Good. I hope he can't sleep at night. That son of a btch wants an islamic center at Ground Zero. He deserves an eternity of misery.
    Do you have any idea how painful, how hurtful it is to some Americans that he wants the islamic center – THERE? He's a lowlife. Political correctness can't protect him 24/7 – this guy's made a lot of enemies. It's his own fault. All he had to do was be a little more sensitive to the 9/11 victims and their families. But he basically spit in their faces.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:07 am |
  17. Toby

    People can believe whatever nonsense they wish to believe. The simple fact is that NONE of these religions have any credible evidence in support of their supernatural claims-absolutely none. It's getting so absurd that I've read arguments on over whether or not Jesus was actually "God's son" or just a prophet. People, NO ONE knows whether there is actually a god out there or not, so arguing over the divinity of any unproven offspring is just nonsense. I'm sure this will offend some on here, but all properly educated people know full that nothing in our universe requires a supernatural explanation-absolutely nothing. And to the ignorant claim that "something can't come from nothing", well then where would this deity come from if even HE had to come from somewhere? I like religious people, I truly do. But this obscene level of ignorance in support of unprovable, untestable, unfalsifiable supernatural propositions is just beyond the scope of rational discussion. Let's all just agree to lives our lives, believe what we will (or at least claim to believe as many I know do), and get on with the business of living and making this world a better place for our kids. Peace.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:07 am |
  18. abdulameer

    This is such a crock. Rauf is just playing the victim card - as Moslems tend to do. He is avoiding the heat caused by increasing awareness of his Islamist, extremist (but non-violent) nature. He is no moderate, and more and more people are becoming aware of that. He left a long, wide trail of extremist statements. By insisting on his victory mosque at Ground Zero he has stirred up a hornet's nest. The whole country is talking about Islam, now - just what Rauf did not want.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:03 am |
  19. abdulameer

    This is such a crock. Rauf is just playing the victim card - as Moslems tend to do. He is avoiding the heat caused by increasing awareness of his Islamist, extremist (but non-violent) nature. He is no moderate, and more and more people are becoming aware of that. He left a long, wide trail of extremist statements.

    September 20, 2010 at 11:48 pm |
  20. pup

    This guy has a very sinister evil look.

    September 20, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
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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.