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. It Is What It Is

    I don't believe in any ONE religion. I believe in proof of religion and there is proof in the shroud of turin. Other than that I live my life how I think my general Idea of God would want, Not like these radical retards of all different religions do. If you look at all religions and take the one thing they all have in common with each other, I believe that is what is real.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:44 am |
  2. JT

    Has anyone ever noticed how dead this guys eyes are. In every photo he has the dead eye look. Besides this I don't think religion has anything to do with this guys motives. I think he is just a greedy, self promoting user and is playing all sides in this drama.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  3. Mike

    He should be scared. I hope some gang banger takes him out.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:41 am |
  4. austinypc

    The imam Rauf and his wife owe American people an apology since he has accused those who opposed the ground zero mosque as radicals and his wife called them anti-semitic during two separate interviews with ABC News ' Cristina Amanpour.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:41 am |
  5. Jeffrey Allen Miller NY

    Play for sympathy with your security concerns, poor man. Its the second oldest trick in the book.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:41 am |
  6. Mike

    Clearly, this is about control. The Karan was written to control....to allow MEN to control other MEN ( and women ).

    September 21, 2010 at 9:41 am |
  7. MAM

    I think the truth is the Imam is hiding from the Court, he has been recently sued by the Union City New Jersey for Building code violations and is what everyone knows as a SLUMLORD. He has a lot of explaining to do to the Judge.

    I think it is an outrage NYPD is giving him any kind of security detail. That's crazy! He is a crook, clearly!

    September 21, 2010 at 9:40 am |
  8. typeav

    yeah he better hide coward...............cowardddddddddd, let us make you like Benito Mussolini and hang you in the middle of ground zero upside down

    September 21, 2010 at 9:37 am |
  9. Little me

    so Rauf Rauf you have started it, you said it, muslims are against America. Hey politicians its out in the open now, no more pretending that these muslims are peace lovers, no – they want to subjugate the USA.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:36 am |
  10. Tommy

    He should be worried, I think he is as full of crap as a Christmas goose. I hope the building burns to the ground or better yet, it is never built

    September 21, 2010 at 9:34 am |
  11. Jason

    There's a disguise for that.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  12. Steven D

    The Imam better stay out of Manhattan because the protest against building a terrorist training camp, i.e. mosque, near Ground Zero will not stop. Building a mosque in that location would desecrate the memory of the thousands of innocent victims of those Islamist monsters.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:29 am |
  13. Little me

    Rauf has now started it – he just said it – Islam versus America.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:17 am |
  14. Danz

    It'll be interesting to see if/when this mosque ever gets built, how long it will stay standing.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:11 am |

    We are protecting him? Yeah right. Who will protect us when a Mosque is built on ground zero and the terrorist are further fired up with their trophy? I understand they still have plans to build a Mosque where our White House is. They wait about 9-10 years between their major attacks, so one is due soon.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:09 am |
  16. Myron

    It is truly puzzling. Before this mosque became news to anyone, Islam was, and is, undeniably in the midst of the biggest public relations nightmare in its 1400 year history. One would think that Muslims would be looking for a good reason to show some kind act to the world, to give an example to humanity of the so-called peaceful tenets of Islam, all in order to show Islam's respect for the 9/11 victim's families and all Americans who are offended by this mosque. However, the fact that the Muslims behind the building of this mosque have not already announced a decision to relocate this mosque is probably the most significant blunder in recent Islamic history. This is obviously how Islam plans to reconcile with the world, with arrogance and defiance, not love and kindness.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  17. Guest

    So, if the NYPD is providing protection, are the NYC taxpayers footing the bill for that protection? Is it a good thing that NYC officers are being pulled from their jobs of protecting and serving the city for the benefit of one man?

    September 21, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  18. mike

    Where are our country's esteemed white supremacists now. Are they so gutless that they cannot stop this. This might be the only one thing I might actually support them .....and I am not even white.....IMAN SHOULD BE DEADMAN

    September 21, 2010 at 8:46 am |
  19. Helmut

    Maybe the towel collection @ Barney's sucked?

    September 21, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  20. Jennifer

    "Jesus is the way, the Truth, the Life and no one comes to the Father, but by Him." I went through my husband's diagnosis and death from leukemia in 1984 when he was 25 and I was 24. Only believed in evolution and science, before then. After you walk through the valley of the shadow of death with your closest loved one...you come to find that Jesus is REAL and VERY PRESENT. He says, "Draw near to Me, and I will draw near to you." He loves us with an everlasting love, and He just wants others to know. Jesus is real. He's alive, and He lives to intercede for you and me and to draw people to Himself.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:36 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.