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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. Ooorahhh

    This guy is avoiding the City because the courts are investigating some of his associates for back taxes and being Slumlords.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:02 am |
  2. sagebrush shorty

    "There is no God but Allah, and Rauf is his slumlord". Apologies to the National Review.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:00 am |
  3. Jeff A.

    He should rent a room with the American cartoonist that is in hiding !! lol

    September 21, 2010 at 9:59 am |
  4. Little me

    now that you have come out and said it is "islam against America" I have lost my tolerance of muslims. Is it a war you are starting mr Rauf? you muslims just make trouble all over the world and now in USA too. I am now sick of you all.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:59 am |
  5. ronin48

    security concerns as in you're afraid some fanatical muslim will try to detonate a car bomb in Times Square? security concerns as in the cartoonist who is in hiding because she proposed that people draw pictures of mohamed? security concerns as in you're afraid a muslim army sargent will scream "allah akbar" and start shooting people indiscriminately? sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:58 am |
  6. wh4t

    why not build the mosque elsewhere he is afraid for his on life but not worried that other visitors to the mosque might be in jeopardy. It seems he is willing to risk lives but not his own.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:58 am |
  7. All of You are Stupid

    Hi. Why is it that the majority of you have problems with subject-verb agreement, also commas?

    September 21, 2010 at 9:56 am |
    • wh4t

      You must be so proud.

      September 21, 2010 at 10:03 am |
    • ratkartz

      And you evidently have forgotten to include a conjunction, Grammar Nazi.

      September 21, 2010 at 10:06 am |
  8. Dan

    So he wants to build a mosque where he is afraid to go.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:55 am |
  9. Joey

    This clown imam has got one thing comming thats for sure. What an idiot for doing this in ground zero where everyone in New York hates muslims, for good reasons. I would like to see this guy on the street

    September 21, 2010 at 9:53 am |
    • whodacares

      Dear Joey,

      If you haven't already heard, the mosque is going to be two blocks from ground zero, which is basically where C21 is located, a lot of delis, and numerous culturally diverse places. I also have to say you're not a New Yorker. Most New Yorkers are very tolerant of diversity. You can see two men or two women walking down the street holding hands and it's nothing controversial. New Yorkers are quite accepting and unless it affects their lives personally then there's no reason to judge. I find it funny that most people opposed to this mosque are non-New Yorkers. Does it really matter to you or affect your life?

      PS: We don't hate Muslims. I'm not sure where you came up with such an ignorant topic. Oh wait, the way your parents raised you. Guess they should have been sterilized to protect the real world from ignorant racists like you. I support that more than this non-controversy.

      XOXOXO from a proud gay New Yorker.

      September 21, 2010 at 10:17 am |
    • JJ

      What is "ISLAM" it is the most corrupted religion on the planet. Islam says that anyone who is not muslim is an INFIDEL. So we are all INFIDELS. A muslim cannot change, they want their own way. I class MUSLIMS and the KKK alike. There are no differences. LIMS are trying to overrun the world. We got to stop this...

      September 21, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
  10. Caramia

    To 'Jan in Ohio' : I pity you and yours. For your end shall truly be the END.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  11. BigBangTheory

    The only difference between the Bible, the Qu'ran, and Aesop's Fables is marketing...

    Believe what you will, but there are some who have said it best:

    "I can't complain, but sometimes I still do." – Joe Walsh

    September 21, 2010 at 9:52 am |
  12. Mike

    Somebody needs to shoot that Iman right between the eyes and when that happens reload and get his wife Daisy! Crank up the Enola Gay and lets start bombing any country that practices that nasty religion!

    September 21, 2010 at 9:51 am |
    • whodacares

      Interesting. Christians would make much better target practice. Especially idiotic Christians and idiots like you.

      September 21, 2010 at 10:20 am |
  13. mario

    Leave this country!

    September 21, 2010 at 9:51 am |
  14. PARROT

    AT LEAST THE IMAM HAS MORE POPULARITY THAN BUSH AND CHENEY....!!!

    September 21, 2010 at 9:51 am |
  15. mario

    I'll go one better! get out of this country all together! Go back to raghead land where you belong boy!

    September 21, 2010 at 9:49 am |
    • judge not

      With a name like Mario I hardly doubt your ancestors were from America.

      September 21, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  16. Oklahoma29

    Why can't we all just be grown ups?

    September 21, 2010 at 9:48 am |
  17. stan

    why does CNN give this guy so much press? there are mighty issues and mighty views from other Americans more worthy than broadcasting his situation again and again, and again.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:48 am |
  18. CT

    Extremists are hijacking the agenda??? Wasn't it extremists who hijacked the planes??? If he believes in his project so much, he should have enough courgae to make his appearances. Coward!!!

    September 21, 2010 at 9:48 am |
  19. scieng

    While I do not agree with the imam about many things, he has the right say what he wants without the fear of idiots killing or hurting him. While I do not support his attack on freedom, I support freedom for all of us to live in both respect and dialog.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:47 am |
  20. Hesus

    CNN
    Why special coverage to this Imam? when pastor Jones had the same number of threats or may be even more. You are trying to be too politically correct and do some curry favor.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:45 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.