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. chumbley

    I wonder if the NYPD is going to bill him for his "protection" much the same way the Gainesville Police Dept. billed that looney pastor in Florida for wanting burn qurans.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  2. davec41

    Religion divides Spirituality unites! See above the comments.

    Islam = Racism Any religion that wants non believers dead is insecure and racist. Has this mutt chosen ANY other location he would have had full support from the American people. He chose here for a reason.

    Let him build it! I want a BBQ pit on one side and a gay bar on the other. Let's see how this bridge thing works out.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  3. Christine Giandinoto

    Can I as a Roman Catholic go to a middle eastern county and build a Catholic church put up statues of our saints and hang an American Flag outside our church????

    September 21, 2010 at 10:40 am |
    • Charlie

      You can't even go to a middle-eastern country unless you put your mother-in-law's great-grand father's name on the visa application form!

      September 21, 2010 at 10:49 am |
  4. Anon

    man burns koran to cook hot dogs


    September 21, 2010 at 10:39 am |
    • matt

      That's really gonna help....your behavior is no better than the Muslim idiots who burn flags at the very mention of Mohammed.

      September 21, 2010 at 11:29 am |
    • fofo

      What's the point?

      September 21, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
  5. Terry - Indiana

    It appears to me that there are several Americans, most living in New York City, who remember the statements made by worldwide terrorist organizations following the 9/11 attacks. Normally, churches and mosques are built in a location that will benefit the surrounding community, and the churches I am familiar with raised money the old fashioned way, rather than methods currently in place for the mosque in New York City. I find it hard to believe that the security afforded a man like the imam cannot protect him, so I view this latest statement as a publicity stunt.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  6. onuricle

    Seems to me he should be more considerate of our sensitiviities and build the mosque elsewhere. More tolerant religions would.!!

    September 21, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  7. Mimers

    The feeling he expressed is what we feel about the proposal and the mosque. If he can understand that then he would build his mosque in Iran.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  8. Roger

    Now NYC needs to bill him for security just like Pastor Terry Jones was billed $200k+ by the city for security.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:38 am |
  9. Mike

    Does this make any sense at all. He is fearful of being in NYC but he wants a Mosque built at Ground Zero. So how fearful would the construction workers be or anyone using the building ?

    September 21, 2010 at 10:37 am |
  10. Noble9

    This is the guy who said he wasn't worried about the extremists in America.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:36 am |
  11. Scott

    Does anyone have a contact for G4? Sounds like a boycott is at hand and I'm willing to build a website dedicated to keeping this show off the air. Kudos to Rachel for the stance. What a sick and disturbing idea.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:34 am |
  12. Reg Donals

    First step: Imam avoids NYC
    Next step: Imam avoids Earth

    September 21, 2010 at 10:34 am |
  13. Shelley

    To Faux News: I couldn't agree with you more! Where does ALL of this Hated & Anger come from? (That's a rhetorical question.) NO one is Born a Bigot! And this issue is DEFINITELY an Emotional one and, as I wish more people would TRULY Educate themselves instead of listening to demagogues, "yellow" journalists & HACK Radio Show Hosts, I doubt, sadly, that anything will change any time soon! :'-(

    September 21, 2010 at 10:32 am |
    • das0522

      Hey, if you can be born gay, maybe you can be born a bigot too.

      Go back to your MSNBC/Air America/Daily Kos koolaid

      September 21, 2010 at 11:20 am |
  14. nOT Trash

    This blog is an embarrassment.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:31 am |
  15. misanthropicus

    Afraid for his safety! This dude is wanted in the Union City court for charges of being a crass slumlord, and he's looking at some hefty fines, including having re-inbourse the local PD for having to post especially for his buildings alert crew there, 7/ 24. Disgusting is CNN and the larger MSM as they present the matter as good Rauf is endangered by some mystery radicals – if so, they sure are Muslims too. Anyway, gooey guy, gooey coverage of this affair – and we'll hear more about it, be sutre –

    September 21, 2010 at 10:29 am |
  16. brian

    whay are the american people picking up the tab for his protection? he should have to pay the nypd for the time plus 20% for doing this they have better things to do

    September 21, 2010 at 10:29 am |
  17. Phillip

    Lol, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is nothing but the retarded cousin of the Great Cthulhu.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:28 am |
  18. Rufus

    How about avoiding USA...Go back to your cave and play with Obama bin Laden

    September 21, 2010 at 10:27 am |
  19. Objectively

    Why don't we call it a day on this topic. C_N_N are you listening?
    We can see very well that the Imam wants to be in the limelight pushing Islamism and muslims and whatnot, under the guise of being a goodwill ambassador.
    What was the outcome of his taxpayers' funded middle-east trip? anyone?
    Who is funding his "security?"
    If the muslim community is so interested in spreading goodwill and helping others understand Islamism (not that they are going to make an effort to understand other religions) let them fund the Imam's trips and his security from now onwards.
    Fair enough?

    September 21, 2010 at 10:24 am |
  20. sonny trinh

    I am from Viet Nam who is one of the boat people and I and my family make thiis country home. We know that this is the Western country and mainly people here are Christian. We have intergrated and assimilated very well. My point is WHY SOME MUSLIMS CAN NOT GET ALONG AND THANKFUL THAT THEY LIVE IN THE FREEDOM COUNTRIES COMPARED TO THEIR HOMELAND. JUST SENSETIVE TO AMERICAN PEOPLE INSTEAD OF BEING DEFIANT. If I think the country was not good for me then I pack up and leave. What is your problem?

    September 21, 2010 at 10:22 am |
    • das0522

      We're proud to have you here

      September 21, 2010 at 11:22 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.