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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. vegas01

    It is offensive to publish the idea, any opposing the mosque at that specific locale are 'crazies' and represent a security threat to the Imam. When is the last time a non-supporter of the mosque project attacked a Muslim? We are supposed to forget 9/11, a real incident, and trust Islam, but the gracious US citizen is to be feared as a physical threat to an 'innocent' Imam? Give me a break. The Imam is far safer in the US in spite of opposition to the mosque project by so many, than a Christian American would be trying to merely possess a Bible openly in a Muslim country.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:01 am |
  2. Missy

    I was initially behind the fundamental idea of the Imam building the Islamic Center wherever he and his associates wanted. Other the one lone-nut, so-called "pastor" that threatened to burn the Quran and the one idiot who actually did burn some pages at the protest, I haven't seen this horribly threatening Islamophobia that has supposedly arisen. Disagreeing with the location is not the same as a phobia or hatred of Islam.

    I am actually beginning to think that this controversy was welcome - if not instigated - in order to raise funds for the center (which they apparently didn't already have in place). Is this what it's all been about? "Look, fellow Muslims and sympathizers - we are being persecuted; we haven't the funds to build this center, but with your help, we will overcome this adversity...peace be upon you."

    Media, the Imam and the crazy pastor should all be ashamed of themselves for fanning the flames of the divisive few into an all-consuming inferno. Tip to opponents of the project - the more you profess opposition, the more money the group will receive to make their dream a reality.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:00 am |
  3. Mohommed is a Woman with a Nice Rack

    This slumlord needs to leave our country. He is a crock.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:59 am |
  4. Alan

    You know what I find funny? How this whole thing has spread into other area's. Mainly, who is right. For some reason, we have NO PROBLEM believing in facts and figures coming from centuries ago. Why can't we accept the Bible the same way? As far as "who is right" Muslims, Christians, jews, etc etc. Just remember what Isaiah said about Jesus Christ....SEVEN HUNDRED YEARS BEFORE HE CAME.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:57 am |
  5. TotalNonSense

    Maybe this ENEMY OF HUMANITY will understand the "it" is not welcome here... now how to make "it" fear for it's safety everywhere else.....

    September 21, 2010 at 10:56 am |
  6. Alan

    You know what I find funny? How this whole thing has spread into other area's. Mainly, who is right. For some reason, we have NO PROBLEM believing in facts and figures coming from centuries ago. Why can't we accept the Bible the same way? As far as "who is right" Muslims, Christians, jews, etc etc. Just remember what Isaiah said about Jesus Christ....SEVEN HUNDRED YEARS BEFORE HE CAME.

    "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth."
    " 10Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand." Don't know about you, but after reading that? Nuff said...

    September 21, 2010 at 10:55 am |
  7. E

    If the opposition is taking such a strong stand against the Mosque, why in the world would you ever want to continue and not build somewhere peaceful? You will NEVER get peace next to ground zero. Strip clubs and gay bars will open next to you and you'll have to commit suicide according to your so called religion. Don't forget how crazy some rednecks can be... ALWAYS REMEMBER 9/11

    September 21, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  8. Fred

    First, Iman Feisel all but threatens Islamic terrorism if he can't build his de facto shrine to the 10 hijackers on the spot where some of their ashes probably fell. Then, he cries like a little girl when some unknown parties probably replied in kind (note: there is no guarantee Feisel isn't pulling a, "Susan Smith".)

    Lady Gaga is more of a man than this clown. At least she doesn't whine like a little kid about needing security.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:49 am |
  9. edutron

    Study global history and religion in depth. There are only a few items in this world that stand pat – Power & Religion which of course are directly related to influence. The world of islam is trying in vain to spread as much influence as possible and as rapidly as possible during these troubled global times of islam itself. China has done well with its economy barring irans pressure upon them and Russia could step up its influence abroad as well with its Catholic forces. You cannot say enough about the Aussies! On most issues, Congressional ins sre standing pat as most are worried about votes including the EO except the propaganda of terrorism (not good policy). If terrorism was a real issue, iranian nuclear ambitions would have already been strangled to the point of UNCLE as Russia would supply iranian electrical needs on demand for trade of oil. Russia is using iran as a nuclear puppet which should be ignored by the West. Yes, people will die in the struggle, and a few stragllers cannot be of concern. If an all out religious confrontation were to initiate, then a true WWIII will occur. The point is no different within the Christian world than the struggle to protect the Bible and its teachings which is about the only teachings that still offers HOPE within that world. The islam community cannot afford such a catastophic involvement of anti-islamic struggles as their own destiny would be extinguished. Islam must remember that their cause may be just in their corner, but in the U.S. that corner is not welcome by majority and can reverberate a negativity upon them so severe that their cause would be crippled long term. Money can only do so much and is usually for the few and short term, where as beliefs need no money and is often the long term. Religion works well if managed properly, and lately, (last 100-120 years), religion has not been managed very well (most likely due to to technology -duh).

    September 21, 2010 at 10:49 am |
  10. Canadian

    I could care less about religion in any form. My problem is that the site on which they plan to build is very close to the site of one of the biggest terrorist attacks anywhere in the world. I think it is disgusting that these people think it is ok to build here. Maybe the US should start building Walmart's and Starbucks at some of the sites in afganistan that have been bombed. I also think that Muslims cry far to much that it is only a small number of them that are radical when that is clearly not the case.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:48 am |
  11. khalif

    They have every right to build the mosque where they want to build it. Just like I have every right to protest them building the mosque at that location. Just be cause we have freedom of religion does not mean that you can go off and do anything you want under the banner of your religion without consequences. For such a "peaceful religion" they sure do stir up a lot of hate and anger.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:47 am |
  12. American

    Smart man. Now he should do for the Mosque what he is doing for himself........move out of the city. It is now just a ego and pride thing. Nothing good will come of this.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:46 am |
  13. DUH

    A bully being protected by NYPD? How rediculous! Next, Paris Hilton will request protection so the police won't ask to look in her purse!

    September 21, 2010 at 10:46 am |
  14. lolotte

    The article say "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.", Now i feel threaten about it. Cna i have a protection

    September 21, 2010 at 10:45 am |
    • fwat

      I want a protection too. Does it include teh secksy wimmins?

      September 21, 2010 at 11:07 am |
  15. anthony

    americans are easily diagnosed with islamophobia
    sounds like a phoby happening here right?
    ameriphobia, feel free to use the term, just remember i started it

    September 21, 2010 at 10:44 am |
  16. Mimers

    Wonder which comes first in his life his church or the United States?

    September 21, 2010 at 10:43 am |
  17. Mo

    Ya .. poor Muslim , you been discriminated by everyone , … Muslims stop lying .. you are exposed and no one believe you any more

    September 21, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  18. Calvin

    All Christians confess openly that Jesus is God. By definition, if you don't then you are not a Christian. You may be muslin or Jehovah Witness or whatever, but it is the most basic tenet of the Christian faith.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  19. rm

    It is amazing that a Muslim is concerned for his safety. Why doesn't he just issue a fatwah against those who "threaten" him. or send suicide bombers after them?

    September 21, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  20. Rock God

    It's sad that we have to fear the violence of Christian Terrorists.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:40 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.