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. Jeff A.

    I think it is time for him to go home ( his tent), get his priorities straight, get threatened by some young radical talibans , get blown up, plant some ied's, get back to his roots, for he must be a frustrated Immam......

    September 21, 2010 at 11:15 am |
  2. Redford

    Rauf got himself in deeper than he realized. Thought Americans were a push over. My sense is he's under pressure from his patrons abroad to force this mosque through in any way possible and whatever the cost to himself. I think he would back down but for some mufti waiting to slap a fatwa on him should he do so.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:15 am |
  3. 5t1v roma

    this is the Iman "PATHETIC attempt to get publicity"

    i just had to say that.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:15 am |
  4. das0522

    Now he knows how Salman Rushdie feels

    September 21, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  5. Jeff A.

    If America is partially responsible for 9/11, then he is partially responsible for telling the terrorists that they were partially right, which means we should partially rip his f%^%ing head off, but only partially !!! lol

    September 21, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  6. Maria

    I don't belive this imam is avoiding the city due to security concerns, I just don't belive it pure and simple. But I do believe that he is putting up this show to attract attention and send the message that "the non-believers" are no better than the muslims and are just as dangerous. This imam is so foxy, he makes me sick ! Look at his face, looks like he's hiding something. This guy has bigger plans for America and for that stupid mosque. He's a true muslim "his way or ... his way". Get the hell out of this country if you claim you're in danger to walk free on the streets and go to your Saudi Arabia or whichever country you wasted our american tax money with no accoplishments and be free there. Why stay here and go through all this trouble, what for ? YEAK !!! I hope they'll never get to build that mosque there, NEVER !!!

    September 21, 2010 at 11:11 am |
  7. Jeff A.

    I actually would have preferred Immam Rauf post 9/11, saying something like " There is never an excuse for terrorism, never, never, never " None of this wishy washy crap. To partially blame America is to partially congratulate terrorists. And this partially congratulating traitor is now wanting to build a mosque on top of partially guilty bones of partially guilty yet innocent, guilty, innocent... whadaphuk is it dude ??

    September 21, 2010 at 11:11 am |
  8. John Ross

    Why want to hurt a Muslim. You know a Muslim would never try and hurt us.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:11 am |
  9. John Ross

    Who would want to hurt any Muslim cleric? This is crazy.

    Everyone loves the Muslims.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:10 am |
    • das0522

      We better, lest they cut our heads off

      September 21, 2010 at 11:18 am |
  10. A

    There is no freedom like the freedom to oppress.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:10 am |
  11. John Ross

    Who would want to hurt any Muslim cleric? This is crazy.

    Everyone knows the Muslims are honest, hard working, peace loving people........well, as long as you do what they say.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:09 am |
  12. Bman

    He is a man of religion. He started the whole idea. Yet now he hides and wonders why he has a giant target on him. If he continues this building i fear there will be way more violence and pain in the years of building. I understand the need but moving it a few blocks away from where it is now he would avoid all of the issues. Why cause more pain? he seems to fear his own peoples radicals. I guess he does not fear the radicals here cause he gets protection from our police dept. I am not against any religion but this seems to be far more than the center. Seems to go much further.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:09 am |
  13. Jeff A.

    let's get this straight, a cartoonist has to change her life after having drawn a cartoon of Mohammed, in America !! And Immam Rauf can stand up and say " America was partially responsible for 9/11", in America, and he doesn't need to go into hiding after that ?? And WE are being told by Hussein Obama that WE need to promote tolerance. Just call me Tucker dude !!

    September 21, 2010 at 11:07 am |
    • A


      September 21, 2010 at 11:11 am |
  14. JohnOBX

    I love how all these avowed religious figures–be they the Pope in his bullet proof Pope-mobile, or the Imam–put so much faith in their God to look after them. What's wrong, fellas? Doesn't His hand work His will, or whatever nonsense you espouse?

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

    How sad he has to hide, but not surprising, considering how provocative this issue has become in the eyes of those unwilling to allow for dialogue. I, for one, would love to have a one-on-one coffee chat with Imam Rauf about our differential belief systems (I briefly did a light study on Islam, nothing substantial, but enough to understand some of the historical and cultural context) and see where that goes, hopefully, the voices of the extremists on both ends of the spectrum won't drown out our conversation.

    And BTW.. Flying Spaghetti Monster? Please, my friends who worship Cthulhu will dominate you!

    September 21, 2010 at 11:07 am |
  16. ay32

    why is it okay to have 2 churches near ground zero (when muslims were also killed on 9/11) but it's not okay to have a mosque TWO blocks away?
    Ground Zero is not a Holy Land, I do not see the big deal on building a mosque. and the ppl of america is not representing well. sending threats, not being open to anything, hating all muslims for one lame guy who ruined muslims rep.(which studies show muslims may not even be behind anything that happened on 9/11)
    ppl don't really know anything bout 9/11.. do some research. You will be surprised! Everyone hears things from the media.
    anyways– this is not how america should be livin. everyone hating everyone. why does it matter soooo much. not like non muslims will be attending it. NOT ALL MUSLIMS ARE TERRORIST!! We are looking for peace on this earth. We are living our lives like everyone else on this earth. The terrorist are radical muslims. People who were TAUGHT that way!

    September 21, 2010 at 11:07 am |
    • Edward

      "why is it okay to have 2 churches near ground zero (when muslims were also killed on 9/11) but it's not okay to have a mosque TWO blocks away?" The short answer to your question would be: because ground zero was not created by followers of the religion that prays in a church. Ground zero was created by the followers of the religion that prays in a mosque. How is this not obvious to you?

      September 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
  17. ....

    Good. I hope that son of a btch can't sleep at night. He does not care that an islamic center near Ground Zero is hurtful and offensive to many Americans. He has no empathy whatsoever. He's making a lot of enemies. They can't protect him 24/7 if someone really wants to find him, they will.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • Barry Vandi

      I think you and your kind should be watched.

      September 21, 2010 at 11:12 am |
  18. Barry Vandi

    Every Muslims in this country needs to be protected. Remember; no one is guilty until is proven.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  19. GOOD!

    I hope he can't sleep at night. This Son of a btch wants an islamic center near Ground Zero? I hope he lives the rest of his life in fear.
    He has no regard for the families of the victims who he has hurt by insisting on the islamic center. He has no empathy whatsoever for the victims. Just like a terrorist.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  20. Critter

    Can anyone tell me why this guy gets special protection? We've got thousands of American women who are deliberately NOT protected by the police despite having multiple protection orders against the men that threaten THEM.

    The police have no duty to enforce the law (they say, and the Supreme Court agreed), so they are free to let this fellow run around in his pajamas on his own...

    If the police refuse to "get involved" in a domestic dispute, why the GDAM HELL are they involved with this?

    Why is this sack of Muslim Imam so much more worthy of their "special protection" than a mother with children?

    I thought the police were only supposed to do stuff AFTER THE FACT.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:02 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.