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. Helen Bryant

    If he can't stand the heat, he needs to get out of the kitchen. Poor fella. He's afraid for his safety. Well the American people are concerned for their safety. We don't need to offer religious freedom to a sect whose Quran adheres to the belief that anyone not of the Islamic faith are infidels and should be killed. Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, other faiths don't direct their followers to kill others who don't believe as they do. Beautiful faith? You won't convince the American people that a Mosque belongs across the street from where these " people of a beautiful faith" killed thousands. I don't trust any of them. And, please, if any of them are unhappy – I want him to know that they are free to GO HOME !!!! Now that's a fund I would donate to – "send home Muslim's"

    September 21, 2010 at 11:38 am |
  2. Jeff A.

    He should go into hiding, permanently..............

    September 21, 2010 at 11:38 am |
  3. ryan

    america is the terrorist

    September 21, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  4. vildana

    if u can build a church anywhere u can build a islamic center so shut ur mouth and stop being so racist this is a free country and they can do what they want plus not only americans died that day and islam has nothing to do with that aghhhhhh i am so mad at all of u talkin like that and u have no idea

    September 21, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  5. Mark Elder

    So he doesn't feel safe in NY huh? – the melting pot of the world.
    Now he knows how American's feel traveling in predominately Muslim countries..........even ones that they give vast amounts of humanitarian aid to.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:36 am |
  6. Jeff A.

    it is a question of time before all Americans have to go into hiding, the loss of our freedom at home in America, the loss of free speech. Our mighy president, our fbi, suggests we should go into hiding. Is it too late people to take back America ??

    September 21, 2010 at 11:36 am |
  7. Edward

    Iman Rauf, you put on way too much eyeliner this morning.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:35 am |
  8. senior 70

    The imam has a guilty feeling after the way he talks,blaming the USA for the 9/11 incident .The imam talks talks like a part of the team of 9/11

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

    As Americans, should we accept partial responsability for 9/11, as Immam Rauf suggests. Should we embrace all muslims, even those who live here, benefitting form the freedom, the democracy, the ability to stand up and say " America was partially responsible for 9/11", should we embrace them, and is that as moderate as they get ? Say what you really feel mulims, speak up, this is America, you have the freedom to stand up and stop being liars and traitors amongst us, and say what you feel. Then, as Americans, we are free to beatch slap you back to your tents where you belong ! lol

    September 21, 2010 at 11:34 am |
  10. Big Bob

    This is Horse-Bleep! The esteemed Iman is in no danger. He's creating a civil-rights argument where there is none.
    Anti-semitic and attacks against gays by far eclipse any attacks on American Muslims. He's trying to play the sympathy card and dupe an unsuspecting populace.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  11. shizmit11

    Flying Spaghetti Monster is the only true peaceful god. Ever hear of any Pastafarian's killing in the name of god?

    My you feel his noodly appendage


    September 21, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  12. Joel Weymouth

    Oh come on... safety concerns?? Get over yourself you Muslim wimp. Are ally of you such poltroons? Then there is no reporting about Molly Norris: a cartoonist who called for everyone draw Mohammed day. She wrote for the Seattle Weekly. There was an immediate fatwa issued by Amwar al Awlaki. Did anyone hear about it? No – you can see the story on Bigpeace. And do you know what our big brave FBI said: 'we wish her the best, but we think she should go into hiding" So she has quit her job and disappeared. And this "dog" who claims to be a moderate – which means – he instigates the radicals to do his bidding. He is the "Godfather" and the radicals are "Luca Brazzi" – different side of the same counterfeit coin – this "PIG" and that is what he is asking for police protection – AND HE GETS IT. Wake up Americans. IMMEDIATE MORATORIUM ON ANY MUSLIM IMMIGRATION. NOW.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  13. foryouropinion

    I am an American, blonde with blue eyes. I haven't felt safe in New York City since 9/11 myself.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:30 am |
  14. Loren

    Here's a guy milking it for all it's worth.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:28 am |
  15. bailoutsos

    He is just playing the media for his advantage.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:28 am |
  16. Cheryl Robinson

    If the Imam is avoiding New York now before they even break ground on the cultural center, what does he think the atmosphere is going to be like when the project is completed? I wish we could actually be the UNITED States. I really wonder what that would look like, it would have to be better than all of this division. I sometimes feel it neccessary to apologize for our behavior too. It is really becoming embarrassing at some of the crap that our media does stories about.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:26 am |
  17. matt

    See what I mean? This guy is now afraid for his safety. Now if he is afraid for his safety now, why in the world is he even thinking of building that center at all? So a whole bunch of innocent people can be injured or even killed by some wacko who "loves" America? That is why building that center so close is a horrible idea. Duh...there's freedom of expression and religion...then there's stupidity and practicality.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:24 am |
  18. SW

    Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a typical Arab; all mouth, no balls.

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

    The biggest wackjob in America threatened to burn a book, and that was all we heard . Even the president got involved " No, NO, you shall not burn a book " Is that it, is that as nasty as we get ? Is that enough to get the fbi involved,. the president ? What has happened to America ? We turned a blind eye, we have a muslim loving president who is willing to turn the fat underbelly of American society up to the muslims, and pass them the carving knife !!

    September 21, 2010 at 11:21 am |
    • matt

      Think you were referring to yourself when you said, "the biggest wackjob".

      September 21, 2010 at 11:26 am |
  20. Beasterdamas

    Wow is that eye shadow I see the Iman wearing?

    September 21, 2010 at 11:19 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.