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. Ed

    Will the NYPD bill the imam like the city of Gainesville is billing Pastor Jones?

    September 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
  2. HotAirAce

    What's all this fascination with building churches, synagogues (sp?), pick your favorite tribal house of silliness in Mecca? This isn't about Mecca and their laws – it's about US law and Americans! Are you a better (the best?) nation or just a bunch of rednecks willing to pervert your principles because you don't like a certain minority, or choose to blaim millions for the acts of a few? You are becoming the latter I fear, and when the RR gets control of your country, it will be fascinating to watch all the wailing when they trample even more of your inalienable rights.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
  3. kanon

    KKK 2.0 lynchings.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
  4. Buck Ofama

    He's probably hiding out in the same cave that Bin Laden is in!

    September 21, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
  5. Stephanie Anderson

    I wonder if he will be made to pay for this protection, as the Pastor who threatened to burn a Koran is. $180,000! Fair is Fair. And I bet that pastor is under way more of a credible threat than this Imam is.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
  6. curious

    Quite the showman, this Imam. He's making himself into a "victim" by pretending to be afraid for his life. But, as he well knows, Americans may debate his antics in pushing for a "Cordoba" victor mosque where cdo-religionists killed thousands of Americans in the name of Islam, they may even take him to court; but they are not going to kill him. Now, if it were the other way around, things would be different. If Christian terrorists had crashed planes into Mecca, killing thousands, and some Christian pastor came along with a plan to build a commemorative church at the site, you can bet Muslims would be trying to kill him. Wait, though, I forget; Christians aren't allowed to build churches in Mecca, anyway...

    September 21, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  7. crystal

    What did this guy think was gonna happen? He purposely wants to build a mosque near ground zero, where I might add his fellow devil worshiping muslims murdered thousands, and he is afraid for his own safety? Of course he should be. And I hope it happens. To him and the rest of them murdering maggots. Btw. Y is our government paying for him to travel? That's how f***ed up the country is. Which is mainly because our loser president is a muslim. Death to muslims!!!

    September 21, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  8. Suz

    This is sad. The dude has to lay low for fear of the slack-jawed, bucktoothed lynch mob brandishing their pitchforks and torches.

    Total, TOTAL overreaction, and that is the highest disrespect to anyone, alive or not, who was affected by the terrorist attacks on September 11.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:59 am |
  9. jamesnyc

    If this guy is afraid to face his "pulpit" then the center shouldn't be there. Move it.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:54 am |
  10. Geez

    Last time I checked it was people who were Anti Mosque that were getting stabbed.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:52 am |
  11. MARLO

    Here again the proof is in the pudding!most of you are cowards and bigots tryn to contain your prejudice and elitist views.this is AMERICA!the land of the free and home of the brave.I am african american and muslim and I am disgusted with your "TOM MOORE" mentality.True americans don't hate nor do we promote violence and ignorance,and neither do those of us who submit to the will of just and peace loving GOD.so get off your high horse and refamiliarize with what it is to be civil and help us move humanity foward.oh yeah! And may peace be with you all.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:51 am |
  12. Heather

    He can't be too radical if he's friends with a rabbi.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:49 am |
  13. Lou

    Now he knows how Molly Norris feels.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:49 am |
  14. Ashot

    Very good ! This animal should stay away from us !

    September 21, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  15. danboy67

    This guy should hide! Or go back home If he's still here. Why Is the NYPD protecting him? For Christs sake?

    September 21, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  16. beesquare

    There is a whole lot of bully talk going on. If you the bully REALLY want war against 1.5B Muslims, fine. You send your kids and your money to our government and its beloved President whose praises you are always singing sweetly so we can invade the Sudan and Iran and Pakistan and Indonesia and most of the continent of Africa. And we will need concentration camps in this country for our Muslim citizens... OK if we put one down the street from your neighborhood? I thought not. Go back to the schoolyard where you belong and steal kids' lunch money and give ' em wedgies.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  17. Brandon

    This is terrible. Have WE become the terrorists, now?

    September 21, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  18. MIKE

    Blaming all Muslims for the acts of Al-Qaeda is just as dumb as blaming all white people for the acts of the KKK, school shootings or the OKC bombing. Wake up America. The fact that some people in this country are even questioning whether or not they have the right to build their mosque is not good. It's not the American way, remember?

    September 21, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  19. Mace

    Perhaps he would have less fear for his safety if he would stop going out of his way to make people mad. September 11th brings up strong emotions to Americans that lived through it and most feel that the ground zero mosque is disrespectful due to Islam being the major religion of all the attackers. The Imam warned us that if he had to move his mosque then the radicals of his relgion would view Islam as being under attack in America. Well that's a pity because in America most feel that America is under attack from Islam because of this mosque. Why should the Imam instead not have told Islams radicals that, "no matter the outcome, America and Islam are friends." or something along those lines to perhaps discourage the radicals instead of promoting their actions. Seems to me when he said that it was basically a threat or blackmail. You do this or this will happen.... what is that? Are we really so cowardly as a country that this man can cow us all down. I say no. I'm not anti muslim or anti islam. I've never drawn a picture of any islamic prophets or gone out of my way to disrespect any muslim. Why should this Imam have the right to disrespect the wishes of so many Americans? This man has the audacity to say that we have let "extremists hijack our agenda" that pretty well sums up Islam. Their leaders will not denounce the radicals while our leaders have told us repeatedly to calm down and remain diplomatic about the situation. Who is trying to maintain control and who is trying to get their way by thinly veiled threats of retalliation? So this man, who wishes to threaten us with radical muslims is scared? What is he trying to do to all of us?

    September 21, 2010 at 11:40 am |
  20. Yeah I'm Muslim

    I will say it again, this is Imam doesn't know much about Islam. If he did he would not build this So called Islamic center just because of the anger it has generated. Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him would not do this. The best example would be when the Prophet and his companion did not go into Mekka , although he had a right to. He knew by going into Mekka when he was not wanted there would not further his mission of teaching Islam.

    This Imam needs to study and stop trying to be the victim.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:38 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.