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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. Chucky

    The fact that he wanted to call the new center the "Cordoba House" says it all. If Florida thinks they should bill the radical preacher for the Quran burning, New York should certainly bill the Imam for security.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
    • geoffreyf

      You are demonstrating utter ignorance of "Cordoba" and why the name was chosen. You can read this web page:
      gotmedieval.blogspot.com/2010/08/professor-newts-distorted-history.html
      Or the Catholic encyclopedia cordoba article. Newt Lied... that simple. Cordoba in the period from about 750 -1100 AD was a period of peace and cooperation between Christians, Jews and Muslims. Nobody was forced and it was the genesis of the infusion of science into Europe that started the Renaissance and ended the dark ages.

      September 20, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
  2. Pastor Evans

    It's amazing to see all the sympathizers and empathyzers of those who are of the Islamic faith. Remember this, their book is what motives and inspires their evil. Their agenda is not to intergrate or get along with anybody who don't believe in what they believe, but their whole agenda is to take over the entire world for Allah!!! Remember you heard this for those of you who are spiritually blind and ignorant!!!

    September 20, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
    • roots

      is this pastor terry jones in gainesville?

      September 20, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
    • Rose

      And the Christian Bible doesn't motivate and inspire the evil of Christians?

      September 20, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
    • Bill

      The difference Rose, is what the respective books teach. The Bible focuses mostly on the New Testament of Jesus: love your neighbor. The Koran is very, very Old Testament: kill your neighbor.

      The predominant view of the users of the books can be seen by looking at the facts: How many terrorist acts in the U.S. were carried out by Christian extremists? How many were carried out by Muslim extremists?

      Being PC is all fine and good, unless it makes you blind.

      September 20, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
    • Ausmadmaxx

      Pastor, keep up the good work.

      September 20, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
    • bangboy

      no, this rabbi terry down here. How about preacher terry up in dorkflakes, nebraska?

      September 21, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  3. objectiveguy

    You're kind of all over the map here, but let's start with this. First, no one is disputing their RIGHT to build it on that particular site. Many are questioning the JUDGMENT of building it on that particular site, since it clearly offends many Americans. If the Muslims are truly the well-meaning, peace-loving people they claim to be, then how about showing some sensitivity to the many who are offended by this proposal, and building it elsewhere. Second, Multi-Faith Cultural Center? Really??? Seriously??? It's clearly a Victory Mosque, no matter what they change the name to (...a rose by any other name...). All of this political correctness crap will be the death of this country as we know it.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
    • Frogist

      @ objective guy: Is it ok to be sensitive to people who want to restrict your religious right?

      September 20, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
  4. JayKay

    He really knows how to work the eyebrow pencil!

    September 20, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
    • bangboy

      he is a gay imam, u know! a friggin fairy!

      September 21, 2010 at 10:20 am |
  5. Reality

    All Imam Rauf has to do is to admit that the pretty, wingie, talking thingie aka Gabriel is a myth and he no longer will be a Muslim and thereby no mosque or protection are needed. Problem solved with a simple sentence. Hopefully, 1.5 billion other Muslims follow his lead!!!!

    September 20, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  6. james

    Why can't we deport all the white racist from this country and we will all become a better America.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  7. siva

    After living for 11 years in this country, I believe this is not an Islamic country where a person who writes against Islam gets death fatwa. So, quite surprised !!!

    September 20, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  8. William

    All he needs to do is give up building the mosque at Ground Zero, I would think. Obviously, he still intends on ramming the mosque down New York's (and the country's) throat. He doesn't seem to care that the vast majority of this country does not want this mosque built.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
    • Frogist

      @William: Are you saying it's ok for people to threaten someone's life to prevent people from exercising their religious right? That sounds a lot like Al Quaeda...

      September 20, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
    • 2+2=5

      The vast majority also thought Saddam had WMD's, the vast majority didn't think we were economically in trouble, the vast majority said global warming was a hoax, the vast majority thought the wars were over 7 years ago, the vast majority voted for Bush twice, the vast majority likes to do drugs, not read, and kill each other in alcoholic induced states on a daily basis. Look, the vast majority can shove it. Tired of the "vast majority" and their decision making and lack of education.

      September 21, 2010 at 7:40 am |
  9. Nonimus

    joey navy,
    sorry but that's just silly. Since when do we demand actions in another country before we allow our own citizens to exercise their const.itutional rights?

    September 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
  10. Mark

    Good now he feels how others feel when they speak up against Islam. He should leave the country.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
    • Muhammad's Turban

      Well stated and very true.

      September 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
    • insulted66

      couldn't have said it better myself..... love it or leave it! the imam is scared? GOOD! now he knows how the people in the towers felt!

      September 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Mark: Why should anyone be speaking up against Islam? You don't seem to be making sense.

      September 20, 2010 at 8:45 pm |
  11. Pastor Evans

    Those of us who are true believers in Jesus Christ are praying Kingdom prayers and decress and it's looking the like GOD is answering as he did in the days of Elijah when he called dawn fire from Heaven on the false prophets of baal. First you had the hurricane in NYC now the bridge fire in NYC!!! The fervent effective prayers of the righteous avail much!!! There is only
    one GOD and his name is not Allah, but Jesus Christ!!! Amen!!!

    September 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
    • George Bucsh

      Seriously? You belive a hurricane and a fire on a bridge is God anwering your prayers? Jesus died 2100 years ago. Nothing more, he just died. That a religion is built upon his preachings of peace and love is truely amazing, almost as amazing as how people can distort his word and use it to hate and kill. And depending on who you talk to there are a lot of gods in this universe, just pick any civilization/tribe/bunch of isolated people. Get a reality check.

      September 20, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
    • Eligos

      I thought Jesus was the son of god, not god himself. Do you even know your own religion?

      September 20, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
    • MrsFizzy

      The bridge fire?? REALLY? Inconveniencing commuters for a few hours was all part of God's retiribution?!

      September 20, 2010 at 6:38 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    The man has over 100 million yet he needs the TAXPAYERS to pay for his protection? Huh?

    September 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
    • SynFul

      yeah he has MILLIONS, yet doesn't even keep up with his buildings.... he's a slum lord... don't believe it look up the case!

      September 20, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  13. WER

    Unfortunate hate and ignorance from many. The radio talk shows brain washed you!! Remember what made our country a great nation. We are on the path to repeat the mistakes of the past, simply because many have forgotten them or are ignorant by choice. READ and LEARN

    September 20, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Remember what is "dividing" your country.

      September 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
    • Roger

      Exactly right, WER. Just read and learn from the Quran and Islamic history. Once you have done that, you will no longer need any coffee in the morning to wake you up.

      September 20, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
    • WER

      Roger
      Since you know it all... May be it was Muslims who killed millions in world war I, world war II and the holocaust..
      Remember the dark ages of Europe and what happened then...

      Speak with open mind and remember that Muslims beleive in the same God that created Adam and Eve and the prophets and messengers thereafter..

      Two wrongs do not make a right..

      September 20, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
  14. RAFI HUSAIN

    IF MICHAEL JACKSON WAS ALIVE WE WOULD HAVE THE MJ ARENA NEAR GROUND ZERO, MJ WAS THE GREATEST ENTERTAINER EVER, HE IS AND WAS NUMBER 1, THIS IS IT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE GREATEST SHOW EVER IN THE HISTORY OF CONCERTS.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
    • Frogist

      Also Michael Jackson was muslim. He converted in 2003.

      September 20, 2010 at 8:38 pm |
  15. Muhammad's Turban

    This story is b.s. He doesn't need the security detail because there hasn't been any legitimate threats on his life. This is just his way of ginning up anger against the 70% who are against him building the Victory Mosque at Ground Zero.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • Frogist

      Of course I'm gonna believe you vs believing the NYPD.

      September 20, 2010 at 8:36 pm |
    • Real Insight

      He's playing the "race card," and he will continue to play it untill he gets what he wants.

      September 21, 2010 at 11:28 am |
  16. Rolle Ingeyes

    ... and I thought people that read the CNN.com website and watched CNN were smarter than the that to spew the drivel that they have been spewing in these comments. I guess I was mistaken.

    Most of the ignorant comments seem to come directly from the Faux News, Teabag, Druggie Limbaugh, Glenn Heck school of thought.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  17. Bella

    this "iman" can get all the protection from NYPD .....but he is condemed and lost already because his "religion" denies Christ so let him get his "false- protection" it will do him NO good when he stands before the living GOD without the protection of Jesus!!!!

    September 20, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  18. Drach

    if he's avoiding New York.. avoiding for those of you unsure means he's not going there. why is NYPD protecting him? shouldn't they be taking care of things IN New York?

    September 20, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
  19. FauxNews

    When the crazies get protection from the crazies, it's a win-win for the police and security companies.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
  20. Mike

    The imam is part of the Sufi sect of Islam which is the moderate one. Wahabi-ists (Taliban & Al Qaida) despise Sufiism. The group trying to build the mosque are not like the group that caused 9/11 nor the group that is killing our soldiers. There is a disconnect between our emotions and the facts in this case. The Mosque is near Ground Zero. There is no mosque being build on Ground Zero. Let's compare this historically to how there was a fire at Roman capital and the Christians were blamed for it. Whether or not some Christians were guilty, the group as a whole was persecuted by the Roman Empire. Back to the mosque,this conflict arose when a political shock jock decided to make it a national issue. I'm all for arguing about the facts of the matter. However, I am tired of all the political and media sensationalism pushed into any and every message. Bigger ratings equals larger prices to charge advertisers. Politicians like to appeal to people emotionally as opposed to logically. It's just part of the game now. There's strong evidence that perception drives votes more than facts.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
    • Roger

      Mike – Don't suspect your sincerity or integrity. You defend the Rights of this Imam well, and with facts. So, what are your thoughts in defence of the Rights of those who appose the Mosque near Ground Zero?

      Yes. True. THIS Imam's background is apparently Sufism. If so, would you promote just the Sufis of this world – as a separate sect altogether? Will the Sufis CONFRONT the non-sufi muslims? How can you guarantee that all future Imams in this Mosque will continue to be Sufis? Will this Sufi allow caricaturing his prophet – and defend the Rights of people like Jyllands-Posten? Is this only about the "Rights" of people? If so, I don't think there is any one in the USA who apposes the "Rights" of this Imam.

      September 20, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
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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.