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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. Its about Decency

    19 Islamic terrorist hijackers killed those 3,000 people, not Christians, not Jews not Hindus. This mosque is slated to be built 500 feet from where those people died. Listen to Wafa Sultan and other critics of islam from the inside. There is no moderate islam.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  2. ohyeah

    See Great charactiristics of Muhammed.

    a narcissist
    a misogynist
    a rapist
    a pedophile
    a lecher
    a torturer
    a mass murderer
    a cult leader
    an assassin
    a terrorist a madman
    a looter

    faithfreedomDOTorg/the-challenge/the-challenge/

    September 21, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  3. Chris

    I'll bet there is no threat. This is a big act, and the NYPD is being forced to play along.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
  4. Steven

    In Februaryof this year, a Georgia Man was Jailed For Death Threats Against Elton John Over his Jesus comment.The Artist who made an offensive Chocolate Jesus got death threats. Filmmaker Jean-Claude LaMarre got death threats because of his film "Color of the Cross." If Christianity was a religion of peace, why would there be threats against the Imam ?

    September 21, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
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    September 21, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  6. Bushpig61

    Welcome to America, mfer! Now GTFO!

    September 21, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
  7. Bushpig61

    Nut up or shut up camel jockey, you started this mess!

    September 21, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  8. Mr.boot

    I usually try to be objective, and reasonable when i speak my mind, but i read SO SO many comments that are being written out of complete and utter fear. You sound like scared children trying to justify your biggotry and fear and no, statements like "im not scared, ill shoot a muslim" dont help and make you sound more scared! There is a reason we have a military, police, agencies designed to look out for our security. We will never, never be 100% secure from outside threats and even domestic ones unless you truly decide to abolish all of our freedoms. Stop being scared, and just freaking live! Because always, even right now, bad people are planning to do bad things, and they arent muslim!

    September 21, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
  9. M Tefft

    Sort of like Salman Rushdie, with a fatwa issued against him?

    September 21, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
  10. Torres

    In his interview he states he wants a worship center where different religious groups can come together. Does that mean that Jews can come and practice Judaism? This doesn't sound like a mosque to me. If you are going to do something that is going to upset the majority of the community, you are not doing it for the community. What kind of humble, modest, loving Muslims would be attracted to a controversial mosque? If Muslims want to work to regain trust and understanding from the American people, they need to apply the "Golden Rule" by building a mosque without making a statement. I do not believe Imam has the better interest of the Muslim people nationwide, by building a mosque so close to ground zero.

    September 21, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
  11. shiek mobe

    We won.....VICTORY MOSQUE COMING SOON! Ha Ha

    September 21, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  12. Kate

    Hope he isn't looking for any sympathy or compassion because he isn't going to get it here. He shows no sympathy or compassion for the people who died in 9/11 so, I guess it's true, what goes around comes around. You poor excuse for a human being!

    September 21, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  13. Ooorahhh

    Slumlord!! That's why he's avoiding the city. The courts are investigating him. He owes back taxes and he has unresolved tenant complaints – including bedbug infestations.

    September 21, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
  14. Kay1205

    Hey, there are lots of places in the world I wouldn't go if I wanted to feel safe.

    September 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  15. fofo

    Deepak Chopra says that Jews and Muslims are first cousin...and that's a family feud. Are we the world domestic violence advocate?

    September 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  16. largeamounts07

    As a New Yorker the fact that someone wants to build a Mosque down the street from the Towers is unacceptable. It’s being smacked in the face again. The Towers, the lives, the war has been enough for Americans to deal with. Now they want to build it just feels like they are laughing at us. Let’s just see how much more these Americans can take. As a Christian we have to love each other & forgive. Just because they are Muslims doesn’t mean they’re terrorists. It doesn’t mean they are all out to kill. It’s a hard pill to swallow but threatening them doesn’t make us (Americans) any different then what the Taliban, Osama & everyone else that has killed or died for the cause. Idk!?!? This is just me no political background or views. Just someone that is ready for the fighting to stop unfortunately it is only going to get worse. So how about we worry about our Salvation & talking the word of God to those that do not know him like the Bible says. GBU

    September 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  17. Drake

    I oppose the Islamic center for what it is and for waht it does. I also oppose Islam for what it is and what it does. By the way Brandon if you think it is ONLY a religion you are woefully naive. There, you satisfied with that response. Islam is not comaptible with democracy and those opposed to it deserve to be heard without being called bigots.

    September 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  18. Jeff A.

    There is no backing down now ! Better to fight the battle now, than when we are surronded by them, clamoring for all things muslim in the home of the free. Do you want to be surrounded by muslims is the question ? If that makes us bigoted, then so be it. I am a bigot, now get out and stay out !!

    September 21, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  19. Rugo

    How can those who coverted to Islam was due to military supremacy, I think any one who wrote this is ignorant, let's those who are coverting in Islam, here in America.

    September 21, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
  20. bobby wire

    Brandon..you are such a dick...

    September 21, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
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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.