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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. Muneef

    The number of Muslims in every nation that were globally pointed out might be correct, but the question here is, whether these numbers of Muslims are aware well about the teachings of Islam in the right way with out extremism ? Well can tell you that those are hard working people in a difficult and hard enviroments only to achieve their daily needs for bread and water and not concerned with politics or imposing their views on others. And those who were lucky enough to immigrate looking for a decent life and job as well not concerned with politics. Muslims in general if left alone with out your intervention might end up fighting each other due differences of views in their faith, but if west keep on applying pressure causing starvation, harassment and confrontation against Muslims and against their faith, this will only lead them to leave behind their differences and jointly or individually confront their enemies,those who wants to deprive them from their rights of faith and belief and the more they are pressed the more they would complain by reacting and not by words and cries since words and cries seem does not reach,heard or work out now a days since being their judges and executors are all of non religious such as atheists, infidels,polytheists who consider their vast interests above all humanity and faith issues such as mercy,leniency, compassion,pity,sympathy,kindness all that of human mutual heavenly code of conduct.!?       H

    September 26, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
  2. Muneef

    Lighthouses are more helpful than Churches”, Benjamin Franklin
    Let the Islamic center be built and become a lighthouse for planting respect and.peace among faiths and followers? 
    And since you are accusing Islam for the 9/11 then this islamic lighthouse should be built within ground zero area directing it's calls for peace between faiths and between nations it is to raise it's prayers on daily bases for those innocents who lost their lives and those who suffered in the 9/11 tragedy that Muslims out of all faiths and nations had suffered most from it's resulted chain reactions until today that had far exceeded the number of deaths and suffering of the 9/11 tragedy in NY,USA.  

    September 26, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
  3. Muneef

    Lighthouses are more helpful than Churches”, Benjamin Franklin
    Let the Islamic center be built and become a lighthouse for planting respect and.peace among faiths and followers?

    September 26, 2010 at 11:46 am |
  4. Muneef

    Many acting like the Three Wise Monkeys on this particular issue if they believe and have that much faith in their bibles they should take it all and all signs not just take the bits they like or fits situations?  
    One Lettered Man and Three wise Monkeys.! God in the Quran talks to us directly these came because were meant for us and Prophets were the Media through which this message was to reach us ordering us to learn (Iqra)read,listen,think,decide for your self.

    September 25, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
  5. Muneef

    Man of God respectable Terry Jones,of Florida's Dove's Church, maybe a day would come that the world and Muslims would thank you for your causing all these discussions to come out today's on this site blogs and many other sites blogs and to it leading to have more people religious discussions leading them read and learn more about Islam and the Quran many who's eyes had opened to reality converted to Islam or at least respect Muslims and their religion. After all you are a man of God and God has made use of you as an antibiotic to be given to faiths that leads to having hidden truths prevailed and explored. May God Allah give you guidance to convert in to Islam or establish a Church that says and calls that God Allah is One and Only and that muhammed was the promised comforter,messenger and being the final of prophets of God....Ameen. Here your Dove will be the Dove of Peace we been waiting is within your hand to help establish. Sohan Allah.

    September 25, 2010 at 9:23 am |
  6. beagle812

    Rauf knows exactly what he's doing, and has all along. He's playing to the audience "back home."

    He claims fundamentalists will be outraged if the mosque is not built. My question is, if fundamentalists are paying such close attention, then what is the message they receive if the mosque IS built at Ground Zero?

    Beyond that, if the mosque construction goes as planned Rauf's stock in the Islamic world will go through the roof.

    It's all about power and perception and he's playing us like a violin, including this most recent stunt of claiming that he's not safe in NYC.

    September 22, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
  7. Sionnach

    I understand that people are hurting as a result of 9/11, and so they are sensitive about Ground Zero, but...get the hell over it. I don't mean to be insensitive, but it's been nine years. The time has come to throw off the burden of sorrow and move on with our lives. By accepting this mosque, by allowing ourselves to move past our mistrust and anger, we as a nation we be stronger than ever. By dividing ourselves, we only make ourselves weak and vulnerable.
    Peace.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  8. We are now in another Crusade with the same objective!!!

    nice try for a parallel, but you've got to provide some back up for sweeping conclusions otherwise it is a nice mental quip but goes no further

    September 22, 2010 at 9:20 am |
  9. Jeanne

    Jimmy Carter is getting a little senile now, so we really can't pay attention to anything that he states. As far as building the Mosque 2 blocks from 911 – I feel, even tho they have a right to build a Mosque, it should be built some other place. It seems to me that Iman would realize this. Now, he didn't want the Koran burned and said it would be a mistake if it happens, and actually what I heard from my own ears was almost a verbal threat if it was burned. Well, Mr. Iman, I do feel that this is a sensative creation for the families of 911 and also of the American people that protest it. If you will think about it, try building it in another area – in New York. That way, this would make so many American much more happier. I am sorry that you are hiding in secret and that you are getting threats or whatever, but this is a touchy subject for the families of 911. Do the right thing,and just move on down the road. This would show your "respect" for the Americans that lost loved ones in 911. Thank you Mr. Imann

    September 22, 2010 at 12:24 am |
  10. Timmy

    Nice PR stunt. Play the victim so others will feel sorry for you and not stop you. I'm sure some idiots have made threats but if he I'd under protection why is he still staying outside the city. Smells like either cowardice or a PR stunt.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:08 pm |
  11. JB

    There's a big difference between having the legal right to do something and the moral right. It may be legal to build the mosque, but it is not moral to be so glaringly disrespectful of a society that has been deeply injured by the actions of one's religion or society. One would hardly expect Atlanta to raise a statue in honor of General Sherman; this in infinitely more insulting.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:30 pm |
  12. Iqbal Khan

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vF9xQyXzD4

    September 21, 2010 at 8:56 pm |
  13. Iqbal Khan

    Go increase your knowledge
    http://www.911bible.com

    September 21, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
  14. Phil

    Why are we not BILLING him for security??? New York City has too many hungry and homeless people to be wasting our tax dollars this way!

    September 21, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
  15. darren

    The problem with America is not Muslims, Communists, blacks, natives, or even witches. The people are the problem. Everything is divided into black and white, the "if you are not with us, you're against us" type of mentality, lack of intelligence to do research (how many people here have even finished high school? Just look at the grammar and spelling), and above all, plain ignorance. For centuries, we've been hunting some enemy, usually the one that we make up ourselves. In other countries, most people believe that everything – religion, politics, economics – is 80% "grey area," most of it subject to personal interpretation. Here, we divide among ourselves and start arguing things with our mouths foaming, often without considering both sides of a coin. Nobody wants to listen to the other side, everybody is just too busy yelling and insulting each other. Grow up, people!

    September 21, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
  16. frogman

    This is a hoot. Is it ironic or what? A muslim in hiding because he's afraid that a Christian is going to kill him. How do you say fatwa in Latin?

    September 21, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
  17. David

    HELLO ALL THE UNNECESSARY PEOPLE WRITING AND READING CRAP IN HERE.

    September 21, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
  18. Edward

    Why does the comment board on this subject run backward? From oldest comment to newest comment? Why is there no "LIKE" option? What's up CNN? Why when I make my point too well, do you take down the whole comment board?

    September 21, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  19. K

    I read that Pastor was slapped with a a security bill of 180K . In the land of equals – should Imam be not liable for his security bill ? Both are Moron in my mind – why build/do something that is going to hurt many Americans? Will the so called peace center be any less effective if it is built in another place nearby ?

    I never understood why the tolerance needs to be a one way street always....

    September 21, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  20. Fuyuko

    I'm sick of seeing this guy make headlines. He's like Lohan, Michael Jackson, or any other diva. I am sorry he has problems. Perhaps if he took a backseat for a while people would stop caring.

    September 21, 2010 at 5:47 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.