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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. Branden

    This whole Ground Zero mosque has really shown me America's true colors. You guys talk a big game about freedom and inclusion but in reality you're just a bunch of scared, intolerant hypocrites.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
    • Pat

      What you don't understand is that these are the people responsible for 9/11. You obviously don't know where the $ is coming from.

      September 20, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
    • John Que 3000

      I say let the mosque be built in the shadow of the Freedom Towers. It will be protected by a symbol of US capitalistic dogma.

      September 20, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
    • Branden

      These are NOT the people that attacked America on 9/11! That was done by 19 extremists who use a twisted perversion of Islam to justify their acts. The people building the mosque are part of the peaceful faction of Islam, as most Muslims are.

      September 21, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  2. LB Colorado

    Our fore fathers did not know the muslims of the world, and if they would have, they would have said CHARGE.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
    • R. Berry

      um, Thomas Jefferson owned a Quran and held it in reverence. He also hosted an Iftar and called Islam a beautiful religion.

      September 21, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  3. Mary

    The number of Muslims keeps changing because they can convert Christians to Islam but won't allow Muslims to convert to Christianity. It's a death sentence for those who want to leave the barbarism of Islam behind and join the light of Christianity.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
  4. Dan

    It is because his "religion" and his "country" are not compatible

    September 20, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
  5. geoffreyf

    This is all so sad. To those with the negative comments that they seem to think are so clever – grow up. This man, despite whatever bigoted ideas you choose to harbor has done nothing to harm anyone except try to start a community center towards evolving comity between muslims and others. He has worked on this for years, in cooperation with the religious leaders of his community and this is the disgusting response? Seriously people, you should be ashamed of your bigotry and hate.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
    • George Bucsh

      He is exploiting our Freedom of Religion – !!$#%@#%$& muslims.

      September 20, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
    • NedKelley

      "Comity"? Really? He's doing a very good job of creating "comity"! He's an egotistical, self-centered man who wants the attention. This center is not about developing understanding and harmony between religions.

      September 20, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
  6. Grammy 11

    Looks like only the Imam is permitted to wear eye make up, but not the women. I don't get it.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  7. fwr

    He's hiding in a cave with Bin-Ladin because he thought it was easy to walk all over Americans, too!

    September 20, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  8. agnostic

    neal kelley....pick up a book and look at the history of all race relations in the usa. i am not saying i agree with racists,but i am saying that were barely 45 yrs removed from segregation. you really think when were still deployed in two muslim countries that our troops and contractors are gettin killed in,some beheaded on television,that this is a good idea.like it or not this aint gonna go over well.now unfortunately is not the time to climb this mountain.they are playin with fire,when 9/11 happened people by my house in chicago were trying to pull innocent muslims out of their cars and gathered in the thousands. now is not the time and they need to on a large and swift scale denounce terrorist organizations just as we do biased americans

    September 20, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  9. Renegade28

    Religion of peace.......Religion of peace my A__....with over 100 verses to kill all non-muslums, etc..etc... What do muslims really think as they read the Quran and come across the verses that say kill, etc.etc.. do they just pretend these words are not there? Do they choose to read the pages that don't have kill all non-muslims?? I would really like to know?? Their silence on these terrorists takeing out their fellow muslims with their bombs speak lounder than eany word.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  10. George Bucsh

    This wouldn't be an issue if everyone was an athiest. As soon as you throw religion into the mix, someone want to kill someone in the name of God.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
  11. A

    Sad. the right wing nut jobs are gonna turn us into Saudi Arabia.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  12. 9/11 survivor

    His publicist told him he'd get tons of sympathy from leftists and hate America firsters if he claimed he needed more security than Beyonce or Lady Gaga.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  13. Jaxi

    he thinks it's bad now – he hasn't even started to officially build. Didn't he think of that? He has to be living with his head under the sand if he didn't think he was going to get a least 50 death threats, if not more. He'll need personal security for the rest of his life -this will never calm down or slow down. He needs to stop using city protection. He should pay for this on his own and take care of himself like a grown responsible man if he wants to play hardball with such a sensative issue.

    This is not what NYPD is supposed to be doing with their time. He is creating this situation. It would all go away if he just moved the mosque a few blocks over. Just as FL pastor has been issued a security bill – he should be too. NO ONE's – not ONE American tax paying dollars should go to securing this man.

    If you knowingly put yourself in harms way – why does your local police have to protect you? For every man protecting him, they aren't protecting real victims. What the city should do is just step in and suggest he move permanantly or stop doing what you are doing that are making the threats happen. And tell him security stops tomorrow.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  14. toolegittoquit

    send him the security bill and give us our city back! the people of this city will not tolerate this slap in the face!

    September 20, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
    • Frogist

      Muslims are people of new york city and us citizens as well.

      September 20, 2010 at 9:08 pm |
  15. Bill

    Its a shame that we have gotten to this point in America that imam who is behind the proposed Islamic center near ground zero is largely avoiding New York City because of security concerns. This is what happens when you allow the ignorant and the racist in our society to dominate our airwaves with false facts and issues. The press is also responsible for the atmosphere that is sweeping across America because of their failure to explain the facts and nothing but the facts when it came to building of the proposed Islamic center.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
    • Robert

      Hey Bill, what race are Muslims?

      September 20, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
    • Frogist

      @ Robert: please refer to my post further up.

      September 20, 2010 at 9:06 pm |
  16. Bobby

    Self created propaganda. Where are the credible threats? Who is posing the danger? What credible evidence has there been that anyone has threatened this man? Where are the arrests? Who are we suppose to be looking for? I am not talking details here, just the norman general stuff. Oh, that is what I thought. We are getting ready just in case................

    September 20, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
    • roots

      the guy is getting death threats, people talk about blowing up the islamic center if it's built. what's wrong with you? you want something credible like a direct statement from a guy who gives the time, date, and place of when he's going to attempt to kill the guy? you do know that synagogues in nyc get tons of extra security almost weekly, right?

      September 20, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  17. wileyfreeman

    I DO NOT FEEL SORRY FOR THIS GUY AT ALL. Now he knows how the Danish cartoonists feel about being threatened by Muslims for drawing a cartoon of Mohammad. This apparently is just the beginning. The Muslims have sown the wind with this Ground Zero mosque and will reap the whirlwind of American response.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
    • Frogist

      So you want something bad to happen to him?

      September 20, 2010 at 9:04 pm |
  18. agnostic

    he is causing himself alot of problems, he may not be a terrorist,but he refuses to call hamas a terrorist organization,who believes all jews should die.there are mosques in my area run by former muslim brotherhood members who back hamas...he is poking the bear,like it or not.im a liberal but some of you hippies need to stop cryin about everything and do a lil reading

    September 20, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
    • hope120

      HE FEARS FOR HIS LIFE ?? THATS FUNNY, ESPECIALLY SINCE HE CANT SEE PAST HIS NOSE.
      WHAT ABOUT ALL THE CHRISTAINS THAT ARE IN HIDING IN ISLAM COUNTRIES ??
      HOW MANY CHRISTIAN CHURCHS ARE IN THOSE COUNTRIES ?
      WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE IN HIDING THAT DID THE CARTOONS ON ISLAM ? AS MANY CARTOONS THAT HAVE BEEN DONE ON OUR PRESIDENTS, THE CARTOONISTS DONT HAVE TO GO IN HIDING ..WHAT ABOUT THE TEACHER THEY TRIES TO PUT IN JAIL FOR NAMING A TEDDY MOHAMMAD ?? COULD GO ON AND ON, BUT GUESS WHAT ??? LIKE ANY OTHER
      ZEALOT THEY THINK THEY ARE ALWAYS RIGHT. IF WE HAD TRIED TO PUT A CHURCH ANY WHERE OR ANY PLACE IN AN ISLAM COUNTRY WHAT WOULD HAPPEN THEMN????????????

      September 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  19. T

    Will you hit the bull's eye. You got that right. They breed like rats. No family planning.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
  20. Eliza Flug

    I find it ironic that there are people who blame Islam for so many problems in the United States, simply because that is what Extremists want us to do. Stupidity is like a wildfire. But there are Extremists in all religions and I do not think we would have the same issue if a Christian blew up the World Trade Center-the churches in New York would still stand. At the same time, when the Imam mentioned that the Extremists would feel America is at War with Islam if the center was not built...it kind of sounded like a threat...but at the same time, it was stating a redundant fact. Islamic Extremists declared war on American long ago, long before the trade center and Pentagon were hit. It should simply be a reminder that our world is not a bubble. We should be asking for all of Islam to be acountable for the actions of a small handful of radicals. At the same time, it would seem that the Imam, in his earnest desire to make sure Islam is a permanent fixture in New York, near the trade center, and near the site of murder, may be trying to wave a flag of victory in the epicenter of so much pain. It is interesting that two sides to this inflammatory situation will be at odds- much like the MIddle East is constantly at odds. I wonder what it is about Islam and its texts within the Koran, that make the "peaceful religion" have a need to conquer-much like English Christians during the 19th century. I guess at the end of the day, there are many places to erect a house of worship but maybe the point is that the Muslim people of the United States feel undervalued and want something with permanence in a place of pain-so that they are not marginalized, as so many people wish they were. It is certainly a topic for debate and one that will have me asking questions of my morality and character for years to come.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
    • Eliza Flug

      and I have a typo- where I say, "We should, it should say, Should we?" Because asking an entire religion to pay for the acts of s a faction, makes no sense.

      Nazis killed jews, should all Germans be blamed? Jews have killed Palestinians, should all Jews be blamed? Christians and Dutch, murdered African people for years and years, should Holland be blamed? At the end of the day, we are all accountable for our own atrocities and we cannot control those around us. We can stand up for what is right and when we are confused, we can debate with out voices, and not with bombs, weapons.

      The only way to peaceful solutions of any kind is with diplomacy and respect for all human life-no matter what adversarial odds we will encounter.

      At some point, we all have to realize that we are one people, one embodiment of humanity. No one person is better than the other-we are all capable of evil and goodness.

      September 20, 2010 at 5:05 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.