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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. chommy

    I can't believe this issue is still going on, and that it's still receiving so much hate from people. I used to follow this issue closely but decided to stop. The racist people against Islam aren't worth my time, nor do I want to fill myself with so much hate as they have. I have nothing against any religion, everyone has their own beliefs and should be allowed to practice it. As Barack Obama said, it was Al-Qaeda that did the attacks, not the religion. But, well, I don't want to get too involved and follow this issue again because, as I've said, I don't want to hate anyone or fill myself with such anger and racism, as no one is worth that. I am a Muslim (and proud of it), not a terrorist.

    September 20, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  2. John Que 3000

    I hope the NYC and NJ authorities charge him for security, the way old googly eyes, Pastor Jones, is being charged by Gainesvill PD.

    September 20, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  3. Juil

    I'm sure he isn't staying in his slum apartments in NJ...But that is where he should be...

    September 20, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  4. JSki

    I hope they abandon the near-Ground Zero mosque idea... and then build right on top of Ground Zero. It would be amusing to see the conservative extremists' heads roll.

    But seriously, this has become a farce. Anyone who understands and believes in the basic principles that created this nation knows that there shouldn't even be a debate. And yet there is...

    Stand fast Imam; don't give in.

    September 20, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  5. M&M

    So who picks up the tab for police protection? He brought this mess on himself just like the pastor in Florida. If the pastor in Florida has to pay for the extra police protection, I hope this Imam will pay for his protection as well. All he had to do was be kind to the peoples request and move the mosque a few blocks uptown. But he didn't and now he will never live in peace. Did he not know that there are radicals in all walks of life?

    September 20, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  6. Matt

    Politician or to be precise Palin , Newt Gingrich's and other republican started this discussion to get vote, otherwise it has been decided in December and nobody was complaining then. This is very sad, since republican using feeling of people for their own political ambitious. We need to give a chance to this guy. He is American and try to bring peace to US and rest of world. Radical are every where and I am afraid we have some in US too. But same time it is very difficult to change image of Islam based what happened. But saying that we had similar situation that US was not accepting Jewish people as well as Black.

    September 20, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
  7. Nonimus

    I find it interesting that some here, in attempting to counter some of the intolerance, turn right around and start making rash generalization about the intolerant posters, 'you idiot Republican / white supremists', 'Republicans and other right winged extremists', 'the nut job extremist republicans'.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
  8. Medardus

    If this were a synagogue (or, more accurately, a Jewish community center) no one would care. Did you know there were Muslim prayer rooms in the WTC towers? Did you know that a mosque isn't a mosque unless it's completely given over to worship (something Park51 is not going to be)? Did you know that there are two Catholic Churches even closer to Ground Zero than Park51 is going to be?

    September 20, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  9. agnostic

    its definitely election time for the gop...leave the president out of the argument cmon now...you teabaggers aren that stupid,are you?

    September 20, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "its definitely election time for the gop...leave the president out of the argument cmon now...you teabaggers aren that stupid,are you?"
      I agree the president isn't really involved, but do you really have to go and call your opponent names like some school kid?

      September 20, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
  10. John Que 3000

    Hey CNN could you please let us know what he has to eat in the morning and when he flushes? This is such vital information for me I really appreciate your coverage.
    Does he start each day on the right foot, or left?
    What brand of toothpaste does he use?
    How come you didn't cover his birthday party?

    Hey CNN GFY, and I do not mean Good For You!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 20, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
  11. Buck Ofama

    He wouldn't be receiving death threats if he would just do the right thing and move his mosque somewhere else!

    September 20, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
    • John Que 3000

      Maybe CNN can get the recordings, or e-mails, or written death threats and display them as opposed to kissing this guys butt every chance you get by accepting everything he says as gospel.

      Oh wow that might be an insult to the Iman.

      Please radicals don't threaten me, yyyy yo you mm mmm ma ma make my eyes holes wa wa wa water..

      September 20, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Are you really condoning threats made against this man?
      You think he should be physically harmed, really?

      September 20, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  12. Pat

    There is no such thing as an "Extremist Christian". I don't see any Christians going around killing people if they do not convert. No, I don't whole-heartedly agree that we should be fighting in the Middle East, cause I think we should just leave all those wacko's alone, but there is NO SUCH THING AS EXTREMIST CHRISTIANS.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
    • John Que 3000

      Mel Gibson is considered an extreme christian for following the orthodox rules of Christianity.
      Just ask and Jew?

      September 20, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
    • John Doe

      Pat – I agree with your statement that we don't have extremist Christians. If someone goes around killing in the name of Christ, we believe they are simply NOT Christians. But we have plenty in our past who baptized with the sword (thankfully hundreds of years ago), and we still have occurrences of what I would call nominal Christians who kill others who don't belong to their "tribe". We DO have tribal Christians, folks who claim the faith, but ... I believe ... are not followers of Christ. But others look at Hitler (raised Catholic, but no way a Christian), the mobs in Serbia, and others as extremist Christians. We Christians believe these haters/killers are not Christian. I hope muslims believe that muslim terrorists are not muslim.

      September 20, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Seriously, no extremist christians?
      KKK, Ireland (both sides are Christian), Hutaree, Branch Davidians, further back there's Crusades, Inquisitions, witch hunts, etc.

      September 20, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
    • John Doe

      Nonimus – like I said, nominal Christians. The average Christian in America would claim no common faith with Hitler, the KKK, bombers/killers of Northern Ireland or of the IRA, Serbian mass killers, Hutu priests who killed Tutsis, etc. Of course, it's impossible to prove and very hard to get across to someone who does not follow Christ and believe in redemption and eternal life. But that is what I and many others believe. And, again, I hope that the average muslim believes in his/her heart that muslim terrorists are nominal muslims, that they really are not muslims. But who knows ... only the average muslim can tell us.

      September 20, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
  13. Entwood

    What does Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Barack Obama and Fareed Zakaria have in common? All three were raised Muslim. Coincidence ?? I do not believe in coincidence.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
  14. Ann

    Why was the same protection not given to cartoonist and why did she have to go on hiding using her own money? This is getting ridiculous.

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

      In these times of economic hard times where people are being laid off, how can NYPD spend its resources on a private citizen who provoked this response? Seems like fraud, waste and abuse.

      September 20, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
  15. Pat

    How much death threats would he get if he lived in Iraq or Iran, cause there are tens of thousands of Muslums killing each other over there. The Bible does not teach ANY violence, but the Koran DOES, plain and simple. This IS a Christian nation, always has been, always will be.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
    • my voice

      I don't think you've read the same bible I've been reading. No violence...

      September 21, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
  16. Prentiss

    To all you Imam sympathizers- Take off that yoke of naive liberalism. I am a true liberal and Islam is a sham and will never be integrated in the US. Quit criticizing any American that does not want this mosque, or Islam, in NYC or the US. They have a right to their beliefs and they have damn good reasons for them. Open your eyes or shut the hell up.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
  17. leonekp

    Wow all of the name calling and bad comments back and forth. Nice to see my fellow Americans can make their own point of being a moron. You rail on and on about how Muslims are full of hate and then turn and deliver your own version of it.
    No it should not be built at ground zero. Neither should ANY religous buildings. Isn't that what got us in to this mess in the first place? Religion? If the less than informed want to follow the teachings concerning mythical creaters in some made up world in the sky, fine. Feel free to do so...in your own homes or in some fictional land at sea.
    Real people died that day throwing themselves from 90 plus floors up impacting with death on the ground. Show some respect make it the place to remember and leave religion out of it. We can all see the result of religion just in the comments here.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
  18. xoc

    glad he is getting a taste of his own medicine. the muslim religion has been terrorizing people who do not share their beliefs into holes, homes, caves, etc. for many years. its time to see what being on the other end feels like – fearing for your life because your religion. i hope americans terrorize the hell out of him the way his religion does to others.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
  19. agnostic

    freedom of speech rules...no double standards...gt.we certainly have our problems,but if you dislike things here, i suggest you go move to baghdad and preach about tolerance there.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  20. Frank

    Sounds like he is being "terrorized"...

    September 20, 2010 at 5:37 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.