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. QMod

    As another poster already stated, Rauf has a RIGHT to build there, just as all Americans have that right. I think most people just disagree with the decision to do so. I don't see how him wanting a mosque there would bring anyone together. Judging from all the opinions floating around here and everywhere else, it is only bringing about more division. His intentions may be good, but the location is a bad idea. I don't believe he should get death threats but his intelligence is certainly in question when he does not see how that would affect a large portion of the population here.
    Most Americans are starting to see Islam as all suicide-bombers and murderers. I can see why because a lot of the recent terrorist activities perpetrated against US citizens are by Muslims fueled by a devotion to Islam. You say there are different groups of Islam and that most are not violent? How am I supposed to take the word of a Muslim, when Muslims are the ones acting in a violent manner? Maybe "moderate" Muslims need to work more on cleaning up their own house and then others might take them more seriously when they espouse harmony and togetherness.
    Maybe Americans should draw lots and lots Muhammad cartoons and circulate them. I guess NYC Police would have to give special protection for all of those people as well. As far as I know, the US still have freedom of speech...

    September 20, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
  2. myron finklebaum

    This story is just lame fiction.

    September 20, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  3. LKJ

    The lack of understanding shown in many of these comments really bothers me. This is not the America I was born in, the America I grew up in. My parents raised me as a Christian. Later, as a young adult, I chose Islam. I'm stil the only Muslim in my family and I have a good relationship with everyone in my family, including my Jewish brother-in-law. I have read so many misinformed comments in this forum that's it's impossible to address them all. But I can say that I have no desire to kill anyone–and would be punished by Allah (God) if I did–and I'm a woman but I am far from oppressed. (Yes, I drive. I have my own car.) I respect your religion. I ask you also to respect mine.

    September 20, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
  4. LMD

    Good.maybe he will stay away long enough to be considered a resident any more. Ban all religions.

    September 20, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
  5. Jan in Ohio

    To all there is No GOD and there is No prophet Muhammed. None of this true, only the those who are crazy believe in it. God did not create Man nor did Muhammed, it is myth. Man was created by Evolution and Muhammed is again a cultural belief.

    September 20, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
  6. Valeriy

    "America has let extremists "hijack the agenda..." So, now it's our fault again? Unbelievable!

    September 20, 2010 at 7:08 pm |
  7. Dbpak

    First of all how does any one know Jesus was without sin? because you read it in a fairy tale called the Bible? who cares who sins any way? and what exactly is a "sin"?
    Mohamed was a great prophet just like Jesus or Moses. I've read the Quoran, it is a beautifully written book which is actually much more believable than the Bible. Maybe the Christians out there who are so quick to judge should read it before they sound like people with a very low IQ.:)

    September 20, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
  8. Fleur

    La La La La ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ................

    September 20, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
  9. Murf

    Can one of our muslim friends posting here provide some web links to media coverage of your religious leaders being front and center so that their voices are unified in condemning terrorist acts. Personally, and from the coverage I have seen, the Muslim faith has not done enough to identify and root out fundamentalists who would cause terrorist acts, or, attempting to put an end to the camps where these fanatics are being trained. The Pakistanis are the absolute worst in this regard.

    September 20, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
    • my voice

      Crickets sing in the void.

      But wait for it... we are against this horrible act but it is their fault they were harmed. America is the problem, not the religion of the people that did the deed.

      I'd rather listen to the crickets.

      September 21, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  10. jamesnyc

    So if he is not brave enough to face the outrage of the people he is offending, why are we building this travesty? Move the building. Put it some where else in Tribeca or something. See if DeNiro has some property to spare...

    September 20, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
  11. fireybuddha

    Most of these posting make me think a scary number of CNN readers are idiots.

    And don't we live in America? Why does this man need to hide because of his faith? For those that banter "our Founding Fathers" around like you actually knew them – do you think this is what they had in mind? Do you not think, instead, that this is exactly what they were trying to ESCAPE?k Religious persecution?

    September 20, 2010 at 6:50 pm |
  12. entwood

    What do Fareed Zakaria, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Barack Obama have in common. Thsy are all Muslim.

    September 20, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
    • Murf

      And the narrow minded and intelligence-neglected come out of the woodwork for this story. Crawl back under your rock cretin.

      September 20, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
    • JomoDaMusicMan

      Hey Entwood, what do you, KKK, Aryan Nation, Skin Heads, Rush, Beck, Palin, Republicans and Tea Baggers have in common. YOU ARE ALL REDNECK RACISTS HIPPOCRITICAL FOOLS

      September 21, 2010 at 10:26 am |
  13. steve505

    "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 think what he meant to say is "There's just a lot of angry people that would love to see this Imam swinging from a tree, and rightly so". Way to try to just write everyone off as "crazies", though. Cute.

    September 20, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
  14. Cohen

    CYRUS, you said in your comment that "Jesus is the most revered prophet in Islam" so why in the Koran 9:5 it is commended for Muslims " Fight and slay the pagans Christian wherever ye find them and seize them, confine them, and lie in wait for them in every place of ambush". You can find many such hate commandments in Koran for other religions too.

    September 20, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
    • Romario

      Actually it says in surah 9 verse 5 of the Quran to slay the idolaters. These are referring to those who occupied Saudi Arabia prior to the founding of Islam. Not Christians or Jews. They are followers of the same God. Do your research.

      September 20, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
    • JomoDaMusicMan

      Hey, u don't just have to go to the Koran to see bloodshed and killing of your enemies. Go to the King James Bible and u will see that when Moses the led the Jews out of Egypt and they traveled across many lands they form armies out of the 11 of 12 tribes and they trespassed and slaughtered & killed wiping out entire civilizations of other people. Joshua entered Jerico and slaughtered every man woman & child even killed all the livestock. The bible is full of brutality Samson killed ten thousand Phillistans hope they wasn't from Philly (southside). The bible is just as full of bloodshed as the Koran in fact both books are history books and are taken mostly out of context in order to unjustly satisfy religious cravings & for recruitment

      September 21, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  15. Paying

    Well I hope they are billing him like they did the pastor.

    September 20, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
  16. Fleur

    He is digging his own grave! Who's going to pay for the protection he receives from NYPD? – HE SHOULD!

    September 20, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
  17. Robert

    Just another Muslim ploy to help maintain their self-proclaimed "victim" status.

    September 20, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
    • JomoDaMusicMan

      You people say the same thing about blacks in american. Now deep in your racists hearts, u have no feelings towards any race except you own selfish white race and of course your pets. Black people and muslims can get stomped upon again & again and u will always accuse them and say u are the victim

      September 21, 2010 at 10:02 am |
    • Robert

      @jomo, who do you assume I am white?

      September 21, 2010 at 10:07 am |
    • Robert

      Why do you assume...

      September 21, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  18. M&M

    COMPROMISE – Don't tear down the building...just refurbish the place!

    September 20, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  19. KD

    I’m horrified by the vast amounts of ignorance, arrogance, and hated I see in posting after posting. Is this the real America?

    September 20, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
    • John Doe

      I agree 100 percent. Unbelievable the ignorance of what islam is or might be all about. I am afraid to wait until it's too late. Thank goodness for these forums where we can see how frightening islam was historically and where we can get an insight from the few muslim participants about what islam is CURRENTLY all about. NO outrage over bad muslim behavior. Muslims continuing to threaten the draw moHAMed gal on CNN forums. Scary! Your ignorance and naivete, that is.

      September 20, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
    • JomoDaMusicMan

      YES, THIS IS THE REAL AMERICA; were have u been. I was born here in 1946, I am Black and haven't u heard of black people been dragged from their homes & lynched & burned trying to throw their children from the flames only to have angry racist mobs throw the children back into the burning homes. Have u not heard of white men raping white women & blaming in on black men then these same men team with angry mobs & burn down entire black neighborhoods & murder. Where have u been. Every time Jesse or Rev Al or minister Farakhan protest they are immediately classified as racist and they are even compared to Hitler even though they have never killed any white people or Jews. Now white people act like they love King but when he was alive he was called a communist. Where have u been. Now the T Baggers & Reb are calling Obama a Muslim and his policies Socialist and showing pictures of him as a Witch Docotor. HEY THIS IS AMERICA AND IT IS STILL FULL OF RACIST THUGS POSING AS NEWS MEDIA, POLICE & POLITIANS

      September 21, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  20. Joseph

    Don't even compare mohammed to moses or Jesus. Moses and Jesus didn't marry 9 year old girls. Jesus didn't go around starting wars with his fellow people. They don't teach terrorism as a way of life. You can sugar coat Islam as peaceful religion. Yet your own muslims around the world preach murder in name of your Mohammad. So peaceful yet declare murder anyone to taught against its founder or draw Mohammaed. South Park insults Jesus on regular basis. Do you see Christians threating them? No.

    September 20, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
    • Steve

      Actually, Moses, according to the Bible, commited genocide against 6 peoples. He also committed murder of the Egyption guide and then ran away. You need to read the Bible.

      September 20, 2010 at 7:21 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.