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. George

    The Muslims are making this into a psychological warfare tool. They want to make Americans look like Middle Easterners, who threaten and kill those who think differently. That guy is in no danger. He's been on the steps of the building speaking plenty of times, even when it was more heated than it is right now, so this whole thing is a load of crap by him.

    September 20, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
  2. Sharon

    It is interesting that Imam used the word 'HIGHJACK" which is the word that started the war! We highjacked his agenda! While planes were highjacked to KILL 3000 Americans. A Spiritual advisor to use the same wording HIGHJACK doesn't promote PEACE!

    Just by that statment–calling those against the Mosque as HIGHJACKERS of his Agenda-causes further concern–to question the real reason behind the Mosque.

    The Obama Administration has called the right wingers extremists-but Louis Farrakhan is also called an Extremists–where do we draw the line–and say–differences are okay–but respect each one. Louis Farrakhan is the overseer of the Nation of Islam–Headquarters in NYC.

    The painful act by terrorism representing Jhad on 9-11 still have hurts that need to be mended. When Obama threw his support to Imam's Mosque–then sent him to the Middle East- (not Israel-if he went to Iran no one knows) but the fact remains no one is sensitive to the feelings from the children to the eldest.

    This doesn't say much about the leadership of this Country!

    September 20, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
  3. David Clayton

    As a Christian I have met many moderate Islamist in Afghanistan, Iraq, and growing up in the United States. They are good people that share the same values as moderate Christians and Jews. As a soldier I have interrogated Islamic extremist, it is ironic because they share many of the same values as some ignorant comments on here. I wish we can just take the extreme Christian and Islamist let them settle their differences in some remote area.

    September 20, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
    • Yeah I'm Muslim

      How did you interrogate Islamic extremist in their own country? You sound stupid. These people are fighting for their freedom from us. We never tried to work with , we just started dropping bombs.

      September 21, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  4. George

    The imam has just discovered America.

    September 20, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
  5. George

    The imam is going to lay low until after the November elections, hoping that Bloomberg was correct that its all a politically agitated issue. I agree with him to some extent, but its a story now, and on a slow news day after the elections it will be newsworthy again. I still do not see how the voice of moderate Muslims will be amplified by that building. I think the imam just likes to use poetic sounding phrases to woo us.

    September 20, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
  6. Ernest

    Im all for religious freedom, and I ahve no problem with the enter, perse, I think more needs to be discussed, but ive lost a lot respect for the Imam. Going into hiding? Show the city and the people who are against you that you are not afraid, that you truly beleive in your own cause. Hiding only gives them a stronger case and more to use against you. Theyve won if you have to lay low

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

    If Jesus and Mohammed had a ultimate fighting match, who do you think would win? I'll put my money on the A-rab because he will have no problem with killing J.C. Unfortunately for him however, J.C. will be back in a few days and in his face again.

    September 20, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
  8. sagebrush shorty

    Now he has at least an inkling of how some cartoonists feel. I'll bet he isn't hiding in one of his broken down buildings in New Jersey. This guy is nothing but a common criminal and yet he is catered to as if he were someone special.

    September 20, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
    • David Clayton

      What has this man done wrong? He is not an Islamic Extremist, but an American. He was used as a political McCarthy guilt by association victim. He tried to build a civic center, not on the door steps of the world trade center (yes my brother worked in the towers). He helps soldiers like me because he is a moderate Muslim that goes on National TV talking about how great America is and basically call Islamic extremist, terrorist and Hamas evil. He is the only Muslim that I have seen who advocated for the state of Israel. What more else do you want of this man besides keep victimizing him for being a good person. Who now is the extremist.

      September 20, 2010 at 8:20 pm |
    • Sagebrush Shorty

      David Clayton..........The guy is a slumlord who doesn't even show up for his court hearing. A criminal is a criminal.

      September 20, 2010 at 8:29 pm |
    • Yeah I'm Muslim

      This Imam is an extremist from an Islamic point of view. A muslim, for the sake of Allah, would deny himself his own rights in order to bring the just teachings of Islam to the people. How does this Imam expect to do that when he is making people angry. This is not Islamic. Islam does not make people angry except by the truth. When this Imam tells people that the Qur'an says that as long as christian and jews and anyone believe in God will have his reward with lord, he is lying. The Qur'an says this in referrence to those Christian and Jews who did not take Jesus as God or the son of God, and the Jews who did not take the Rabbis as their Lords.

      Why lie about something that can be easily explained and understood. Although many people will not accept this but this is what the Qur'an says. However, this doesn't mean that Muslims can deal justly with people who have a different faith or understanding about God.

      September 21, 2010 at 11:51 am |
  9. christian white boy

    I'm just jealous becuz Muslims are smarter and are all around better than Christians. And the whole world respects them and hates Christians because we started a fake religion that we stole from Catholics and we say that we are right and everyone else is going to hell for being ignorant. Waahhhh

    September 20, 2010 at 7:52 pm |
  10. yup

    cnn, why are you plastering this guy's agenda and all of the most up to date information about him and his whereabouts if he's trying to stay clear of the public?? morons

    September 20, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
  11. Woody

    I would have to agree that there are a lot of crazies out there. I see them a lot preaching on T.V.

    September 20, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
  12. MJB

    These Mosques are all not what they seem. This last May in Boston a grade school class took a field trip to a large Mosque
    activity center. Had them bow down and pray like they do. The parents did not really know what was up until after. Our kids need to be taking field trips to our churches first. This countries was founded on our religions not Islamics. In which they would love all of us to follow. They also want you to start letting them use their Sharia laws here. That better not ever happen folks. Keep an eye on that stuff.

    September 20, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
  13. What are Holy people?

    I thought religions are supposed to make their followers better people. If so, why are all the followers only concerned with non-followers? Shouldn't they be happy and content people? Loving, kind, compassionate, tolerant, giving, humble, meek, forgiving, gentle, warm, friendly, honest, and stuff like that? How come they don't become those things, instead of telling everyone else to do it? Why don't religions work like they're supposed to? I've seen a few, like the dahli lama and mother teresa, but for the most part they seem angry all the time, and very mean to people. What good are religions if they don't do what they were made to do?

    September 20, 2010 at 7:45 pm |
  14. moses

    "There's just a lot of crazies and that's why he has police protection from the NYPD,"

    Rev.Morton........has God opened your eyes to the real crazies????? The Imam looks like a man possessed of the devil....Let him pay for his protection as the Rev. in Florida is likely to do ....as reported.

    September 20, 2010 at 7:45 pm |
  15. dpk

    Is he going to be billed for police protection like minister in Florida was?

    September 20, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
  16. TruthsayerCT

    If Sarah Palin and the rest of the wingnuts now and of the past keep misrepresenting the intent of JC they will pay their due price. But anyone who kills in the name of God, what ever name u call him will endure a shame no one would want on their worst enemy

    September 20, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
  17. paul

    You muslims are the ones that know this mohamed the least. All you know is the koran propaganda. You do not know or are not allowed to find about the historical mohamed. The two are about as night and day. It is advisable to find out about the real mohamed. Damn this allah and all of his threats of doom. It is all a farce. Allah is not a real god. The real God brings you freedom and choice not slavery and doom.

    September 20, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
  18. Bob

    "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."

    Go back to where you came from!

    September 20, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
  19. christian white boy

    jesus said slap my momma! Oh well I guess since jesus said it, I have to... dohh

    September 20, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
  20. STR

    If the Muslims revere Jesus so much as their prophet why do they not listen to him?
    Jesus said, "Love your enemies."
    Instead you raise your children to be suicide bombers.
    Instead you hate and kill other fellow Muslims because they are not the same sect as you.
    Instead you say death to Israel and death to the USA.
    Instead you celebrate on the day of 9/11.
    Instead you love to hate and kill, and destroy.
    Jesus also said, The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come to give you life abundantly. John 10:10
    We all need to listen to Jesus! John 3:16

    September 20, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
    • LKJ

      You're confusing the majority of Muslims with the small minority of terrorists. I am a Muslim and the terrorists do not speak for me.

      September 20, 2010 at 8:52 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.