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. azrael

    Dar al-Islam Dar al-Kufr so long as concepts such these exist in Islam they will never have peace.....

    September 20, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
  2. Carl

    The very face of EVIL.

    September 20, 2010 at 9:35 pm |

    These comments sadden me deeply. There used to be a time in my life when I was proud to be an american, now i'm almost ashamed. The posts on here are a great example. A lot of people start off with "I'm this type of christian", we're all supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, not argueing about some rediculous "man" doctrine. We are to show love, not cuss each other out because you have anger in your heart. People are getting all bent out of wack because of this mosque. Let them build it, because we can all preach the truth to them as they enter and leave. America needs to wake up and get back to it's christian roots before it is too late......

    September 20, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
  4. dwighthuth

    "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.

    This friend of the Imam is now calling American's crazies. Crazies for holding close to America's heart a day that changed our cutlure, the American culture. One of America's own taking the side of the enemy who has not condemned the acts of the Taliban and Al-Quaeda but has condemned America saying that America has shed more innocent blood in the Middle East than the terrorist's that we are fighting have. Feisal has made the comments that America's security is as risk by not allowing him to build his Islamic facility near American hallowed Ground Zero. Feisal has constantly chosen to use fear and insult's against America while supporting the enemy. He has come to this country trying to say that those who oppose his international facility are racist's towards his cause. His only cause is too trick American's into believing that he is their friend so he can gather his own jihadist's against America. The only ones that support him are those capitilist's that only have the love of greed in their heart. They do not have the love of America in their heart the only love they have is greed. Such a loyal American Morton calls himself. Yet he has sided with twisted and cold wind of Feisal the Islam. Ground Zero means this to America. Ground Zero means we were attacked by an empire that wishes to usurp America and replace America with Islam.
    Ground Zero represent's a momument to those who have died defending America against those who attack the innocent and shed blood. Ground Zero is a monument in the fight against those who wish to take the freedom and liberties away from a country to replace them with laws where only those chosen can succeed while all other's have to live under the rule of totalitarianism. Is America going to stand by Feisal the Islam or is the valor and heart of America going to show through the fog that is surrounding Feisal to burn he and his supporter's out? Ground Zero is hallowed ground and no one, I mean no one will come into America and disrespect Ground Zero. Not a Pope, not a Islamist not anyone. Ground Zero is America's center our monument to those who have sacrificed. Ground Zero is a world monument to those have fought and died in the war against terror. Is America going to allow Feisal the Islam to condemn Ground Zero as not being a placed of hallowed ground instead replacing the spirit that surrounds Ground Zero with the lies and condemnation's against America in support of Islam? In support of terrorism? The Islamic facility is a mockery to those who died on 9.11.01 and to those that have died
    fighting against those Islamist's who wish to destroy America. The field at Ground Zero is not a issue of color or belief. The field of Ground Zero is an American issue an issue of respect of which Feisal the Islam has blantantly disregarded while at the same time condemning acts. Lay down your divisiness' America let the spirit that you held during 9.11.01 be reborn in your hearts. Although there was a time that Muslim's and Christian's were enemies no longer are American Muslim's the enemy of America they are brothers-in-arms against the same enemy that brought you to America the same enemy that want's to take you back like the waves that break upon the shoreline and return the sand to the depths of being under the dark rule of terrorism. The win against Feisal the Islam will send a shudder through the Islamic Empire that wants to destroy America along with the rest of the free world. A shudder that will crack the walls of Iran allowing the stench of the blackness of oppression to be cleansed from the land upon which she sits. A shudder that will make every enemy of the free world shiver at night while the free's young are tucked in every night knowing that they are safe and there will be a tomorrow for them to feel the warnth of. Every wind that is felt upon your face remember the pass.

    "New York....remember the pass...for it is trying to be taken again."


    September 20, 2010 at 9:26 pm |
  5. jay

    Frankly, I'm intolerant of all religion. Anyone who believes any of the plethora of religious myths with any kind of authority are delusional and dangerous to humanity at best. People, get real! How can you believe any of this in 2010??? Or do you still believe in Santa too?

    September 20, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
  6. mario

    Who cares!

    September 20, 2010 at 8:49 pm |
  7. mario

    Who cares for this raghead anyway! Its about time he got a taste of his own medicine like any raghead in the world...they are all terrorists!

    September 20, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
  8. andrew wang

    American people protest and against him so he fled away.

    September 20, 2010 at 8:46 pm |
  9. andrew wang

    Very Good. Ground Zero Imam fled so Christian people are happy. He afraid of Christian people because Christian people can danger his life because of his mosque.

    September 20, 2010 at 8:45 pm |
  10. lpg

    Given the level of discourse here, I think I'll read the new Stephen Hawking book on why we don't need god to explain the design of the universe.

    September 20, 2010 at 8:42 pm |
  11. Kenagle

    Here we go again with "my god is better than your god." This world would be a much better place to live if all forms of religion didn't exist. "Everybody's waiting for judgement day. So they can go told you so!"

    September 20, 2010 at 8:36 pm |
  12. pat

    How sad the opposition all sound as ignorant as the KKK! take all your thoughts write em out and throw em away cause your opinion is worth less then the trash in your house!!! you have no argument only sad stories and brainwashed rhetoric! America will never sacrifice freedom of religion for personal issues you cry about boo hoo go suck on a lemon you fear mongers!!! or better yet move to china where you can get a jolly off of suppressing freedom!!!!

    September 20, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
  13. TomAmerican

    How very interesting that he is saying that this mosque is to promote peace and understanding, but he is staying away from it because of possible violence. With this kind of reaction before it is even built, what does he expect when it opens?

    If he feels that he is doing the right thing, he should fearlessly stand in front of the masses promoting his cause.

    But, he isn't.........

    September 20, 2010 at 8:32 pm |
  14. trying2save

    Agreed...He should be billed just like the pastor. Otherwise it will be legal discrimination.

    September 20, 2010 at 8:28 pm |
  15. Wake-Up

    Why was he NOT angry when his fellow Muslims were burning the American flag? Why has he NOT mentioned anything about it at all? Why is he NOT protecting his beloved country the USA? Way to many whys....

    September 20, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
  16. J.T.

    Hey Jason, look up the word "TRINITY" in the bible, you can't find it, the trinity was a made up doctrine used since around 400ad at the council of Nicae. fyi

    September 20, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
    • Wake-Up

      The Father, Son and Holy ghost. The trinity meaning 3.

      September 20, 2010 at 8:28 pm |
  17. chris

    Everyone’s wrong. The concept of religion is based on a delusion that has perpetuated itself over the course of history. If the Egyptians had been able to keep the belief of their gods going over the years we would all be worshiping Ra who was the universally-worshipped king of the gods and all-father of creation. But Christianity won out.

    It’s all a delusion.

    September 20, 2010 at 8:24 pm |
  18. misanthropicus

    Heavens! This jerk is wanted in the Union City Court for being a crass slumlord (see the Star-Ledger last monday story), and the MSM is still covering him as a victim! There simply are no limits as to the baseness MSM is willing to go when it comes to proving its enlightenment and open-midedness and lack of bigotry –

    September 20, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
  19. Michel

    My God! Thouest all nuts!

    September 20, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
  20. TheRationale

    Well if he's getting irregular police protection, he should be billed like that pastor.

    Also, it's funny. Now with Muslims being more vocal, Christians will have to deal with people as ridiculous as they are.

    September 20, 2010 at 8:13 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.