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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. DEEDEE

    SO now we supply him with a SECURITY DETAIL?? The man should provide his own security.. taxpayers are now paying for this man in more ways then one!

    September 20, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  2. Amor

    @ Coptic and M&M....I can't believe how nonsensical these two idiots comments are. If you believe Jesus (peace be upon him) was the son of God, then that is your belief, but we Muslims believe he (peace be upon him) was a prophet and messenger of God. You believe what you want and let us believe what we want, we will soon find out who is right.
    Besides how can you say you respect Jesus (peace be upon him) more than us Muslims when you show him half naked, pegged on a cross, is this your love for him? If your parents or someone you loved died in a horrible accident (God forbid), would you remember them by creating a statue of them in that state? I'd think not.
    Also it makes no sense whatsoever for someone to die so all Christians can sin as much as they want, because Jesus (peace be upon him) died for their sins.
    Yeah right, but you still go to jail for robbing, murder, speeding, etc, etc, why? Where is your savior now?
    So stop being childish, and don't point fingers at other religions just because you follow Christianity.
    We Muslims respect all religions, and our belief is that you will not believe what we believe, and we will not believe what you believe, so to you be your religion, and to us ours. Peace!

    September 20, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
    • Mike

      Amor, do you see that thing you're doing there? That (peace be to him) thing? You apparently think that matters, otherwise you wouldn't do it. So whatever you believe in has you so worried that you think there might be some negative repercussions unless you address that higher power properly. On the internet. Can you SEE why we're worried yet?

      I'm mildly amused that this is happening in NYC, because if there is anyplace in the US where the average citizen can smell a rat, it's there. "Oh, yeah, it's just a community center...you know, nothing major..." Yeah, hit the road pal.

      These guys are playing us for suckers, and we're left looking like idiots because of how the country was founded, with freedom of speech and religion and all that. I don't know how we're going to close that loophole, but that's exactly what it is.

      Freedom of speech...so if I'm walking down the street in NYC and call someone an idiot who looks like he got his face caught in a blender, do you really think that they'd say, "Welp, you have the right to say that!" Probably not. The Imam is basically telling us to suck it, because we have to, our law says so. And people are surprised because we're rolling up our sleeves?

      Yeah, it's hypocritical, but don't kid yourselves: it's very, VERY American. This is a slow-motion invasion, we're smelling rats, and we're protecting our own. I don't understand why people come here if they don't want to BE American. Obviously, some people don't want to BE Americans, so there must be some other reason for them being here.

      Organized religion causes trouble. Why can't people see that?

      September 21, 2010 at 12:35 am |
  3. cy

    I have to say comparing to most Eastern cultures we Americans are very easily influenced by media. I.E. most of us hate Iraq and supported the war, believing all the lies we were told and never believed the other side no matter what they did. We are also very focused on revenge and will never forget or forgive. After all we did the "shock and Awe" where we destroyed all major buildings. We have prisoners in Cuba who after 9 years have still not been charged.... Yet Iraqi and Iranian people loves us as people. They have not leveled our country like we did theirs yet we are still after revenge from anyone we can even those who had nothing to do with 9/11. If you believe any thing you hear then you are not very well informed about both sides of the story and when you make derogatory comments it just demonstrates your lack of intellectual ability

    September 20, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
  4. 21st Century America

    I had some empathy for this guy and his cause until he said, in effect, that if this mosque/cultural center doesn't get built, it will fuel anger and resentment amongst extremists abroad and potentially lead to more violence both here and around the world. SO what the hell does that mean? It means that according to our favorite Imam, America now has to make its domestic decisions based on whether or not it offends would be terrorists. What a ridiculously presumptuous and arrogant statement to make. One can argue that it is a veiled threat you say? Haven't similar statements been made by similar leaders in countries like France and the Netherlands? But my fellow sheep, IMHO this guy is no different than any other political opportunist to come down the pike, in that the is playing the system. So well I think, that perhaps he should consider running for public office in the US (he is a slumlord after all – what can be more American than that?) and he certainly has the doublespeak down and can hold his own in front of a camera – much better and more convincing than those amateurs broadcasting from those caves on the Pakistani border. They are so stiff after all!

    Speaking of Muslim extremists and their followers, in case you hadn't noticed, this is already a win-win situation for them. If this place doesn't get built (according to Imam), their assumptions turn out to be true and their resentment is fueled. If it DOES get built, you know for damn sure the same set of fun-loving guys will be saying to their minions that the politicians and policy makers in the US cowered under pressure and fear because of what the Imam said. They will be "right" either way. Why? Because in the 21st century America is ALWAYS wrong. You see our media is so busy tripping over itself following our fearless leader's example of apologizing to the world for everything America has ever done that the very idea that America's concerns or fears might be justified starts to seem obscene and imperialistic. Its all just relativism spewing from the editorial pages of the NYT, CNN, etc.

    The great irony is of course, that when America finally does become a Muslim country, it will be oddly refreshing in a way, as sharia law really does paint things out in black and white. No exceptions and no moral relativism there. No sir. Not our morality mind you, but a morality nonetheless. Kids will be able to play in the streets again as would be child molesters will hang from lampposts even if they dare look towards the direction of a school or playground (without a trial or due process), and thieves will be easily identified by their missing hands. In fact the more I think about it, the better it sounds compared to what we have now.

    Hmm... Perhaps I should go turban shopping and get fitted for one before the mad rush starts at Costco....

    September 20, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
  5. dave

    you know, I dont know how many people on this site have been in a life or death situation. but when it happens and you survive, you step back years later and you wake up. I believe in a higher power..God-Jesus-Spiritual beings. that what this country was founded on. Muslims you got a rough road a head of you. until the cultural background of your civilazation can conduct like real human beings and stop the violence your country will always be a threat even the one's that are living here as we speak..but were at the end of the world I can feel it. Iran has nuclear capability give it a few years and Israel and iran will be at war.one nuke goes off and thats all it will take. be nice people life as we know it will end!!

    September 20, 2010 at 11:10 pm |
  6. jondark

    i am anti mosque and as the imam can tell there are a lot of us but how stupid is he not to get that because he insists on going through with the building of the mosque, his life is in jeopardy, doesn't he get it, we don't want his mosque at ground zero,
    what does he neen, the mosque to fall on his head before he gets it...
    go ahead imam, build it, die for your convictions, which is likely what will happen, ya idiot...

    September 20, 2010 at 11:08 pm |
  7. JohnD

    So the moderate muslim who's been making veiled threats, attempting to force a mosque disguised as a community center as a trophy for islam near ground zero, doing everything he can to create problems between Islam and the US, surrounded by thugs and terrorists and trying to create an America where non-muslims can remain here as Dhimmis is concerned that this got a few informed Americans upset.

    September 20, 2010 at 10:58 pm |
  8. Daniel

    You people don't even realize how good you have it in America. No democracy you say? What do you think will happen in a lot of other countries if you say bad things about your president or government? Do you even know that they won't let you build churches with ridiculously made up reasons? Do you know they want to close down churches because they "disturb the moslems?" Do you know they stab you when you come churches? Do you know that they want all women to wear hijab even when they're not moslems? Do you know that they won't allow us to build schools unless they're moslem schools? Do you even know all of that?? I do because I live in one of those countries. And you think America is bad???? Sheesh... OPEN YOUR EYES!

    September 20, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
  9. Amy

    Why is there always problems wherever there is Islam? India, Indonesia, Israel, Europe and now us. Geez anyone see a pattern here? Peace I think not. Muslims can't get along with any other culture or religion besides themselves. Peace is not one sided FYI.

    September 20, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  10. USARight

    I hope NYC Police send him a bill for the protection. Fare is Fare.

    September 20, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
  11. AZ/EZdoesit

    Jesus never once mentioned in the Holy Bible that he was GOD.... Did Jesus say to GOD "LORD forgive them for they know not what they do" or was it someone else asking GOD to forgive them??? READ your Bible and open your eyes and your mind.

    PEACE!

    September 20, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
    • ttwp

      Jesus did indeed claim to be God, his disciples knew him to be God in the flesh and even the Pharisees knew and didn't like that Jesus claimed himself to be God.

      We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God." John 10:33

      If he was not claiming to be God, why would they wish to kill him. I encourage you read the Bible again. There are many passages where Jesus claimed to be God.

      September 21, 2010 at 9:17 am |
  12. USARight

    I hope the NYC Police send him a bill for the protection he is getting. Fare is fare.

    September 20, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  13. Sophie Denmark

    The only news CNN runs are about Muslims, and earthquakes. I bet i by any day, if there was no news about any muslims or anything that has to do about them, then the only news that they would air would be re runs about possible coming earthquakes and hurricans.

    September 20, 2010 at 10:09 pm |
  14. Serinanth

    Ramen to that Dan.

    September 20, 2010 at 10:09 pm |
  15. Frogist

    I'm glad the police are protecting him. I had feared his life would be threatened. I hope he takes care of himself and is safe. I respect this man and his views. And I support his cause. From the misunderstanding about Islam and the downright biased and even racist tone of the responses to this article, people need to learn more about their muslim bretheren. We need his voice. I'm glad I stood up for him in New York. I wish you and your family well, Imam Rauf.

    September 20, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
  16. JC

    Whether you're for the mosque or against it, you gotta admit, the irony is simply delicious.

    September 20, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
  17. Shampoo

    not surprised that the idea of building a facility in which physical activity is involved would infuriate Americans. Double Down y'all!

    September 20, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
  18. ReneeS

    I just think it's in poor taste. For so many reasons. It's not a battle that will bring any kind of peace or harmony in the end.

    September 20, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
    • Edward

      Nicely said.

      September 20, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
  19. dwighthuth

    Do not listen to American's like Jimmy Carter who say that the Islamic Facility is not an intrusion upon the rights of American's. It is an intrusion upon the very foundation that America is built upon. The facility is an intrustion upon a word called respect. Respect that has not been shown. The words that have been spoken by those in support of the facility are words of haste not of thought. Remember those that have given their all for this country in the fight against terror, a war that is not over nor will be over until every citizen of the world is free from tyranny and lives the warmth of the sun and knowledge of the stars without fear.

    The pass is open in New York...the pass must be defended against.

    September 20, 2010 at 9:49 pm |
  20. ed

    1. they have the right to build the mosque
    2. just because they have the right to does not mean they should out of consideration to the family's of those who died in the towers.
    3. There are over one hundred mosque's in the area, so no one is disputing their religious rights -only the location.
    4. If they were serious about harmony they would move the mosque.
    5. As far as I know the Muslim religion is the only one with fanatics that are violent and will kill you for making an imaging of for saying anything negative about mohammad.

    September 20, 2010 at 9:47 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.