October 3rd, 2010
07:33 PM ET

Police probe threats against New York Islamic center backers

CNN's Cheryl Robinson filed this report from New York:

The husband-and-wife team behind the planned Islamic center and mosque near New York's ground zero have received threats, a New York police spokesman said Sunday, hours after the wife said her life is under threat.

The threats "began several weeks ago," police spokesman Paul Browne told CNN "We were investigating them."

Browne would disclose no details of the threats made against Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf or his wife, Daisy Khan, or whether they were receiving any police protection.

Khan raised the issue during a discussion aired Sunday on ABC's "This Week," which spent this week's broadcast focusing on American Muslims and the fears evoked by the proposed Park51 Islamic center in New York and by mosques in other parts of the United States.

"For the record, my life is under threat," she said.

"Check with the Police Department. My husband's life is under threat," she added. "We do not walk around with bodyguards, because we love this country. We don't walk around with big bodyguards because we don't want use taxpayer's money."

Gary Bauer, a conservative Christian leader who opposes the Park51 project, responded that "Anybody in public life, in a free society, has nuts that threaten their lives."

However, associates of Rauf have said the imam is largely avoiding New York because of security concerns and is receiving protection from the New York Police Department. The Rev. James Parks Morton told CNN in September, "There's just a lot of crazies, and that's why he has police protection from the NYPD."

The planned Islamic center has drawn protests since June. Critics call the project insensitive to those who were killed by al Qaeda, the Islamic fundamentalist movement behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

Others warn it's a sign of growing Islamic influence in the United States.

But the project has the approval of New York city officials and the outspoken backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Khan and Rauf have said the center is aimed at "tolerance, understanding and peaceful co-existence," as Khan put it on ABC.

"This particular center will create a counter-momentum against extremism, because it will amplify the voices of moderate Muslims, which have gotten drowned out over the years by the extremists," she said.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Houses of worship • Islam • Mosque • New York • United States

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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.