Image: Daisy Khan, co-founder of the Cordoba Initiative
Getty Images file
"We do not walk around with bodyguards because we love this country," says Daisy Khan, the wife of an imam who is planning an Islamic center and mosque in Manhattan.
updated 10/4/2010 5:18:03 AM ET 2010-10-04T09:18:03

The wife of an imam planning an Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero said Sunday that she and her husband have received death threats.

"For the record, my life is under threat," Daisy Khan said during a town hall debate on Islam broadcast on ABC's "This Week" news program.

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Khan, who's married to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, said her husband's life also is under threat but, "We do not walk around with bodyguards because we love this country."

Police spokesman Paul Browne confirmed that Khan had told authorities about the telephone threats she'd received.

"There were telephone threats made," Browne said, adding the police department was investigating.

Nationwide debate
Rauf would be a spiritual leader of a 16-story Islamic center and mosque planned for lower Manhattan two blocks north of where Islamic extremists destroyed the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and killed nearly 2,800 people.

But the center's location has upset some relatives of Sept. 11 victims and stirred nationwide debate and angry demands that it be moved. Critics say the site of mass murder by Islamic extremists is no place for an Islamic institution, while supporters of the center say religious freedom should be protected.

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The debate on "This Week" posed the question, "Should Americans fear Islam?"

Besides Khan, panelists included two relatives of Sept. 11 victims, former FBI agent Brad Garrett and the Rev. Franklin Graham, who heads the evangelical Christian organization founded by his father, Billy Graham.

Video: Imam defends ground zero Islamic center (on this page)

Khan said that moderate Muslims like her must lead the fight against extremists in their religion.

"This is what we Muslims want to do, but you have tied our hands," Khan said. "You don't allow us to do this because you brand somebody like me as an extremist and throw me into the arms of al-Qaida."

Developer Sharif El-Gamal last week released preliminary sketches of the planned Islamic center . He said groundbreaking is probably two to three years away.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Interactive: Proposed mosque spurs controversy

Video: Islamic center developer: ‘Community wants this’

  1. Closed captioning of: Islamic center developer: ‘Community wants this’

    >> the developer behind the proposed islamic community center is here. nice to have you here.

    >> good morning, matt, nice to be here.

    >> i don't remember an issue that has generated so much talk, so much rhetoric, so much controversy. you have said your plans go forward, you will continue along this path. do you expect that in the near future, the opposition will simply melt away and fadeaway?

    >> this has been very unexpected. it's been an eye opener to see how my country, the united states views my religion, islam. it's been a very humbling moment. and it's been a very sad moment for me personally.

    >> you say unexpected. at no point during your plans when you were proposing this idea and thinking about it and buying that site did you say, wait a minute, you know, this could cause some controversy? i know a lot of people question that.

    >> you know, it's really been very unexpected. what happened that day was a very horrific event that i do not feel that -- the people that were responsible for that event were people that hijacked my religion and my identity. just imagine if somebody went and stole your wallet and committed identity theft. that's what's happened to me and to my community .

    >> i mention and actually ron mentioned in his piece that some of the discussion has been well thought out, measured. a lot of it habs been bitter and very personal. are you fair game ? as the developer of this project, do you think that goes with the turf?

    >> it's all been very unexpected. i mean there's been so many misperceptions about me personally that have been perpetrateded in the media and in all the forums and there's so many inaccuracies that have been portrayed about us.

    >> had he known that all of this controversy been generated he probably wouldn't have gone through with his plans. now he says he cannot back away because he does not want to allow the radicals to cause the discourse. you know the polling numbers, a wide majority of americans say no, this should not be built at that location. what do you make of those numbers?

    >> well, i mean some of the facts that are not being accurately portrayed is that our community wants this.

    >> when you say our community , whose community ?

    >> the residents of lower manhattan . we went through a voluntary process and we engaged our community , our constituents, the residents and neighbors and friends who reside in lower manhattan and on four separate occasions, two of them, they voted unanimously for this project. on the other two occasions they voted overwhelmingly in favor, 29-1 and not a lot of people understand that we engaged our community , we got their approval and blessings prior to proceeding with these plans.

    >> obviously there are some people down there who do not want this. i think your background is interesting and i want to make sure people understand it. you're born in brooklyn, you're a new yorker.

    >> i am.

    >> you're an american.

    >> i am.

    >> your father was a catholic and your father was a nonpractice muslim. you are a practicing muslim?

    >> i am.

    >> when you view this project, do you view it as a business deal , or do you view this on a more personal level, on a more spiritual level?

    >> it's turned into both. it's turned into an opportunity to give back to a community that has given me so much. as an american, as someone who has prospered in this country, as someone who has gotten a lot from the city, this is an opportunity for us to give back. this is an opportunity for us to give back to a residential neighborhood that not a lot of people know that is the fastest growing district neighborhood in new york state.

    >> a couple of things real quickly. there is a report on one of the websites overnight that a deal may in fact be in the works to move this center to a location at 30 cliff street which is about seven blocks away. can you confirm or deny that there are still discussions underway about moving this project?

    >> there are no discussions about moving this project.

    >> absolutely not?

    >> there are no discussions about moving this project.

    >> who is ultimately going to call the shots here? are you the final decision maker or are other people going to make a decision, is the imam who's going to have a say? or are you calling the shots?

    >> i am calling the shots. in a real estate transaction there are different elements that come into play, but ultimately as the managing member, we are calling the shots.

    >> and finally how has this changed your view of living as a muslim american in this country, how did it change from before this controversy erupted?

    >> this has been an eye opener. it's been truly an eye opener and there is so much work ahead of us, there's such a misperception about my faith and my belief system. and we are peace loving americans. we want the same things that everybody else wants. one of the things that in order to be a muslim, you have to be a good jew and a good christian at the same time. not a lot of people understand who we are. and that is part of the reason, you know, fear, fear makes people irrational. and our identity has been hijacked by the extremists.

    >> i appreciate your joining me this morning. thank you very

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