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'Ground Zero' imam wife says death threats made

The wife of an imam planning an Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero said yesterday 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 on ABC-TV's "This Week" program. Khan, the wife of 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."

Chief New York City police spokesman Paul Browne confirmed that Khan had told authorities about the telephone threats she'd received, adding that the police are investigating.

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, killing 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.

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.

Khan said moderate Muslims like she 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 released preliminary sketches of the planned Islamic center last week. He said groundbreaking is probably two to three years away.

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