- Associated Press - Sunday, October 3, 2010

NEW YORK | The wife of a Muslim imam planning a 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.

Mrs. Khan, who is 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.”

Chief police spokesman Paul Browne confirmed that Mrs. Khan had told authorities about the telephone threats she had received.

“There were telephone threats made,” Mr. Browne said, adding the police department was investigating.

Mrs. Rauf would be a spiritual leader of a 16-story Islamic center and mosque planned for Lower Manhattan two blocks north of where Muslim terrorists 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 massacre by Muslims is no place for an Islamic institution.

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

Besides Mrs. 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.

Mrs. Khan said that moderate Muslims like her must lead the fight against Islamic extremism but that Western criticism forces Muslims to back terrorism.

“This is what we Muslims want to do, but you have tied our hands,” she 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 Qaeda.”

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