"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.
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."
Chief 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.
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.
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 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.