"It became clear to him that he would have difficulty functioning as an FDNY chaplain," Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta told reporters on Friday an hour before Imam Intikab Habib - who has been on the job for six weeks - was to be officially sworn in. "There has been no prior indication that he held those views."
Habib told the Newsday newspaper that he was sceptical of the official version of the attack on the World Trade Center, which killed 343 members of the Fire Department of New York. The newspaper published the interview hours before the swearing-in ceremony on Friday.
"It takes two or three weeks to demolish a building like that. But it was pulled down in a couple of hours," Habib told the newspaper. "Was it 19 hijackers who brought it down, or was it a conspiracy?"
The 30-year Guyana native joined the department as chaplain on 15 August after the FDNY's Islamic Society recommended him for the part-time position, which pays $18,000 a year.
Scoppetta said Habib, who was educated in Islamic law in Saudi Arabia and preaches at a New York mosque, had appeared qualified and passed a background check.
"It's sad," said Kevin James, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Fire Department Personnel. "We had no idea those were his views. He's entitled to his opinion but he's not the right person for the chaplain."