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August 25th, 2010
11:07 AM ET

New York's Bloomberg: We are all Muslims

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

In a smart commentary on the shrill Republican silence in the face of the "Obama is a Muslim" nonsense, Slate’s John Dickerson wrote that "with so much traffic on the low road in American politics, you'd imagine a politician or two might take the high road simply to beat the congestion."

Well, New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to take the road less traveled.

We are now in the Islamic holy month of fasting called Ramadan, and Bloomberg hosted last night an annual iftar, or fast-breaking dinner, at Gracie Mansion.

In his his remarks, Bloomberg, who has previously supported the Park51 project in the name of both property rights and religious freedom, once again spoke truth to fear and hatred. He admitted that “there are people of good will on both sides of the debate." He acknowledged that the World Trade Center site is "hallowed ground." And he observed that “there are people of every faith–including, perhaps, some in this room–who are hoping that a compromise will end the debate.”

“But it won’t,” he said.

The community center can and must be built at the Park51 site, he said. Anything less would “compromise our commitment to fighting terror with freedom."

During his remarks, Bloomberg welcomed Talat Hamdani, whose son, Salman Hamdani, a paramedic and Ne York City Police Department cadet, died on 9/11. He also welcomed Sakibeh and Asaad Mustafa, whose children, he said, “have served our country overseas.”

Bloomberg brought home the point that the propaganda war now being waged on Islam in America threatens to undercut our counterinsurgency battle for "hearts and minds" in Iraq and Afghanistan.  “If we do not practice here at home what we preach abroad–if we do not lead by example–we undermine our soldiers,” he said. “We undermine our foreign policy objectives. And we undermine our national security."

Bloomberg ended his talk by quoting some words from the embattled Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf:

At an interfaith memorial service for the martyred journalist Daniel Pearl, Imam Rauf said, ‘If to be a Jew means to say with all one's heart, mind, and soul: Shma` Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ehad; Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One, not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one. If to be a Christian is to love the Lord our God with all of my heart, mind and soul, and to love for my fellow human being what I love for myself, then not only am I a Christian, but I have always been one.'

“In that spirit," Bloomberg concluded, in words that echoed John F. Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, "let me declare that we in New York are Jews and Christians and Muslims, and we always have been. And above all of that, we are Americans, each with an equal right to worship and pray where we choose. There is nowhere in the five boroughs that is off limits to any religion."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Church and state • Culture wars • Islam • Muslim • New York • Ramadan • Religious liberty

soundoff (1,202 Responses)
  1. Bobby

    I think Major Bloomberg was saying " We are All humans", no matter what religion, race, gender, we are! Untli we realize this in our hearts; we have met the enemy, and it is us!

    August 25, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  2. Tia

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/08/24/cesari.islam.is.a.religion/index.html?hpt=T2

    August 25, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
  3. free2comment

    @marcia

    If you insist on insulting people, best to understand exactly what it is you are talking about. A little reading on the subject will not hurt you one bit. Visit A pageinthelifeblogspot and start with 'The Secret of Min' since you are so smart and need to judge us and tell us all who we are, how to think, and what to do.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
  4. Eric of Reseda

    I am a proud Liberal. But the knee-jerk reactions of my fellow Liberals to brand anyone opposed to the Park51 project as a bigot or racist or religiously intolerant is absolute hypocrisy. The FACT is, there are ANY number of people who oppose the mosque who are reasonable and fair and educated human beings. Bloomberg says it himself. And while Obama says they have a RIGHT to build the mosque there, he CORRECTLY questioned the wisdom.

    NIMBY-ism is practiced and even embraced all over this country. Citizens have a right to voice opposition to what is built in their "backyards". And it's not just prisons or nuclear waste depositories. I find it offensive to build on or very near Native American burial sites, or for that matter, to tear down historical buildings in order to builld a bew branch of Citibank.

    What about the rights of New Yorkers opposed to the mosque? If the Imam truly wanted to be a genuine member of the community, why NOT seek a compromise? Why not honor the deep emotions of those opposed?

    And to criticise as irrational the suspicions of non-Muslims toward Islam is nonsense. Taking ALL politics out of it, blaming a "few radicals" no longer flies. The FACT is, from the Mideast, to South Asia, to the Phillipines, to Europe...and to NYC, Islam has been at the center of conflict. And thre conflict is intra-faith as well. Sunnis slaughtering Shia, Shia slaughtering Sunnis. A million dead in the Iraq-Iran conflict. Theo Van Gogh murdered for exercising his freedom in his own country. Cat Stevens condoning the fatwa (murder) of Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali running around the globe in fear for her life, AMERICAN Muslims attempting to blow the planes we travel on, and now...we see multiple honor killings IN AMERICA of young Muslim woman by their fathers (Amina and Sarah Said, Noor Almaleki, or Palestina Isa to name a few). And people question why Americans might be a little suspicious of Islam?!?

    In California, we now have a Muslim woman suing Disneyland because they will not allow her to wear a headscarf at work. This is outrageous. This is a blatant attempt to harm Disneyland via a suit and controversy. Disneyland's policy on wardrobe is well-known, long-standing, and a beloved tradition followed by every other employee. Disneyland employees are essentially actors playing a part and required to wear the costumes of the characters they play. This woman knew that going in. This is a clear example of Muslim intolerance, and tan attempt to force host cultures to bend to their will, for it is the will of Allah. I find this woman despicable.

    Before my fellow Liberals brand everyone opposed to the mosque as "haters", bigots, intolerant, Tea-Baggers, etc., you might want shelve the hypocrisy and take a broader look at the issue and understand that both sides of the issue have ample justification for their views.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  5. Mary

    Thank you, Mayor Bloomberg, for taking the high road on this issue.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
  6. Erik

    Way to go Bloomberg – rational and well-spoken.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
  7. VA4EVER

    hey there are fundamentalist in every religion, county and culture. We have too many of them in at home. Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Pat Robertson and etc. they are not any better than any Muslim fanatic.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
  8. Chris C.

    Bloomberg tries to remove tax breaks for Christian churches while working to give breaks to this Muslim group. He specifically sited separation of church and state when attacking the Christian churches recently but now suddenly jumps in with both feet for this Muslim group. The only religion the left defends is Muslim. What would happen to these lefties if they lived in Iran? Strange bedfellows indeed.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
  9. Nathanael

    Chris R.

    Yes, originally Jesus was preaching to the Jews. When they decided to not listen to his message he extended his word to the Gentiles. Christians as a group where not know as such until the Church at Antioch, referred to themselves as such. Proir to this they where referred to as "followers of the way".

    August 25, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
  10. noBama

    Looking at most of these comments just proves the west is nearly lost. As big a threat as Islamofacist are, the fifth column that has been infiltrating and eroding our culture and identity is an even greater danger. No need to argue ideology anymore. You can't win an argument with idiots anyway.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
  11. Solome

    See what I'm talking about_____ __READ: the post by AKEEM JABIL -violent attitudes will prevail and intolerance

    August 25, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
  12. guest

    We are screwed!! islam is here...

    August 25, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  13. mr. mark

    um... no, we're not. Bloomie has an armed police escort wherever he goes and an armored ride – the rest of us fend for ourselves. Wonder if he'd be so open if they were putting a Mosque next to his pricey brownstone... am sure he'd love the call to prayer at 5 AM on a sunday!

    August 25, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  14. kev

    Bloomberg is only doing this because he has nothing to lose. he's not up for re-election and he knows the masses wouldn't vote him to be president.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  15. Tommy Shaw

    Okay, so NOW I see why so many New Yorkers voted for "B."
    Timothey McVeigh was an American and veteran. Are all Veterans and Americans banned from having churches or meetings near that site?

    It is difficult, but true Americans rise above the hatred and meanness, the selfishness that is currently aimed at muslims. I am an American and veteran. I was told we were fighting to uphold our way of life against tyranny.

    Shame on those who do not uphold those freedoms that so many have given their lives to maintian for us all.
    Evil fascists. Check your WWII history if you don't get it.

    t

    August 25, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  16. JGS

    joldham pray all you want, like i said just a waste of your time. religion is going to be the downfall of this world. there is no god and the bible was a bunch of camp time stories thrown into a book for your reading pleasure. however in the matter of nyc. the same guys who tapped innocent peoples phone lines after 9/ 11 and then racially profiled thousands of people are now agreeing with the muslims? i just think this is a, im sorry we stepped on your toes, thing. No one wants that mosque near the wtc site, but its politicians doing there fav thing kissing ass and lying to the american people.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  17. fairness-for-all

    so by these means, we can build the mosque and right on either side we can sell pork products and other non-muslim products. Cause fair is fair regardless of whom is offended. We can build it, and right infront have pickinting a24-7. We can build it, and in return have people in the neighborhood uneasy. We can build it, and have our overseas troops loose moral, but we can build it. When it call goes down the drain, don;t complain!

    August 25, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  18. sammy

    Although I disagree with having the mosque at Ground Zero (and therefore disagree with Bloomberg), I think it's a shame that the title of this article is misrepresenting of Bloomberg's words. He did NOT say that we are all Muslims. He said "...we in New York are Jews and Christians and Muslims..." He was not saying that we are all Muslims. He was not saying that we are all Christians or Jews. He is stating that the city is made up of Muslims, Christians and Jews (and although he didn't mention other religions, he didn't intend to exclude them).
    Let's get our reporting right. It's a shame that we have to twist the truth to get a headline that will get people to click on a link.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  19. Joe from Ohio

    The second largest shareholder (behind Rupert Murdoch) in News Corp (Fox News) is Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the building of the Muslim community center. (When Fox reports the story they don’t say his name so he can’t be traced back to them)
    In other ‘ironic’ news,
    Rupert Murdoch recently took a stake in the prince's Middle East-based media conglomerate, Rotana Group. Murdoch is working on launching an Arabic news network.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  20. steve Schoner

    Islam can build their "Victory Mosque" anywhere BUT THERE !

    WAKE UP AMERICA !

    To allow them to do so is the same as if Shinto priests propose a shrine to honor their erstwhile "god emperor" Hirohito at Pearl Harbor...

    SAME DIFFERENCE !

    But the difference really is that the Japanese would NEVER PROPOSE SUCH A THING.

    Whereas the arrogant followers of Islam are going to construct a "Victory Mosque" to honor their "Magnificent 19" that did the deed on 9/11 2001 !

    I don't buy any of the bunk that it is to present a better face to that atrocious religion called "Islam."

    READ THE KORAN PEOPLE ! Especially the American Dhimmis' who for the sake of "political correctness" bow down to the demands of Islam.

    If they get their way, and Sharia Law is ever implemented here in the U.S, those DHIMMI's will be the first to have their heads cut off...

    August 25, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.