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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. Zaggs

    Yet the world over Muslims continue to forcibly exclude members of other religions without a peep from people like Bloomberg or Prothero. Why are these holier then thow types lie Prothero not making the same demands of Muslims as they make unto others? None of these people are bothered by the fact the Park51 Iman doesn't unequivocally denounce the nastier aspects of Sharia law (or as Rauf would say "purely local customs, no muslim has ever preached such things")or terrorist attacks. of course Rauf also spreads the lie that America is responsible for the death of half a million Iraqi children, at a time Iraq was building palaces for their elite. Tolerance does not mean you let someone do whatever they want whenever they want to, thats being subjugated.
    Hell in this country right now Muslims have avoided the death penalty for killing their own daughters for being "too westernized" simply because they are muslims. Does Rauf speak out against this? NO. Does the muslim community speak out against this? No! Do people like Bloomberg, Pothero or Obama hold the Muslim community to the same standard as everyone else? No. If neo nazi's wanted to put an effigy of hitler on a holocaust museum, who would stand for it? If a white father murdered his daughter and friend because they were dating blacks would they not get the death penalty?

    August 25, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  2. Mike in SA

    No, Mr. Bloomberg, I am not a Muslim. I am, however, a tolerant American Christian who has nothing but love in my heart for all who desire peace. Saying that, however, perhaps, just perhaps, we here in America are wary of Islam and Muslims because of what we read daily in out papers, see on TV, and read on hte Internet, such as this just posted on CNN: Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) - Just after the United States completed its drawdown of combat brigades in Iraq, militants Wednesday launched a wave of bombings across the country mostly targeting security forces.
    At least 48 people died and at least 286 others were wounded in 13 cities. The locations included Baghdad, the capital, and large towns in the northern, western, and southern quadrants of the nation. The only region that appeared to be spared the onslaught was the three-province Kurdish autonomous region in the north.

    I know that this is infighting amongst themselves in many cases, but...if they are so willing to kill, maim, and destroy those of the same faith, but different sect, how much more willing are they to try and destroy us?

    I *am not* saying be intolerant, but I am saying be wary.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  3. WVlady62

    Hopefully come election time Bloomberg will be out! I resent being labeled a muslim. These people come under the guise of being quiet, peace loving individuals but they have repeatedly shown their true colors. If you think this mosque is strictly for peaceful purposes, you have to be a bleeding heart liberal who continues to work feverishly for the good of people who are trying to destroy America and its people, from the inside out!!! Muslims are building these mosques all across America silently so that by the time America sees what they have done, it will be too late. These toe holds are an in for them to destroy America. You bleeders just keep thinking that muslims are our friends and when the time comes, and it will, you will be begging for those of us who saw through them from the beginning, to bail you out of a horrific situation!!!!

    August 25, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  4. das0522

    I hope the people of NYC have to good sense to vote him out in the next election (or is he mayor for life now?)

    August 25, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  5. Antonius Colts

    If only Bloomberg understood that Islam doesn't agree with his statement.

    "Believers, do not make friends with any but your own people...They desire nothing but your ruin....You believe in the entire Book...When they meet you they say: 'We, too, are believers.' But when alone, they bite their finger-tips with rage." (Surah 3:118, 119)

    "The only true faith in God's sight is Islam." (Surah 3:19)

    "Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends." (Surah 5:51)

    "Slay them wherever you find them...Idolatry is worse than carnage...Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God's religion reigns supreme." (Surah 2:190-)

    August 25, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • free2comment

      @Antonius Colts
      If you MUST insist on Quoting out of context and out of ignorance, you need a primer. Read "The UFO Human Link' Apageinthelife blogspot top to bottom.

      August 25, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  6. Chuck

    Get rid of the madrases that teach uneducated children to hate! This is going on all over the Muslim world! And hey history buff it is stated that there are over 200 million radical Muslims. Small majority, I don't think so!

    August 25, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • free2comment

      @ Chuck
      Replace them with this "A Page In The Life" blogspot

      August 25, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
    • Omar

      If there are over 200 million radical muslims then there are at least 1 billion moderate muslims and a lot of them have spoken out against this actions of Al Qaeda.

      August 25, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  7. Mr. Stark

    Right, so freedom of speech can/could be compared to freedom of religion. Yelling "fire" in a crowded theater is not acceptable. Saying that there's no place that is off limits is like saying you can get down on your knees the middle of a highway and pray. Give me a break with the "religious freedom" bs that means anything goes. It just ain't so.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
    • Omar

      You can't yell "fire" in a theater because it is illegal to do so. Maybe you should try to understand that our rights exist within the scope of the law. The Muslim community in New York have done nothing illegal so why should their rights be taken away?

      August 25, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  8. Upstate Jim

    How can the mayor go from taking such a great stand and speaking such beautiful words on the mosque issue to telling the governor of NY to go after taxes from Indian tribes wearing a cowboy hat and holding a shotgun? Makes you wonder if he really feels that way about Muslims and the mosque or if he does have other motives....

    August 25, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  9. Langor

    Another load of Bloomcrap, how refreshing. So we should all respect the man who had the election rules rewritten in his favor and paid for another term as mayor... Idiots and sheeple.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
    • free2comment

      @Langor

      There is a Reason why Bloomi is Rich and you are Not. Bring on more
      Bloomcrap!

      August 25, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
  10. Kris

    If higher pecentage of the people in world would think like Mr.Bloomberg this world would be a better place to live.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  11. Sidb

    The reason we cannot build a church in a Muslim country is that we are better. We are open minded to letting people worship as they choose – at least for now. Build it, but do not even begin to try to impose Sharia law – that is a line you cannot cross. Although for you prophecy buffs out there – my guess is that Islam will be the one world religion. But I don't care I'll be gone at that point.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  12. Chuck

    For all the the Muslims that are peace loving please understand that the only way for you to fix what is going on is take back your religion! It has been hijacked by people that embrace death, stoning, beheadings, honor killings and the mistreatment of women. No one else can do it! Every religion has it's issues, however embrace life and tolerance of others! Move the mosque, it is insensitive to the people that lost loved ones on that horrible day! This would not be a place of healing but a place that is a sore for many Americans!

    August 25, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  13. JohnUtah

    All those ignorant people who says not all Muslims are terrorist but all Terrorists are muslims I have some info for you.
    Definition of terrorism is the following: the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes/the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
    Sounds alot like what the brutal Israeli regime has been doing towards the Palestine people for decades, bulldozing their houses, indiscriminantly attacking them, cutting off aid, cutting off clean water, taking large chunks of their land for expansion purposes and lets not get started with the US military and the amount of innocent civilians who they have killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. You think those people have felt TERRORIZED?

    August 25, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  14. JT

    How is the rebuilding of Ground Zero going? I think people that trullly care about that site should start donating time to rebuild that site. We are so concerned with what is happening 2 blocks away that we forget what is going on at ground zero. I guess the idea of actions speak louder than words doesn't apply. Rudy and Bush said we will rebuild to show them, so maybe the country should come together and get it done.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  15. Aede

    I sure am not a Moslem so please count me out of your list.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  16. free2comment

    @frasier6670
    no, but you can be duped into believing what you do already. Read and Get Real.
    Start Here Apageinthelifeblogspot com, 'The Secret of Min' or 'A Tree, An Apple, A Wineskin' or find your forte and go with that.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  17. Bev

    WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO "FREEDOM OF RELIGION"?????

    August 25, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
    • rivirivi

      I ask: When oh WHEN would the world be FREE of religion?

      August 25, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
  18. sk

    -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.'--

    I wonder if the Imam will say that all Muslims are Christians and Jews in the same spirit. I sure would like to hear it. Or will his religion not allow him to proclaim this.???

    It is easy to philosophize and spew out all this religious equality stuff... where is the practice? If this Imam is about peace he should consider how his mosque is opening the wounds of 911. He is smart enough to know the difference between Muslim rights to build there and human sensitivity for people that lost their loved ones there due to Muslim fanatics. How does a leader of a "" religion of peace"" not understand this unless he chooses not to??

    Give me a break Bloomberg ! Stop being led by your self righteous talk and look at the facts - where is your allegiance to NY and support for the 911 victims?? ..

    Rudy Guiliani is right - He needs to be back on the NY scene.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  19. John Lennon lives

    Imagine NO RELIGION
    I wonder if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky

    Imagine all the people, living life in Peace. (you may say that Im a dreamer. but I'm not the only one...)

    August 25, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  20. Von

    ‘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 NOT a Jew, I have NEVER 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 NOT a Christian, but I have NEVER been one.' "I am NOT a Muslim, either, and I have NEVER been one. And, there is nowhere in the five boroughs that is off limits to FIGHT any ignorant, bigoted, human made belief system". Bloomberg that.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:31 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.