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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. wlx

    Eric, you are dead on. These bigots will never see anything beyond their wife beater tee's and the Wal-Mart parking lot. This country was founded by people seeking religious freedom, but now we are only interested in Christian freedom? Should we make sure no church goes up near the site of the OK City bombing, out of respect for the dead, since a christian pulled that off? I love the comments about these rights being for citizens only. As if the muslim community is all illegal aliens. Even the comments about it being "insensitive" are veiled racism. Why is it insensitive? There is no longer a separation of church and state (Bush prayed for the right decision when considering invading Iraq. Looks like god f'd up that answer!) and I am tired of this discussion. The ignorance in this country frightens me tremendously, and the fact is that the Tea Baggers and the GOP are fueling it because they have nothing of their own to stand on ("If we can't come up with a solution, lets just scare people about the other side"). Muslims are devisive? All religion is divisive mind control. If you must preach, remember "love thy neighbor". These people wouldn't want us dead if we treated them with the same respect we are demanding.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
    • MESSED UP

      WIFE BEATER, WAL MART. YOU ARE QUITE THE RACIST, AREN'T YOU? SUPPORTS MUSLIMS AND THEIR MESSED UP VICTORY MOSQUE BUT AT THE SAME TIME BADMOUTHS WHITE PEOPLE AND THE ONES THAT OPPOSE THE MOSQUE. I AM A MEDICAL DOCTOR AND I STRONGLY OPPOSE THE MOSQUE AS WELL AS ISLAM. ISLAM IS BACKWARD, HATEFUL, INTOLERANT AND IS NOT COMPATIBLE WITH OUR WESTERN VALUES. MORONS LIKE YOU WOULD PROBABLY BE BETTER OFF IN SOME MUSLIM COUNTRY. THERE'S LOTS OF RACISTS AND ANTI-SEMITES THERE, JUST YOUR LEAGUE.

      August 25, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
    • Frogist

      LOL A medical doctor? Are you sure? It's hard to believe you are a highly educated person what with the lack of any punctuation or knowledge of caps lock. The inability to separate your emotion from sussing out a problem logically is also a clue...

      August 26, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  2. Amin

    ALL YOU WHO HAVE SHORT MEMORIES....300 MUSLIMS DIED IN 9/11....THAT'S 300, INCLUDING ONE OF MY RELATIVES.....I AM A MUSLIM...AN AMERICAN MUSLIM....WHO ARE YOU TO SPEAK FOR THE FAMILIES THAT LOST THEIR LOVED ONES......WAKE UP, ONLY THOSE HIJACKERS WERE THE CRIMINALS, AND I SAY AND MEAN ONLY......I DON'T EVEN THINK ANY MUSLIM NEED TO APOLOGIZE FOR WHAT THEY HAVEN'T DONE....DOES IT EVEN MAKE SENSE THAT YOU OR ANYONE OF YOU NEED TO APOLOGIZE FOR WHAT VAN DER SLOOT HAVE DONE TO THAT POOR TEENAGER JUST BECAUSE HE IS WHITE OR SAY FROM THE WEST OR........I AM SO SAD TO SEE HOW MANY UNINTELLIGENT COMMENTS ON HERE, WHEN YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE LEARNED AND SUPPOSED TO THINK BEFORE PREACHING YOUR HATRED TOWARDS PEOPLE THAT ARE INNOCENT.....I WASN'T INVOLVED IN THE 9/11 CRIME THEN WHY DO I NEED TO APOLOGIZE ? BUT EVEN WITH THAT WE , THE MUSLIMS , HAVE BEEN SPEAKING OUT LOUD AGAINST TERRORISM BUT YOU STILL INSIST, BECAUSE YOU HEARD SOMETHING ELSE ON FOX NEWS, THAT WE DON'T CONDEMN 9/11 CRIME OR ANY CRIME FOR THAT MATTER....

    WAKE UP PEOPLE, WE ARE ALL AMERICANS, AND EVEN BEFORE THAT WE ARE ALL BROTHERS AND SISTERS , SO LET'S LEARN TO LIVE TOGETHER AND LOVE EACH OTHER.....

    August 25, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
    • NO GROUND ZERO VICTORY MOSQUE

      If your ideology called islam is so great and peaceful, so then you should build the victory mosque elsewhere. People don't want it. and if you don't like this idea, maybe you should move to Saudi Arabia or iran where they will certainly support you. And BTW: 300 dead muslims? That's the biggest BS I read this week. Typical muslim propaganda. Shame on you.

      August 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
    • MESSED UP

      IF YOU WANT TO PRACTICE YOUR MESSED UP AND HATEFUL RELIGION THEN YOU SHOULD MOVE TO SOME MUSLIM COUNTRY. ISLAM IS NOT WELCOME HERE. SUCK IT UP.

      August 25, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
    • rivirivi

      Like I said before: LET"S build a building for Buddhists, a building for Catholics & Christians and a building for Hinduism right there in Mecca. Are you going the help with the plans, building supplies? THAT WOULD BE SO WONDERFUL!

      August 25, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
    • Frogist

      Amin, I am sorry for your loss. The rest of you should be ashamed for not acknolwedging that. It's like you don't care about his family or feelings... hmmm who's being insensitive now?

      August 26, 2010 at 10:30 am |
  3. Chris C

    I am a religious person and I've got an idea. People from my faith will blow up the next WTC and then demand our temple be included as part of the rebuilding of the WTC. Darn, am I smart...

    August 25, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
  4. Draeggo

    To Dan:

    That is the greatest thing about freedom in the US of A... nobody has to answer your question... at all. If some people would get over themselves... they might see what freedom really is... including the freedom to demand answers for idiotic questions.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  5. Lucy

    Mayor Bloomberg and many Americans are sadly mistaken about the true nature of Islam. Studying their holy book, they are told to "smile to our faces while hating us in their hearts" so they cannot be trusted. They are out to take over. This is not about bigotry, tolerance or any other such thing - it is about the freedom of Americans and the enemy within.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
    • Hassan

      Your quote isn't from a holy book. It's a recorded opinion from one of the contemporaries of Muhammad, on the question of how to treat people that you hate, or who are antagonistic and hateful towards you. Instead of acting aggressively, he said they learned to "smile in their faces even though we hate them in our hearts." It's essentially trying to prevent violence between antagonistic groups of people.

      August 26, 2010 at 1:49 am |
  6. Mojo

    Wow, I am amazed what an ignorant fool Bloomberg and most of the posters on this board are. Bloomberg's job is to serve the people who elected him. He doesn't serve them, he has his own agenda. And even worse, he goes on and compares a hateful, backward and intolerant religion that doesn't have a problem with prosecuting religious minorities in muslim countries, gives the death penalty to apostate or distancing itself from 9/11 like it really means it etc. As a lame excuse, they say that's not true islam. BS! They just follow the koran and if you disagree, you should probably go read the koran and the haddiths yourself instead of wasting your time posting comments here. And BTW: Bloomberg, You are fired.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
  7. TIMOTHY

    The Proverbs 27:17
    Iron sharpeneth iron So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
  8. Zaggs

    Yomamma14, no not al muslims are jihadists....but how many muslims stand up to the jihadists or even denounce them. Oh yeah, very few.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
    • Consistent Thinker

      I think the proper question is how much media attention gets spent on Muslims who do speak against Muslim extremist!

      August 25, 2010 at 9:27 pm |
  9. Political Correctness Destroys

    At face value, the arguments in favor of the NY mosque make sense; however, I take issue with those who believe that integrating Islam in the US will not be any different than Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and HIndus who came before them. The worldview of Islam is an exclusionary one, not amenable to the multicultural and ecumenical currents in our society. Is there a single Islamic nation where other religions can be practiced freely, and where adherents to other faiths are treated equally under the law? Even in the Western democracies of Europe, as the number of muslim immigrants increase, countries such as England are coming under pressure to allow the practice of sharia law. In the United States, we has seen Islamic groups insist on special treatment (ie, employers should allow employees to participate in every call to prayer during the workday, universities should have "women only" hours at exercise and pool facilities , etc). As the muslim population in this country grows, there will not be assimilation but rather increased divisiveness that will likely result in violence. I'm not a bigot, I acknowledge there are many outstanding moderate muslims (I work with several); however, I have to call it as I see it. Islam does not integrate. A quick glance at Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Indonesia confirms this. If I'm incorrect, please give me a modern day example.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
  10. marsha

    the Mosque should NEVER be built in sight of ground zero-would they let us build a church or synagogue if the shoe was on the other foot? NO!! they would not!! Build it elsewhere

    August 25, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
  11. Jean

    They have owned the building for some time and Muslims have been praying there for over a year. It is not on the 9/11 site, it is several blocks away. You can't even see the 9/11 site from the building. Back in December, Christian and Jewish leaders, as well as the News commentators, approved of the plans for a cultural center which was intended to improve relations between Muslims and the community. This recent uproar is all the result of one blogger's fear mongering which then became a political tool.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
  12. Jeff A.

    The problem is, with Islam, there is no separation of law, and religion. If the bleeding heart liberals here don't get the drift of that, then I think you should really check in to a clinic for some help, cause you don't understand the dangers of making it up as you go along. That is the way monkees do it, not civilized human beings. This is not a criticism of individual Muslims per se, just that it is become a runaway train all over the world. It is impossible to do wrong according th Sharia law, where all things are permitted as long as it is in the name of Islam. What is wrong with tha picture that the bleeding hearts here don't see ! It is all about the great clash of ideoligies, to call it anything else is to be naive, let's face it. Either you fight for what you believe is right for you, or you turn a blind eye, and suffer the consequences. There is no middle ground, just look around the Muslim world, and see the future America. I prefer to have democracy, freedom of expression, equality of sexes, taxes, and all the ugliness of American society, than the way of the Koran, and the whim of the interpretor, and the size of his sword...........

    August 25, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  13. Bret H

    The only place in New york city that is off limits to any religion is the place our children are suppose to learn, our SCHOOLS!!!!!!! That is the shame!!

    August 25, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
    • Mike

      OK, as of now all schools are required to teach about Islam, Scientology, Paganism, and Satanism along with Christianity. Religion in schools still sound like a good idea?

      August 25, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
  14. JayRBee

    Mayor Bloomberg, you are failing to see the forest for the trees. YES, Muslims have a right to practice their religion and YES, if they want to build a mosque near Ground Zero they have that right. But take a moment to think WHY this location is so important to them! And it's not because they already own the property, because Muslim groups own dozens of properties around Manhattan.

    Islam has a tradition going back over a thousand years of BUILDING MOSQUES AT THE SITES OF GREAT MILITARY CONQUESTS! The name of the organization behind the Ground Zero mosque is a reference to the Cordoba mosque in Spain, which was built at the furthest extent of Muslim conquests in Europe, and was built on the remains of a destroyed Christian church.

    Seem familiar, Bloomberg??? Honestly, have some awareness beyond the moment dude.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
    • Hassan

      Actually no, it wasn't built on the ruins of a destroyed Christian church, and it wasn't built in victory either. About 50 years after the Muslim conquest, Muslims began sharing the Visigoth barbarian church with the Christians, and 50 years after that, a New leader of the Muslims BOUGHT it from the Christians and built the Mosque to celebrate Cordoba's independence from the rest of the Muslim empire.

      So it was built 100 years after the conquest, for a totally different reason, on church property that Muslims BOUGHT

      August 26, 2010 at 1:52 am |
  15. joey navy

    MORONS..... This is coming from the HAMAS Leader....seriously, you idiots believe his interests are harmless and doesn't carry another backdoor agenda?!?!! Wow, for those believing this trash, I have land in the ocean to sell you.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
  16. jhu

    bloomberg was my fraternatity brother – always been a good guy. I hope he runs for president

    August 25, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
  17. Mike

    Man theres some angry people on here. Everyone should get off CNN and go on a date or watch a good movie or something other than sitting and spewing hate on people that you will never see and never make any effort to get to know.

    Oh that's right, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not taking it anymore" means "I'm gonna complain on CNN's forums about whoever I want with no consequences because the Internet is anonymous and I can". Land of the free home of the brave my tuchus. you'll wait for the next terrible politician to come around, so you can deify him if hes with your party and demonize him if he's not. And all the while the jobs keep leaving, the defecit keeps rising, and all you hear is Muslim-this, Mexican-that.

    America is irrelevant now because you people lost your brains. Congratulations on being the generation to break America.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  18. Ryan

    Being concerned that a "cultural center" is being built (inconsiderately) a few blocks from a major terrorist attack which the perpetrators themselves declared specifically as an Islamic act and which doesn't take much to connect directly to core Islamic principles IS NOT BIGOTRY, people.

    Cordova etc. has a clear right to build there as long as they follow the laws. People are also right to be concerned.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  19. Linda Richman

    The Ground Zero mosque is neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero. Discuss.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
    • BLOW UP MECCA AND BUILD A BIG CHURCH

      LET'S BLOW UP MECCA AND BUILD A HUGE CHURCH THERE. ACCORDING TO BLOOMBERG AND CLOSET MUSLIM OBAMA THIS WOULD BE OK AS IT IS BRIDGE BUILDING AND A SIGN OF TOLERANCE. I AM SURE ALL THE LIBERAL PRO-MUSLIM HYPOCRITES AND BIGOTS ON THIS FORUM WOULD LOVE THAT.

      August 25, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
  20. Rob in NYC

    Bloomberg for President!

    August 25, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
    • BLOOMBERG IS A TRAITOR

      Bloomberg doesn't serve the people who elected him as most NYers are against the 9/11 victory mosque. He will never become president. In fact he won't even be reelected as mayor. He is just a sad and embarasing old man.

      August 25, 2010 at 2:28 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.