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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. mgofficepc

    I'm searchn for my brother, can you help? Please visit www dot helpfindhenrygarciajr dot bravehost dot com ....God Bless

    August 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  2. Some Kraut

    A man, whose family was German aristocracy before World War II, once owned a number of large factories, when asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. "Very few people were true Nazis," he said, "but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories."

    We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is the religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  3. Dave

    So, the headline is that Bloomberg says We are all Muslims, but he never really actually said that right? You didn't show it in quotes in your headline, nor is he quoted that way in the blog.

    Y'know it strikes me that the overwhelming majority of Germans didn't believe the Nazi's propaganda either but by not speaking up or taking action, they were dominated by the violent, ill-intended minority, as was much of Europe. I see the same in the Muslim community. Even though the best, well meaning Muslims (including friends of mine) don't endorse the radicalism that turns into homicide bombings and buildings tumbling, until they demonstrate their strong voice against such things, we all stand to be overrun by radicals who hate America and its way of life.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
    • Frogist

      @ Dave: While I find it repugnant that you equate a worldwide religion with nazism, you raise some interesting points. I am not as well versed in history as some, but I think you are mistaken on this point. I do believe Hitler's party was well received by the people and supported in great numbers. He succeeded in villifying a whole religion and by so doing propagated one of the most horrific acts in human history.

      The parallel to the issue of muslims being able to practice religion in the US is much more accurate when you cast moslems in the role of the jewish people. After all, it was the jews who were in the minority, as are the muslim community in the US. They were scapegoated for the state of German society, much like muslims are scapegoated for all of terrorism. They were dehumanized by propaganda and the media much like we see in our media today for Islam. And their right to practice their religion freely was taken away, by claiming that it was not their religion per se that people objected to, but their effect on society. This is parroted today in the sensitivity issue of building the center near the wtc site.

      Beyond all that, I agree that a strong voice is necessary to counter terrorism. But to ask that that voice come only from muslims in a vaccuum, is like asking the jews inside of Germany to just fight harder on their own against the nazis. As history tells us, that didn't work out so well.
      Do you think that if moderate germans were supported, nazism would have been halted? If so, we have to support the center as it is moderate muslim americans that want that it. Or we will fall into the same trap that the Germans did.

      August 26, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  4. ISLAM IS HATEFUL AND BACKWARD

    ISLAM promotes hatred against non-muslims, most of all Jews. It is also racist as it ridicules black people in several verses. In addition, mohammed was a murderer who killed with his own hands. He also had slaves, including black ones, raped the female slaves and sold them. He had sex with children, including the children of his cousins. And he looked down on women. He was an opportunist who talked his followers into fighting by promising some paradise and rivers of honey. No surprise he was also a liar who didn't keep his promises. I read the haddiths and the koran so believe me if I tell you that I know what I am talking about. You should read the koran and the haddiths before you post stuff here in support of that evil ideology.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
  5. Ce Williamson

    @Chris R
    Try reading your Bible! Jesus was not a prophet. He is God! That is what he said and meant when he said, " I and tha Father are One."

    August 25, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • Reality

      Ce,

      Most contemporary NT exegetes after exhaustive review of the scriptures have concluded that said references about Jesus being part of a three-headed god combination was not authentic but was added by Paul et al to create compet-ition with Rome's Caesar gods.

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

      @ Ce Willaimson: And Islam, a different religion from yours, respects your Jesus so much it calls hima prophet. I don't think you need much more to start a respectful relationship with their religion.

      August 26, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
  6. Tamashi Shinto

    Build a mosque fine, but lying about it by saying it will build bridges is just plain wrong. Yea builing ur center when more than half of americans oppose it is going to buil bridges, you ould think that someone wanting to build a bridge would not choose a place that would open up old wounds, but thats what islam isa bt they say.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Tamashi Shinto: I believe you have misused the word "lying". Just because you do not feel it will build bridges does not make the statement a lie. I feel it will build bridges. I feel it will promote diversity which as these discussions show, is sorely needed in this country. And it will encourage complex thought about the role religion has to play in our lives and its effect on the world – another discussion that really has to take place. Besides that, the fact is, there was a place of worship at that location for the past few years already. Since it has caused no problems, why would making it comfortable and useful to the community be an issue now?

      August 26, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  7. Tony L

    FYI Muslims believe in Moses and also believe in Jesus. They were first Jews and then Christians and went further to believe in Mohamed. They believe all were prophets sent on earth by the same GOD(ALLAH). So they are all people believers of the book sent from the same GOD. There are a lot of interpretations of each of the book and anyone can twist any verse to put it out of context to make it sound negative. Yes, the extremist exists in all faiths and should not be allowed to drive the agenda. Instead a lot of understanding is needed to live and let live in peace.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
    • Reality

      Tony,

      Scroll up the page and read about the terror road of Islam.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
  8. Mike

    I have to disagree with Mayor Bloomberg, we are not all muslims. Muslims follow a religion that is anti-women, anti-other religion, and anti-freedom. I am not a muslim.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
    • Well said!

      Well said. I'd rather be dead that worshiping a rapist and murderer called mohammed.

      August 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  9. Some Kraut

    A man, whose family was German aristocracy before World War II, once owned a number of large factories, when asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. "Very few people were true Nazis," he said, "but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories."

    We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is the religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

    The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history; it is the fanatics who march...it is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers..

    The hard, quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the 'silent majority,' is cowed and extraneous.

    Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China's huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

    The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across Southeast Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.

    And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were 'peace loving'?

    History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points:

    1. Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence.

    2. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.

    3. Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late. As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts–the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  10. Melissa

    Well said! Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg (and New York) for his (and its) continued support of the Park51 project.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
    • Well said! NOT!

      Well said. NOT. I am not muslim. In fact, I DESPISE THAT RELIGION. ISLAM SHOULD BE BANNED IN THE US! IT'S HATEFUL AND INTOLERANT.

      August 25, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
  11. Carlton

    Whenever somebody disagrees people get all sensative and mad and called bigots, intolerant, etc...Islam and the Muslim world are some the most intolerant people on the planet. If your belief system is so great as you claim. then why every time there is a major problem or disaster around the world it is the Christians doing the work of GOD and not just talking about GOD. The only thing you want to do is take over the world to control people and oil!!! Your belief is full of !@#$!!! You do not have any Godly intentions for world, you want to control the world based on your beliefs. That's your agenda. Some people are asleep and ignorant but not all of us!!! I'd rater die than submit to a false GOD and belief!!!

    August 25, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
  12. Timay

    Radical Islam is NOT all of Islam, but it is a powerful strain. People that are arguing that the KKK are similar to the muslim terrorists are completely ignorant of historical facts. The Muslim religion is anti-democracy, but they will use democracy to gain access to nations (already in Europe) and then they will impose their Sharia law. Their idea of democracy is one sided: get in (men only) then close off the vote. They do not believe in the separatio o church and state, unless you are talking about the freedoms that allow their religion in this country, and stupid people protecting their rights

    August 25, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  13. Millerinski

    What ever happened to "turn the other cheek" as Jesus taught? Truly I believe that to deny these developers their constitutional rights to develop their property as they wish, in accordance with all local statutes, we are playing right into our true enemies' hands. And besides, how far away does it have to be? 5 blocks? 10 blocks? 2 miles? And, who decides?

    If we really want to go down that "we can't let them plant a victory flag" road, then we need to look in the mirror and realize that we have "planted" many victory flags around the world, in many areas where we were not really wanted, and those "flags" are still flying, inflaming local passions and providing a rallying cry for those that hate us. Grow up people, we need to stop acting like playground bullies.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  14. Anon

    Yes, let's just completely ignore the fact that Christianity/Judaism/Islam teach foundationally different things on salvation, doctrine, and for that matter quite simply who God is (i.e. Christianity teaches a triune God whereas Islam/Judaism foundationally deny this, hence believing in a different God as far as the Scriptures are concerned). Loving one's neighbor is certainly a part of the Christian worldview, but part of loving one's neighbor is lovingly demonstrating the error of wrong doctrinal thinking and presenting faith alone in Jesus as the only way to heaven. Bloomberg's vague declaration that we can all be "Christians, Jews, and Muslims" at the same time just because of believing in some sort of God and believing in "loving one's neighbor" is quite simply illogical.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  15. AMK

    Actually, I am a Catholic not a Muslim. As a Catholic, I get to hear my religion slammed every which way. We're against abortion so naturally we want all abortion doctors shot. We believe homosexuality is wrong so naturally we are homophobic and would tie all homosexuals to a fence to die. In the great city of NY where I work everyone is so open minded that the City's Kris Kringle program has been renamed – "Winter Wishes" so as not to offend anyone receiving a gift for a holiday that obviously offends them (though not enough to reject the charity). Yet, I never hear Mayor Bloomberg standing up for open mindedness as relates to my religion – yet slam a few planes into a building in the name of Allah and and the whole world has to try to understand you.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  16. scott

    Islam isn't some minority group that we need to coddle. We live in a Globalized world now. For all you Americans out there who think this is some minority oppression, when are you going to realize that you are NOT the power you think you are. The muslims are the majority. The Americans in America are the minority. There are 1 billion muslims ready to send millions of immigrants to move in and take over your country.

    The site of Ground Zero should be converted into a National Monument with visitor centers and museums commemorating the WTC and the Freedom Tower.

    There is no room for a Mosque there.

    We should build statues or the Heroes involved, a wall with the name of everyone lost, just like the Vietnam Memorial. There will need to be parking lots. Half of Manhatten should be leveled to allow the construction of new monuments and memorials.

    Building a Mosque @ Ground Zero is exactly what Osama Bin Laden would have wanted. Don't give me this bullcrap about how he would have wanted us to reject it. Anyone with half a brain recognizes that what bin Laden wanted was for everyone to miraculously accept Islam & become Muslim.

    The very IDEA that Osama would have wanted people to resist Islam is the utmost lunacy. Osama wants us to build mosques all over America, in NYC, Osama wants America to embrace Islam. It is the apologists who want to build this mosque that are falling into Bin Laden's hands, not those who are fighting against it.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
    • Frogist

      @scott... the cultural center is not at ground zero... a bit of research before you post please.

      August 26, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  17. Brian

    The people of New York City voted against a third mayoral term. King Bloomberg then paid off the city council to enable himself to get on the bill and spent $50 million poluting TV and radio airwaves to ensure his election (and that no one else would be heard). So now we have a mayor that never should have been in power speaking on behalf of a city whose citizens are by-and-large not in favor of the mosque. It angers me that he even has a voice and a podium.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  18. Reality

    Beatitudes!!!!

    August 25, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
  19. Reality

    All of this terror and horror caused by some mythical angel aka koranic- Gabriel!! Islam? How about replacing said word with Inane!!!! Sir Rushdie was so very correct in his satire of Islam.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  20. Jim

    “There is no question there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some. And I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded,” Nancy Pelosi

    The website StopThe911Mosque.com is registered to the Center for Security Policy, a neo-conservative think tank and advocacy group run by Reagan defense official and far-right hawk Frank Gaffney.

    Gaffney’s board includes the vice president of Van Scoyoc Associates, which touts itself as the “largest independent lobbying company in Washington, D.C,” with numerous defense clients and $15.93 million in lobbying revenue over the first six months of 2010.

    Other members of Gaffney’s board include the former vice president of Boeing’s missile defense division, and the head of the investment firm American Securities LP

    August 25, 2010 at 2:24 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.