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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. Daniel

    @ somerandomguy:

    Ya know, people like you are the real problem sir. Forget having any regard for what other people may think or feel, if they disagree with you or someone you admire, they are bogots!?!?! I guess we can call them all racists too huh? You have no grasp of what you are implying do you. You are a hypocrite sir! Free speach for all as long as they dont ruffle your feathers right? Life is PERSPECTIVE sir. You have your own perspective on the matter and those dear families that lost children, brothers, mothers, fathers and loved ones in that horrible event on 9-11 have quite another, very understandable perspective sir, one you cannot grasp or understand. So please before you start calling people names and putting labels on them, shut your big fat mouth for a second and consider what you are saying.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm |
  2. rick

    We here in Canada just let in 500 TAMIL BOAT PEOPLE AND MOST ARE TAMIL TIGERS TERRORISTS,they paid $50k for the boat trip and now WE HAVE TO PAY FOR THESE TERRORISTS,ALL I HAVE TO SAY IS THE DOWNFALL OF THE US/CAN.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm |
  3. Say What?????

    Religious fanatics suck. So do political fanatics. Get a life people.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
  4. CAL USA

    Message to all of you Tea Partiers who are always demanding allegiance to the Constitution. Read it, especially the 1st Amendment. It absolutely and without conditions grants any religion to pratice their beliefs anywhere in the country. As long as I'm at it, stop trying to amend the Constitution when you don't like what it says. At last count we had 42 amendments being proposed by you morons. If you want to live in a dictatorship there are many countries still left for you to choose from.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
  5. Ronald Cohn

    I respect the argument that the mosque should not be built because of sensitivity to 9/11. But other arguments presented here are completely wacko. For example, the claim that apparently ALL the muslims in the world are brainwashed to destroying America and taking over the world. That seems a little like a conspiracy theory to me. Do any of you actually know any muslims? The ones I have known have been smart and perfectly nice people. I refuse to believe that an entire group of people are planning secretly to kill me and take over the world. Doesn’t anyone else see that as sounding a little crazy?

    This isn’t a malevolent alien race bent on extermination of humanity like in Independence Day or War of the Worlds. Things aren’t black and white. Cherry picking little parts from the Quran is disingenuous. There are plenty of things in the Hebrew and Christian Bible that involve slaughtering ones enemies and brutal provisions ordered from God. But you don’t see Christians and Jews practicing that on a universal scale and forcing that on people all over the world. Neither do Muslims do that with the Quran. Muslims are not aliens from outer space, they are people just like you and me. If any of you actually knew any Muslims, then you would realize that.

    Another argument that seems crazy is the argument that since Islamic countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia ban churches or synagogues, then we should really stick it to the Muslims by banning their mosques! Read my lips: America is a BETTER country than Iran or Saudi Arabia because we let ANY religion build their houses of worship as they please.

    We are BETTER people than Iranians or Saudis because of not only our religious freedom, but because of our concept of pluralism. That is, people have the right to pursue what makes them happy. It’s right there in the Declaration of Independence. Unless you have proof of crazy deranged militants coming out of this mosque, then leave the mosque alone. I am Jewish, but I support Neo-Nazis’ rights to build their facilities and protest with their hate. If that makes them happy, then they have the God-given right to pursue it. These are our shared and precious American values. It seems that a lot of you are forgetting about them.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
    • Reality

      Ron,

      Scroll up the page and read about the road locations of Islamic terror.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
    • Frogist

      Dude, you are awesome! I want to shake your hand!

      August 26, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Ronald: Dude you are awesome! I want to shake your hand!

      August 26, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  6. rivirivi

    Islam is a totalitarian sect. Islam will implode soon because of its flagrant manipulation of humans and because it tries to obliterate common sense from human minds. It is the worst belief or faith for humanity. The Sharia law is so full of lies and garbage designed to further manipulate and control the stupid masses. I will support a "community center" for Islamists right there on top of the roof of the new building right there on where the twin towers used to be the DAY A WOMAN IS A DECLARED A JUDGE OF COURTS IN SUDAN, IRAN, AFGHANISTAN, YEMEN. Therefore, mark my words. Islam is going to implode and disappear within the next 10 years. Islam vs. Common Sense + and the winner is: Common Sense! Say bye bye to Islam!

    August 25, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
    • Frogist

      rivirivi, why don't you hold your breath till Islam disappears?

      August 26, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  7. irememberseptII

    In the past month I have been called intolerant, racist, un-American and other things i don't care to repeat. In my 49 years of life I have never come across anyone or anything as intolerant, racist and un-American as Muslims and Islam. I am being called intolerant because I think it is wrong for Muslims to want to build a Mosque on Ground Zero; I say, if they really wanted to promote peace and goodwill between Christians and Muslims they would not have suggested it be built there in the first place. No one that has any respect and compassion for the families of the dead, would want to rub salt in a fresh wound as they are doing. Why is that location so important to them? Have you, that are calling me intolerant, asked yourselves that question and answered truthfully? Does 'Cordoba' have any meaning for you? Go to Bing and type in 'Cordoba', see what you can learn. The only reason that it could possibly be so important to them, is that they do want their victory mosque, on what they perceive to be conquered ground; otherwise, why would they continue in the light of the controversy it has caused? I am called a racist because I do not want a mosque on ground that I consider to be the grave site of Americans of all races, whose bodies were never recovered because they were incinerated, and their ashes spread upon that ground. I am being called un-American for wanting to deny them their constitutional right to build a mosque on ground zero....I say that sharia law, "honor killings", genital mutilation of women, discrimination of women, marriage and sex with girls under age 14, beheadings and stonings are un-American. Think about that before you call me racist, intolerant and un-American.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
  8. Marie aka not the all uppercase Marie

    Jesus said he came to "Fulfill the Law and the Prophets." and "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." He was talking about Numbers 21:9 "and Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard, and it came about that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived." And so Jesus followed up by saying about himself...(you who know John 3:16 by heart know the rest).

    Chris R, Salvation did indeed "come from the Jews." The prophet Isaiah describes Emmanual (meaning "God with us" in Hebrew) from David's line as: "...His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, MIGHTY GOD, ETERNAL FATHER, Prince of Peace." I'm saying we do not quite share the same God. I believe it's hard to understand this, as it is the Trinity.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
    • Reality

      Marie,

      Abraham founder/father of three major religions was either the embellishment of the lives of three different men or a
      mythical character as was mythical Moses, the "Tablet-Man" who talked to burning bushes and made much magic in Egypt.

      Many of the 1.5 million Conservative Jews and many of their rabbis have relegated Abraham to the myth pile along with most if not all the OT. See the New Torah for Modern Minds.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
  9. Phil

    As the old saying goes: "We fear what we do not understand". Though personally I feel building what would possibly constitute a mosque in such a proximity is too provocative and perhaps shows insensitivity in light of September 11, they do have a right for one thing, especially since they already own the property, and secondly, if you are in such deep opposition to the existence of Islam – which some seem to show with such fervor – could you at least explain without the ad-hominem diatribe your understanding of the belief to warrant your personal opposition?

    August 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  10. Lazerdawg

    Why is it that I hear from Jews and Christians that the vast majority of Muslims are peace loving? It is not hard to get thousands to rally in the streets expressing hate, or for "extremists" to rule countries like Saudi Arabia. Should there not be thousands rallying for peace? If the mainstream is peaceful why are women publicly stoned to death in almost any country that embraces that religion. Perhaps the extremists are just the most devout of the main stream, and the moderate Peace lovers are the westernized minority. If that is true then of course it is our responsibility to welcome and embrace that minority, and to encourage their tolerance to spread in their religion. But being naive just to prove we are tolerant is foolish. It is not being a bigot to question if something is true. If it is not true that the “vast majority are peace loving” then we are missing the opportunity to focus on helping the minority. If it is true than how do we help this majority take power in their religion to stop the atrocities of most Muslim governments and help slow the growth of new generations of extremists.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  11. Amy

    Dan

    timeout T... here is the $100,000,000.00 question WHY TWO BLOCKS AWAY... WHY SO CLOSE TO GROUND ZERO.. What is the signifance of that location.. forget about the baseless remarks and political BS. JUST ANSWER THE DARN QUESTION. CAN SOMEBODY ANSWER THAT QUESTION.

    Q: WHY TWO BLOCKS AWAY... WHY SO CLOSE TO GROUND ZERO
    Ans: THE PROPOSED SITE FOR THE CENTER IS ALREADY SERVING AS AN ISLAMIC CENTER AND DAILY 5 PRAYERS ARE BEING HELD THERE FOR DECADES. DURING FRIDAY NOON PRAYER, IT WILL GET SO CROWDED, BECAUSE OF LACK OF SPACE, THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE TO PRAY ON THE ROAD – IT DISTURBED SOME OF THE COMMUTERS AND NEIGHBORING SHOP OWNERS. SO IT'S JUST AN EXTENSION OF AN EXISTING FACILITY.
    IT'S NOT THAT CLOSE TO GROUND ZERO. IT'S DECENT 15-20 MINUTES WALK AND THERE IS NO DIRECT VISIBILITY FROM GROUND ZERO. AS SOMEONE POINTED OUT, 2 BLOCKS IN NEW YORK MEANS A WHOLE DIFFERENT NEIGHBORHOOD.

    EVEN IF IT WAS THE ADJACENT BUILDING OR ACROSS THE GWOUND ZERO, THE LOGIC OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM WOULD HAVE BEEN THE SAME.

    Q: What is the signifance of that location
    Ans: NO SIGNIFICANCE. IT'S LIKE ANY OTHER LOCATION. A CENTER ALREADY EXISTS IN THE SAME BUILDING FOR DECADES. IF YOU ALREADY OWN A HOUSE AND WANT TO EXPAND IT, WHY YOU HAVE TO MOVE ALL THE WAY TO SOME OTHER PLACE, BUY A NEW PROPERTY AND THEN EXPAND WHEN YOU CAN SIMPLY EXPAND THE EXISTING FACILITY.

    THIS ISSUE HAS BEEN BLOWN OUT OF PROPORTION. ANY LOGIC PERSON – MUSLIM OR OTHERWISE- WOULD NOT GET ENGAGES IN THIS USELESS ISSUE WHEN THERE ARE OTHER PRIORITY ISSUES SURROUNDS US.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
    • Reality

      Amy,

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

      August 25, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
  12. Gahan Haskins

    No we're not!

    August 25, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
  13. Jeff A.

    why does the Islamic world's inability to control it's radical element, and youth movement resulting in Terrorist acts all over the Islamic world, translate into an American test of freedom of choice and failing that, you are a bigot ? Where is the connection ? Is it America's fault that Islam can not control it's radical element. I think it is more the Muslim's problems, and seeing as we have enough of our own, how about keeping the Islamic radical versus peace loving idealogies out of America until the lab tests are back ??

    August 25, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
    • Frogist

      That was the logic that kept America on the fringe for two world wars. Who knows? Maybe if you guys had stepped in earlier on the right side things might have turned out better.

      August 26, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  14. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    David Bloomberg is really a racist only days after fainting support for the Muslims, he them asked Gov. Patterson to take up a shotgun and a cowboy hat and wipe out the native Americans in upstate NY because they are selling un taxed cigarettes. Mayor Bloomberg only represents himself and is cashing in on his unconstitutional third term as King of NYC. just because the leadership in NYS cannot find ways to cut spending they have made cigarettes the most taxed legal product in the world with a tax over 680% on every pack which now equals nearly $11.00 a pack. So people are flocking to the reservations to buy cigarettes, causing many small business like convenience stores to go belly up and David is not going to get his share of this taxation. With each of the average NYS representatives office budget averaging 2.6 million a year and a NYC librarian making over $600K a year, these representatives still cannot find ways to cut the budget other than raising taxes.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
  15. Hackman

    One of the worst mass murders was 2 blocks from this proposed site, perpetrated by peace loving Muslems. I'm not saying they {muslims} are all murderers, but if they are as peace loving and understanding as they claim to be they would never dig their heels in and insist on renovating this site. Don't forget, Muslims are still trying to do us harm.
    People suffered horrible unspeakable deaths at the hands of these people and I will never forget their suffering.
    If you want to show just how understanding you really are, TAKE YOUR MOSQUE SOMEPLACE ELSE.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
    • Frogist

      Hi Hackman, I believe you are saying they are all murderers.

      August 26, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  16. FedUpInSeattle

    I get really tired of being lectured by the Left that everyone who does not walk lockstep with their agenda is a racist or has Islamophobia. Just as with the illegal immigration debate, if you are against people sneaking into the country you’re a racist and a terrible person. The Liberals hold up the people cherry picked out of the crowd that put the worst face on the whole debate. As a conservative independent who has both Mexican heritage from my mother’s side and Filipino heritage from my father’s and many multi-racial relatives, I get sick and tired of Liberals dictating who is a good and bad person. A great number of people that are against the new mosque know that they have the Legal right and if fought to the Supreme Court would win. Those of us that are against it KNOW that most Muslims in this country are peace loving. I personally know two brothers in LA who escaped Afghanistan during the early rise of the Taliban before anyone knew what the Taliban was. Their story almost mirrored that of the boy snuck out into Pakistan in the gas truck in the story the Kite Runner. I 100% support the Muslims to have the freedom to practice their religion, we that are against the Mosque just wish the Mosque supporters would have compassion and give a little and move the mosque. I would be just as disappointed if Christians had the bad judgment to build a Church in Baghdad near the site where the Blackwater security killed all those civilians.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
    • Frogist

      You seem like one of the saner people in this debate. I actually might want to have a conversation about this with you. I agree that there is way too much rhetoric about who is good and who is bad. I disagree that it is coming mostly from the left, since most of what I hear is the "conservative" right trying to call an entire religion evil. I think a lot of people are misguided in their ideas of what is happening. They choose a side based on what someone else said instead of researching the issue themselves. The fact is that in the past 9 years since Sept 11, these people have been worshiping in the same place. It is their property. To say to them, you must give up your land and move just because you are muslim is, in itself, an insensitive thing to do. And furthermore it is unconsti-tutional and against the law. I live in the tri state area and my husband has friends who were in the towers that day. They survived. We know how devastating that act was. But we are not willing to push away people who want to do the right thing by extending an invitation to rebuild and share their lives with us. The hardest thing to do is to offer a hand in friendship even though they know it may be rejected because some folks associate them with bad people. Better to shake that hand and start reconciling all our bad feelings before it tears us apart. We need them. In the fight against terrorism, we need them. And what better place to start that reconciliation than where the rift started.

      August 26, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  17. Jamie in AZ

    Sooooo...there's a mosque there already and was probably there way before 9/11 and now they just want to rebuild an old building...and the media is spoon feeding this intensely personaly argument to us every minute? How many other mosques are near ground zero? How many other religious buildings are nearby? So ridiculous ppl. Anyone who believes that religion causes hate is so philosophically lost that it's useless to reply to them. Any strong belief compells an individual to react, whether it's theocratic or atheist. The problem with religion is not the doctrine, it's the ppl who incorrectly interpret the doctrine, and use doctrine to empower their vain motives. As a Christian – I have to deal with such ppl in my faith all the time. It's dissappointing.
    This building project needs to move forward, because it is both ethical and moral per the standards of this great country.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  18. Dennis

    The title of this article is misleading.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  19. Leon Childs

    If we could only see the motives and true ambitions in a humans heart then we would fully understand the intentions of that particular person. So my question to all of the nations and human race,what are your intentions, are they of peace and love or hate and racism in disquise

    August 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
    • Reality

      Leon,

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

      August 25, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  20. Bob

    Muslim my a$$... take this and show it !

    August 25, 2010 at 2:43 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.