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. Chris

    Impeach Bloomberg!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 25, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  2. Carole Clarke

    Sometimes nobility of thought is inappropriate. When the enemy is upon you, you do not wish him well, you fight back. Islam was a great religion for helping pagans out of idolatry but not when it foments trouble around the world in its zeal to convert non-believers. The peaceful muslims have not been in charge of their religion since the Ayatollah's crew seized our embassy in Tehran and certainly not since the Saudi's advanced Wahabism and produced the 19 men who executed 9/11 here in America. This has nothing to do with liberty or fairness or freedom of religion. It has to do with conquest and war – Islam is at war with non-believers, especially Americans because we are still free from them. We need to send them back to their home countries if they want to crow on their dunghill – we do not need their ideas here. We have our Constitution.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  3. tos g

    u muslim. i know u; u r a muslim

    August 25, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  4. ObjectiveGuy

    Nothing good ever came out of a mosque. Throughout the world, they are used as places for planning terrorist acts against "infidels", storing weapons, learning how to build bombs, etc. How can a supposed holy, religious place be used for such practices? Simple–they can not. It's all just a front to cover up their activities geared toward world domination. I'm sure there will be replies condemning these comments as ignorant and bigoted. Sadly, they are neither. Step out from behind the blinding cloak of "political correctness", and see this for what it really is, not for what it should be. Islam intends to dominate us from within, and we are blindly handing them the keys to the kingdom. Wake up, America–don't continue to let them pull the wool over your eyes!

    August 25, 2010 at 11:59 am |
    • JJ

      there are approxiamtely 1900 mosques in America today..... So you are telling me you have 1900 terrorist camps in America?????

      Son't be so paranoid

      August 25, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  5. deforge17

    so the mosque should be built in the name of principles,
    but mohammed cartoons cant air uncensored in the same light?

    August 25, 2010 at 11:58 am |
    • Edgar Friendly

      You DO realize that any instances of censorship of the image of Muhammad in the US have been authorized by private entities, right? For example, Comedy Central decided to censor Muhammad on South Park. The government has no part of that. It's not being forced on anybody by anybody.

      August 25, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
  6. David

    If we are all Muslims then why are our fellow Muslims trying to blow us up?

    August 25, 2010 at 11:58 am |
    • buke56

      Because they are not fellow Muslims. Just like italian Amers and german Amers fought Italy and Germany. during WWii Just because they are he same nationality doesnt mean they think and feel the same. We are a nation of immigrants you moron that stand shoulder to shoulder againt our enemies. Some of the men and women in uniform who have fought and died for this country were Muslim Americans. Pull off your sheet and honor them for their sacrifice!

      August 25, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
    • free2comment

      Why does the KKK hang and roast non-whites?

      August 25, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  7. Mim

    Stephen Prothero,

    As a scholar, you aren't allowed to purposly misquote someone an then post it for the public because it's considered a very manipulatory act.

    buh bye

    August 25, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  8. buke56

    Right on. Bloomberg captured what the true essence of America is about. Tho there is a large majority of people who are still afraid of what happened on 911 (and justifiably so) I think that we know deep in our hearts we are denying Muslim Americans the right to worship by denying the mosque at Ground Zero. What do we say as a nation to the Muslim American soldiers who have fought and died preserving our Constitutional freedoms. Semper Fi? We must come together as a nation once more and show those who would oppose us that they cannot terrorize us enough to scare us into denying all the freedoms of the Constitution to each and every American no matter what their race, religion or creed might be. When we do we have lost to our enemies ideology. Semper Fi

    August 25, 2010 at 11:57 am |
  9. cimac

    I am not a muslim. He does not speak for me. If this was reversed in a muslim land, and christians were trying to build, libs would say that the christians are being insensitive to the muslims and their feelings and the christians should move the site. (At least the christians that still had their heads)

    August 25, 2010 at 11:55 am |
    • Joe G

      So you want us to be more like Saudi Arabia and Iran?

      Good plan.

      August 25, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • Jim

      what if.....Is that all you have is what if?

      August 25, 2010 at 11:57 am |
    • JJ

      If America is to toot its horn as the country that should set example of freedom.... then it should toot its horn all the time even if it hurts a few of its own citizens.

      It set out to Iraq and Afghanistan both muslim nations and to set democracy within those nations. If it does not allow the building of this mosque then it sends a double message to those nations.

      August 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Victory Gin

      Have you morons not ready the ENTIRE article??? If you did, you would see that your negative nancy comments have taken it totally out of context... Wow, if you people are the best that the U.S. public school systems can produce, then we are totally screwed.

      August 25, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
  10. nobody

    If democrats want to turn this in to a 1st amendment issue: I'll even buy them the rope to hang themselves with.

    As a civil libertarian: I don't see what the 1st amendment has to do with expecting muslims to have some tact and class. They may have a right to do otherwise, but I think they'll discover the same way that Julian Assange is going to discover: law and legal are distinguished by a popularity contest.

    I have no interest in government intervention in this project, but I wouldn't want to be the sorry bastard who has to clean up the messes related to being an inflammatory and insensitive institution. They'll quickly find that lawyers and rights only protect the slightly unpopular. People like the Westboro Baptist Church congregation enjoy a special variety of justice called popular opinion.

    August 25, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  11. paul

    don't speak for me bloomberg, with a comment like that, it just proves you're an idiot, a politician looking for a vote. in this country we are individuals that can stand together as one, & as an individual i am declaring myself non-muslim.

    August 25, 2010 at 11:54 am |
    • Joe G

      You do realize that this goes against public opinion, right?

      This will cost him votes in the future.

      If you're this dumb, how did you get the money to afford a computer?

      August 25, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • buke56

      To deny anyone in this country their Constitutional right to freedom of religion is un American. Did the big bad terrorists scare you into denying freedom to all in this country. So what, Im quite sure the men and women in uniform (some who were Muslim American) were scared to when they fought and died so that EVERY American may have freedom. Grow a pair and honor the troops you traitor

      August 25, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
  12. adc555

    Wow! you really missed the whole point of the article. Perhaps you should read it again, this time with an open mind

    August 25, 2010 at 11:54 am |
  13. Chris R


    What might come as shocking news to you is that all the Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the world pray to the same God. Allah and Yahweh are the same God. In fact, if you really get right down to it, you're basically Jewish as you are following the religion of the Jews with some modifications. Jesus wasn't preaching to the Christians after all – he was preaching to fellow Jews. It wasn't until Paul came along that there was an outreach to the gentiles (ya know, the pagans).

    August 25, 2010 at 11:54 am |
    • Nyarlathotep

      No, they don't, since each religion has vastly different concepts of its god. Christians believe that their god embodied itself as a human to atone for the alleged "sins" of mankind: such a belief is blasphemy to Muslims and Jews. Muslims insist that their religion's creator, Muhammad, was appointed by its god as a prophet to spread its worship: Jews do not recognize such a need since they believe the Torah, their god's law, was given to them centuries before Muhammad, and Christians find Muhammad irrelevant since their savior, Jesus, came first. They all claim the same Abrahamic thread of origin, but have irreconcilable beliefs about the god(s) they claim to follow.

      August 25, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
    • Worry01

      Really, I guess the Torah is identical to Gospels, and the Hadiths of Islam just back it all up, right? Are you going to share other aspects of your knowledge with us, such as everything and everyone is alike? Rather than spouting off banalities, you might try getting out of basement and reading something other than Mother Jones. Try an English version of the Qur'an by Rodwell or Ali. As for Bible, any RSV would do. Give it a try. I suspect that you would fall asleep after "The Cow" in the Qur'an.

      August 27, 2010 at 5:31 am |
  14. WMesser58

    That is the most inane, idiotic, misguided, clueless statement I've ever heard.

    August 25, 2010 at 11:53 am |
    • Joe G

      You must live in a bubble or have no idea what he is actually saying.

      That or you're just being you, a moron.

      August 25, 2010 at 11:55 am |
    • WMesser58

      @ Joe G Clearly since you have no arguement or intelligent thing to say you revert back to nanner, nanner, nanner, My pop is bigger than your pop.

      Please get off the short bus and tell your mommy that you have been on her computer.

      August 25, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  15. Joe G

    Your stupidity is astounding. READ THE ARTICLE

    August 25, 2010 at 11:53 am |
  16. Jason S

    No offense to Muslims, because there are a lot of good Muslims, but I'm a Christian. For the Mayor to say this statement is ridiculous. When are people going to see the Bloomberg is just out to get the vote. Theres more Muslims than Christians in the city. He's only for himself and his rich friends.

    August 25, 2010 at 11:52 am |
    • Joe G

      more Muslims that Christians in NY? hmmm..

      Why would you make up things to support your argument? Why don't you instead just use real facts to form your opinion?

      Oh, that's too hard and you're a moron.

      August 25, 2010 at 11:57 am |
    • free2comment

      That statistic depends on who you callin' a Muslim
      Apageinthelife 'The Secret of Min'

      August 25, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
    • SSA

      Every politician is out to get the vote!

      August 25, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
  17. Jim

    Ignorance will be our downfall, the more we isolate people the more they will turn to the extreme. Everyone who thinks we can legislate this problem away has a big surprise coming. Years of actions of intolerance like this is what has brought this problem about.

    August 25, 2010 at 11:52 am |
  18. tbs1662

    I voted for this mayor and I now I am sick to my stomach. He is lucky that he is not running anymore because he would have been a toast. Let him open a business in Saudi Arabia. Because he is jew he would never be allowed to go there. What a Moro.n.

    August 25, 2010 at 11:52 am |
    • SC

      Mmm. Yeah. Good thinking, there, with the comparison to Saudi Arabia, because of course if Saudi Arabia doesn't allow something, we ought to do the same here in the US, right? Just in case you missed it, that was sarcasm.

      August 25, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  19. TommyD

    What a joke to build that center there! We need to quit the cow-tow to appease sensitive, liberal buffoons. Build it 20 blocks away. There are many good muslims, but lets face it...Islam is a baaaaad and violent religion. Just sayin...

    August 25, 2010 at 11:52 am |
    • Chris R

      It's no more of a bad violent religion that Christianity. Don't get me wrong there are a lot of good Christians that know how to keep their place and not make a fuss but just look at what that Christians did? Bombings here in the US, assassination of doctors, terrorism in Ireland, molestation of children, forced conversions, burning crosses, and so forth. No one can tell me that these 'Christians' are anything more than a violent cult.

      August 25, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
  20. wyominguy

    Religious freedom is a right in the US and one to be protected. Yet ALSO in the US we keep religion and politics separate as much as possible and this is where Islam has taken the wrong turn. To me, Islam has become a political entity, they run governments, and when a "religion" runs government their philosophy is not offered, its mandated. The debate misses the point that Islam is no longer a religion, it has become a cult thriving on murder, terror, teaching of youth to become bombers and radicals, and stone age control of its followers. For this reason the mosque should not be allowed at GZ. Pray where you like but not on or near the one spot where Islamic politics has attacked our country, allowing this is both insensitive and absurd. Those who support it are on the wrong track. If Islam rids itself of radical political theory and leaders who promote murder then I can see it as a religion but not till then.

    August 25, 2010 at 11:52 am |
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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.