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. scott

    We need lebensraum!
    We need lebensraum!
    We need lebensraum!
    We need lebensraum!
    We need lebensraum!

    August 25, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
  2. Concerned Army Vet

    First let me say that I have friends of just about every race, religion, faith and background you can think of. I don't judge people as a group unless it's a group doing something.

    I have a few questions for all of you supporting this Mosque.

    Why are you ok with it. I am NOT talking about religion here, I am talking about respect for people that died at the hands of animals that are supported by this religion. Terorist are not part of the main stream Muslim religion you say. Really ????

    Then why wont the Muslim leaders denounce the terroist ??? Why wont they say "If there is a terroist among us, we will turn them over." ??? Why aren't Muslim leaders on TV telling terrorist that they can't hide in their ranks ?

    If they didn't support terrorist, they would do the things I mention.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  3. John

    I guess the Muslim's will like Bloomberg so much that they'll slit his infidel throat last for not converting.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  4. Greg

    I have to admit, I'm torn. The Imam has the right to build anywhere he sees fit, but if reconcilliation is the goal. Don't build it someplace where it will inflame hostilities. Of course that may be easier said then done, I suspect that with the xenophobia being displayed by the Good Ole USA that a mosque would be contentious.

    Enough of that, it doesn't personaly bother me that the mosque is being built at "ground zero," but I firmly believe one of our hometown radicals will end up firebombing the place causing further cracks in our culture.

    I am sick and tired of hearing Americans call other Americans,"Unamerican" because of differing opinions. I am southern, college educated and an ex-Army officer who served in a combat tole in the Middle-East. Do I hate all Muslims, no as a matter of fact my best friend is Egyptian. Why do Americans alsways fall back to ingnorance and hatred instead of understanding. Those that keep saying they want America back, well it's here and the America you know and love is not the America that previous generation knew. New people come in and evenetually their culture and ideas are melded into our own natianal identity. Are people of the Muslim faith different? Yes, but ultimately they are people like you and like you they will become a part of our natioanl identity.

    If you don't believe me search the history of the Irish and Italians in this country, you will see that they molded our country but ultimately didn't harm it in any way.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  5. Bubba

    iremembersept11- I suppose you also believe all Muslims are members of the Taliban too? Don't ask such stupid questions.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
    • Reality


      Scroll up the page and read about the roads to Islamic terror.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  6. scott

    If Bloomberg was such an amazing mayor his approval rating wouldn't have just hit the gutters like its a nose dive right now. Good riddance to the money hungry greedy traitor.

    Bloomberg wears his values on his sleeves. He's not in it for the principle, he's in it for the $$$ and is probably going to get himself assassinated.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
  7. Oldguy

    It's legal but not right. Just like;
    The NRA building a shooting range two blocks from Columbine
    The Carmelite nuns opening a convent just outside of Auschwitz
    The Mormons performing post-mortem baptisms on Jews who died in the Holocaust

    The President displayed his Constitutional expertise when he defended the legality of the project. He displayed a lack of leadership when he failed to articulate the difference between having a right and exercising one.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
  8. FedUpInSeattle

    While I commend Bloomberg and totally understand his stance. The problem is that in the time of my grandfather coming to America, the idea of being American above all was like a magical dream. In an earlier post I noted about knowing to Afghans who came to this country during the Soviet occupation and rise of the Taliban shortly after and when they came they came with the romantic thought of being American. Now it seems that when people come to America, patriotism is frowned upon. If you fly an American Flag or support saying the pledge of allegiance you are a Right Wing nut or something. My parents were both Dems and we flew a flag every day of the year that was listed on a little sheet that my mom kept in the kitchen drawer. I have met a few people who have become citizens and were very emotional about it and i have met others that are not citizens, don't want to be citizens and just want to work and send the money back to their home countries. I 100% support Muslims that came here for the dream of American and to escape Radicalism but not those that constantly put America down and constantly justify killing of non-muslims. I'm glad I have not met any of the latter kind but have read plenty of post from some on differnt news sites.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
  9. scott

    They have a billion muslims, thousands of mosques all over the middle east and around the world. Just like the Nazis, they need this mosque because they are in need of more "breathing room."

    All these poor muslims need is Lebensraum! Lets all send a bunch of kids to Ground Zero Freedom Tower where they can learn about Bin Laden and his evil plans to Islamize the world, then, just as we exit the building we can have a Mosque right there screaming out some call to prayer.

    Surely, these muslims that want to build ground zero are not just stupid, but they could be evil as well. Its tough to tell if they're on Team Stupid or Team Evil but I'd wager its a little bit of both.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
  10. Dan

    If a community center and mosque cannot be built on their own pre-existing property, then maybe Christians should withdraw all their missionaries from around he world. Short of the Vatican or Iran, Is there something wrong with offering up your own spiritual beliefs? For those who cannot understand how this center could be built so close to ground zero, ask youself – What do I know about people of Islam? Has my knowledge of Islam come from those filled with fear and hate? Does Al Queda represent all of Islam? Did Timmothy McVey represent all Americans?

    August 25, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
    • RB

      Earlier you asked why there. Why not there? It would show that we have healed as a nation if we accept and built it there. We look weak when we fight about this. It is time to heal and move forward. Strong people learn and move on, they don't live in the past. I don't mean forget, but move forward.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
    • RB

      Just to let you know. I would have put my first comment with your corresponding comment but I didn't see a reply link for it. I like your comment on what do we really know about Muslims, etc. I agree people respond out of fear and ignorance.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
    • Reality


      Scroll up the page and read about our War on Terror especially koranic-driven terror that is requiring much time and money in keeping Islam in check.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:36 pm |
  11. SJtR

    bloomberg can speak for himself. he doesnt speak for me. I am no f***ing muslim!

    August 25, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
  12. Glenn

    I'd vote for this man for President

    August 25, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
    • Reality


      Scroll up the page and read about the locations of the roads to Islamic terror. You might then change your mind.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
  13. scott

    The Nazis need more Breathing Room so they have to be allowed to build their mosques.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
  14. Jeff A.

    the right to say no to a mosque in the 9/11 debris field was won by the deaths of innocent people who's only mistake was living as an American. I wonder how the message that building a muslim mosque on top of the dead bodies of Americans is being received by the radical muslims. They are lauging thir as%$es off, dumb Americans, make our job easy, don't they ??

    August 25, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
  15. toad

    FUKK the ramadan and FUKK your foreign policy objectives.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  16. docliptz

    We are all Muslims? Well then why the hell are we blowing ourselves up? We must REALLY hate our freedoms.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
  17. Bob C

    Unfortunately for muslims, it only takes a few Islamist radical Imams to 'turn' the bulk of muslims into a threat to Western culture and to themselves. Poverty and a lack of basic opportunities and freedoms in muslim nations is the breeding ground for 'jihadists'. Muslims, as other immigrants, look to the West for a better way of life. These radical Imams refuse to accept cultural assimilation by their bretheren into western host nation laws. When this occurs Islam becomes a political and not a religious movement.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
    • Frogist

      This is false logic. Islam does not stop being a religion because there are those who use it for political gain. Otherwise, Christianity would long ago have stopped being a religion. Know your enemy. It is not Islam. It is those who use Islam as a weapon.

      August 26, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
  18. Scott Bair

    We tried tolerance. The WTC towers are gone, the Pentagon got hit, another plane load of people crashed in a field, thousand died that day and thousands more in Afghanistan. Mr. Mayor, you are a fool. You are not a Muslim. You are a Jew. I am a Jew. We, and that include people of all faiths, all share in the tragic losses that day and in the days since.

    There can be NO individual faith based facilities here. If a faith based facility must be built, let it be for all faiths, Jews, Christian, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc... as people from all these faiths were murdered. Let it be built by one and all. Do not allow it to be built any other way.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
    • Frogist

      @ Scott: the center is not at the WTC site... And there are other faith based facilities already there.

      August 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
  19. Bubba

    Lucy- If you consider yourself a "true" Christian then God help us. Besiders, Allah=God you moron.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
  20. Robert

    Mr Bloomburg, it is impossible to be both a Christian and a Muslim at the same time. To be an actual Christian you have to believe the words of Jesus Christ that he is in fact God existing as a man, according to Jesus (Read the book of John.) Muslims don't believe Jesus is God.

    August 25, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
    • Reality


      Atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus and pagans also do not believe Jesus was a god. Ditto for many contemporary, NT exegetes.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Robert: You are missing the metaphorical point...he means we are all humans with the right to each of our religions without prohibition except as it relates to law.

      August 26, 2010 at 2:22 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.