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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. Jason

    This article makes me sick as does mayor Bloomberg should be removed from office and banned from New York. I suggest he go live in Yemen or Saudi Arabia. He can be a muslim there. I am not a muslim now. I have never been a muslim. I will never be a muslim. The United States was founded by Christinas and our entire society is set up around Christian beliefs. While it is true that those beliefs are being being diluted by the left of this country that does not mean that we need to rush to welcome a religion that wants to destroy the US and what it stands for. This country needs to wake up.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  2. PAUL

    this man is full of the bu!! he is only cozzying up to islam to further his own interests at the expense of the rest of americans, do not vote for him in next elections, vote against him , also he should understand religious scripture before useing verse for his own political advantage, as for kennedy and his brothers i truely hope they did something good or usefull in his lifetime , i do not know what it would be, they got us in trouble in entering a useless veitnam war that murdered thousand of our troops as well as old men, women and children in vietnam Nixon was the only intelligent one in that disaster and won the trust of china,,, if bloomberg and kennedy are self imposed islamists that is thier problem, look at the end they came to, sad, very sad,

    August 25, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
  3. TERRORISTS BECAUSE OF ISLAM?

    COULD THE FACT THAT MOST TERRORISTS ARE MUSLIMS HAVE TO DO SOMETHING WITH THEIR RELIGION? IS IT POLITICALLY INCORRECT TO ASK SUCH A QUESTION?

    August 25, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
  4. stephen douglas

    What's with the reply function? Does not seem to work.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
  5. TIMOTHY

    1 Timothy 4:

    1Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
    6If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 7But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. 8For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 9This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. 10For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.

    11These things command and teach. 12Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 15Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 16Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

    TAKE HEED, and I don't say these things lightly, because it IS WRITTEN!

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

      Tim,

      Did you know that the Epistle to Timothy was not written by Paul?

      August 25, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
  6. Jeff A.

    why do we spend our time espousing Muslim rights in America. Let's see what happens to a muslim in Mogadishu who chooses to raise an American flag ? We fight for their rights, as they slaughter their own kind for showing one iota of respect to ours ? Who are the fools here ?? It goes both ways, you want respect, show respect.........Muslims are not here to espouse your rights, nor will they fight, or die for those freedom and democracy that provides them the breathing space they have here in America. Nor will they tell their Islamic brethren of the wonders of freedom and democracy in their hellholes of Islam, no, they are not here for that. If they aint with us, then what are they doing here exactly, thats right peops, now wake up and smell the coffee, and tell me what you are going to do personally to keep some balance here and in the future, cause this aint going away ??

    August 25, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
  7. Kevin

    Dear CNN,

    Please stop paying Steven Prothero money for his opinions. They are not good ones.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
  8. Kenny

    Why does anything religious have to always end up in wars, deaths, violence, disagreements and hate towards one another? This just shows thoughout history that any religion, whatever "good" its suppose to bring into this world, results in the opposite. I know some may say that the problem lies in the believers and not the religion itself. But either way, its still in the name of religion. I'm glad I don't believe in any religion. I don't need religion to teach me to be at peace and to love others as I love myself.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  9. Michael

    Once again the idiot Bloomberg gets it wrong. We are not all Muslims, not even close. I want nothing to do with a religion that treats women like property and does not want to educate young women. This is a religion that wants to return everyone to the dark ages. We keep hearing about the 99.9% of Muslims who oppose terrorism. Well, I'm still waiting on the vast Muslim majority to step up and do something to stop it. Why don't the Muslim countries send their armed forces over to Afghanistan to fight extremism instead of sitting on the sidelines commplaining about us when we step up to do THEIR JOB. To the Muslim world – talk is cheap. Get off your butts and fix YOUR problem.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  10. Lorraine

    What would the world reaction be if the US wanted to build a Christiian American Cultural Center 2 blocks from Hiroshima?

    August 25, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
    • hey_there

      This is not France, Lorraine!

      August 25, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  11. Dave

    How come that at the Pentagon, not 100 feet from where the plane hit the building, Muslims, Christians, and Jews can not only worship freely, but do so sharing the same 'chapel' for lack of a better word. Yet in NYC, 2 blocks is just too close? I don't get it. For crying out loud, there is a 'Gentlemen's club" closer that this site to Ground 0. I say let them build it, it's their right according to the constitution.

    And before anyone asks, I am catholic, so don't bother getting on me about that. Thanks, and have a nice day.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  12. TrueAmerican

    Stop being such limp-wristed little pansies. I swear some of you would preach love and peace while the hatchet was literally being buried in your skull. Grow up. I didn't bleed in Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan so that sissies like you could sing "we are the world" and give yourselves nice fat pats on the back for how "tolerant" and "progressive" you are. I have always taken pride in putting my countrymen before my own life and future, but right now I almost feel shame for protecting you. Congratulations.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  13. Matt

    Wow, I've never been as scared as I am today. America is just becoming so stupid and hateful is an absolute disgrace.

    1. Obama said they have a right to build there, NOT they SHOULD build a mosque near ground zero.
    2. They are building the mosque in place of a current mosque not erecting a new one.
    3. The mosque is a very minuscule part of the project, it will include a community center along with many shops and restaurants that have NOTHING to do with Muslims or Terrorists for that matter.
    4 No one has said it would be great if they built a mosque right next to ground zero, they are saying they have every right to build a mosque next to ground zero.....and they do.
    5 Because they have a right to build does not mean its a great idea nor is anyone saying that. Building a city below sea level (New Orleans) isn't such a great idea either but try and stop us stupid Americans from doing that!
    6. We have been in Iraq for 7 years so that they can have a democracy and freedoms just like us....now we are removing freedom in our own country to spite our own allies?

    I've never been so ashamed to be an American, my own brother believes Obama is a Muslim.....because Rush said so!

    August 25, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
    • Reality

      Matt,

      You will become even more scared once you scroll up and read the locations of all the contemporary incidents of koranic-driven Islamic terror most of which were planned in mosques.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
    • @Matt

      Matt, maybe you should move to some islamic country where they are so tolerant of other religions.

      August 25, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  14. John

    We're all muslim? That explains the sudden feeling like I wanted to stone a woman.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  15. phantom2010

    islam/muslim is a violation of human rights. islam/muslim should not be recognized as a "religion" in the us and its tax free status should be revoked.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
  16. 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 a frenzy 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 3:11 pm |
  17. stephen douglas

    "... 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." ABOVE ALL OF THAT we are Americans. How many Muslims will put America first? Are they putting America first by insisiting a giant mosque at this location is a good idea? Soooo, the MAJORITY of AMERICANS see this mosque as a deliberate slap, an insult to most logical thinking Americans who would mostly agree that although the Muslims have a right to build a mosque at this location, it is morally and ethically off the charts wrong. Period. No constitutional issue here – It is all about sensitivities and respect. You know, like drawing cartoons of Muhammad, which many will recall have resulted in numerous murders world wide. So, in the Islamic world it is wrong to draw a stupid cartoon, but it is ok to murder over 3000 people and then build a structure that many will see as a monument to the murderers and their cohorts, who by the way will never face any justice whatsoever. You don't think nineteen alone were able to pay for and carry out the murders do you? There was a lot of money and logistical support from MUSLIMS in other parts of the world. However, there are Muslims who are against this location, but they won't speak out because they fear for their lives. So much for the religion of peace and tolerance. Muslims can go build a giant mosque anywhere else in the city or state of New York, or anywhere in the entire country. BUT, that location is where they are insisting because it has meaning, i.e., a victory. And anyone who supports it is a d-@-mn-ed fool. Totallly blind. Get your heads out of the sand or from whatever bodily orrifice it is stuck into. These people are shameless.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
    • stephen douglas

      "your comment is awaiting moderation..." wonder what that means? I already modified it so the stupid censor would allow the four letter word that starts with a d and ends with ed and has amn in between...

      August 25, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
      • danbeaches

        bamn it

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

        stephen douglas,

        You might try scanning your post for words with the letters t_ i_ t in them... like 'const!tution', 'grat!tude', etc. Goofy nanny filter flags them...

        August 25, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
      • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

        did you use any word with t-i-t in it? Like Const-itutional? That catches me all the time...

        August 25, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
  18. tom

    My guess is that Bin Laden is gleeful over the possible rejection of the mosque, because It will incite moderate Muslims to beome radical Islamist.

    ....so he loves you "I hate Islam" people.

    Do you get that?

    Wiouldn't it be better to show tolerance in this country in the hope of fundamental changes in Islam?
    If we don't, stand by for a cascade of 9/11s for hundreds of years.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
    • FUNDMENTAL CHANGES TO ISLAM?

      FUNDMENTAL CHANGES TO ISLAM??? THIS ALONE SHOWS HOW IGNORANT YOU ARE. THE KORAN IS GOD'S WORD AND IT COMMANDS TO ESTABLISH A GLOBAL CALIPHATE WHERE EVERYBODY IS MUSLIM. THAT ALONE SHOWS HOW PEACEFUL ISLAM IS. THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN WARS AGAINST ISLAM. EUROPE WAS ATTACKED SEVERAL TIMES BY MUSLIM ARMIES, E.G. IN AUSTRIA, SERBIA, SPAIN. THERE WILL BE MORE WARS AGAINST ISLAM IN THE FUTURE. WHY? BECAUSE ISLAM HAS TO CONQUER BY THE SWORD. THAT/S HOW MOHAMMED WANTED IT AND ALL THE MUSLIM FOOLS FOLLOW HIS WORDS BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO AS OTHERWISE, THEY WILL END UP IN HELL (ACCORDING TO THE KORAN). SO ISLAM WILL N E V E R CHANGE.

      August 25, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
    • WOW!!!

      WOW! Tom's naivety is dangerous and ridiculous. First, islam will NEVER change. second, that cascade he talks about is already happening. It started the day islam was invented. Since then, many countries have been islamized by force, look at former India, ie Pakistan and Bangladesh. there's no Hindus left there. They were all killed or forced to convert. Same in Bosnia and many places in Africa. Also, Europe has repeatedly been attacked by muslim armies. I am sure people like Tom would prefer Europe being conquered by Muslims to opposing and fighting them. Because he is a spineless coward.

      August 25, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  19. TIMOTHY

    But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.

    Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
  20. Jeff A.

    If we had radical Christians all over the world blowing up buildings and killing innocent people, would we not expect to have some of our Christian ways be questioned in Islamic countries. Does that make them bigoted to question our insistance on building a christian church on top of the dead bodies of one of the christian radicals mass killings ? Would they question themselves ad nauseaum to our right to be Christian, and openly embrace and encourage Christianity ,all the while as christian terrorists at home here in America train their ways in Vermont? There is a differnce between espousing freedom and tolerance, and being down right fools !!

    August 25, 2010 at 3:10 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.