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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. Mdajani

    IGNORANCE.. this is the problem!!

    Thats the problem with most of these posts.. A lot of people are just stating Islam = terrorism.. but they know absolutely nothing about Islam, the Quran, and the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him.. they base their information solely on the propaganda that the media feeds them.. Islam is built upon peace and worshipping one God.

    How much longer are you all going to blame millions and millions for the actions of a radical few?!

    August 25, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  2. manon

    to answer JOE, first, what makes you think they are not american citizens? second, in iraq, the muslims are fighting each other: sunis against shiite. in jordan, syria, lebanon, even in iraq (until US got in the middle), in egypt, basically in most middle east coutries, muslims and christians have been living in peace for centuries. this war against taliban, is a global war. i am from morocco and muslim and i would hate to see any of those extremists get a hold of my country. it will ruin everything beautiful i grow up with. i would feel like my whole past is being shattered by these ignorants. and many moroccans feel this way. so, this war is not only an american war, it's in everyone's benefit, including the majorities of muslims, that this minority terrorists be stopped. moroccan women fought for a long time for the right of education and jobs and equal rights, believe me when i say that no one would want our country to go back instead of forward because of the taliban.
    you people, are fighting the wrong group. the taliban and osama benladen are against every idea that is going to be created in this islamic center in NY: a swimming pool, a gym, a library where women are going to be allowed. even if they separate women from men. if taliban hears this imam speak among them, they would have killed him already. YOU ARE FIGHTING THE WRONG GROUP.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  3. JJ

    Dearborn, Michigan is perfect example of moderate Islam. Only 1/3 of the population is Muslim but they control the whole city government. Minorities have no say in the Islamic law they inject into the running of the city – separation of church and state does not apply there. I am Islamiphobic based on the fact that the religion is freedomaphobic.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  4. DanC

    Saying that we are at war with muslims because of the conflict with a few extremist groups is like saying we were at war with 'white people' when we fought the Nazi's in WWII. Speaking of, Nazi's did consider themselves Christians, so technically you christians have yet to really distance themselves from their own history of violence and attempts at global domination. Then again, that was over 50y ago. Is that enought time to allow you to sweep that under the rug so you can continue with your self-rightiousness? Apparently so.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
  5. Same old story

    I was away from NYC for some twenty years. Now I visit almost weekly. During my absence, NYC changed in not so subtle ways. Years ago, imigrant peoples all worked at becoming American. The spoke English and the corner hotdog stand reigned supreme in the concrete canyons. Today, I hear much less English and really can't understand much of what anyone passing by is saying. Hotdogs have been replaced with Halal stands and the smell of smoke on every corner. Just when did it become unfashionable to be just a plain-old American in America's biggest city? I don't want to deprive anyone of religious freedom or the right to become a good citizen pursuing happiness. But why do those who come to U.S. think that their rights trump mine? Why in August is the Mayor of NY going to so much trouble be sure Muslim sensibilities are not hurt, but in December, not a single politician will say "Merry Christmas," deferring to the more P.C. "Happy Holidays"? I'm all for making the Minority equal to the Majority in rights and opportunities, but removing the same from the Majority only breeds contempt.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
    • Frogist

      LOL! You are mad because your politicians won't say Merry Christmas and you don't like Halal food? BTW Where the heck do you go to in NY? Cuz NY still has hot dogs and people who speak english and every kind of food imaginable. Are you sure you're a NYer?
      Also Halal food is just food that has been approved for consumption by muslims. Much like Kosher food.

      August 26, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
  6. Mike

    Anyone who thinks that Muslims will be able to change America into a Muslim country are crazy. America has its own ways about it; America changes things, not the other way around. We take people of all kinds. They bring their beliefs, their culture, etc. And then it becomes Americanized.

    I think the people that are afraid of Islam are actually afraid of losing the Christianity part of America, not America the country. If you meet an American Muslim you will see that most of them follow a watered-down version of their religion. I.e., they are Americans first, and Muslims second. Just as many "Christians" don't go to church, don't know what's in the bible, etc, they are Americans first, and Christians second.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
    • Frogist

      Thank you Mike! One other person who understands the power of this country. I don't understand where this victimization "poor me" idea came from? It's kind of pathetic. And very unattractive. This paranoia has to stop. America can handle anything that is thrown at it. We will not lose our sense of self because we are diverse. It's about time people stop whining about how their afraid and their feelings are hurt and start to move on. I can understand that the family members are always gonna be hurt and we are always gonna feel that loss to some extent. But we shouldn't be using it as an excuse to not move forward. Starting to deal with the muslim world in an open way is moving forward.

      August 26, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
  7. Chris

    Historically a mosque is placed in a sacred place as a symbol of victory against a defeated enemy. Most, like me, do not oppose Muslims, their beliefs or religion. The horrible acts were certainly performed by the minority. However, understanding history, the desire to build a mosque at Ground Zero (now a sacred sight) is being perceived by many as Muslims (maybe the minority) believing they have defeated the Americans. And this is why I would never support it being build here. I am fine with a mosque in NY city, just not at a sacred site. If Americans built a Christian church in Baghdad, it would be perceived as Americans shoving their beliefs down the throats of Muslims and a symbol of victory or that we are a better people. It is simply inappropriate.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
  8. The Kool Aid Works

    PNAC

    The Plan For A New American century.
    A must read for every American citizen.

    It should have been subtitled...how the new world order will come.
    Devide and conquer works well.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
  9. Valerie

    For the sake of argument, let's substitute the word and object Nazi for Muslim – and one could do that very easily. There is a book out on the Nazi influence on Islam which just might make the likes of Mayor Blindberg rethink his "support" for these fanatical people. Or, let's substitute the KKK for Islam. Would anyone be willing to let either party build ANYTHING in NYC? Would they even tolerate their presence of the presence of their symbols? I think not!

    Too much political correctness has blinded us to the beastly nature of our enemies – and they are our enemies. We think that we can get them to love us, but all that Muslims want is our conversion or our death, period. Are there "moderate" Muslims? Certainly, but there is no such thing as "moderate" ISLAM. If we haven't learned that by now and we aren't putting an end to the giant Mosque projects all across the nation built by foreign (Saudi?) dollars, then perhaps we ARE too stupid to survive.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
  10. J. Adams

    The most dangerous lies are truth told with malintent. Feisal Abdul Rauf and Islam's misleaders are skilled deceivers in this regard, and falling for their bullsh&t is part of the recipe for national suicide Bloomberg, Obama and the political Left are following line by line IMHO.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
  11. TIMOTHY

    TERRORISTS = UNBELIEVERS = SINNERS

    They are all the same who do NOT BELIEVE THE TRUE WORD OF G_d, The Christ, our SALVATION! The truth is there if you shall seek it; everything which is GOOD SHALL NOT BE REFUSED IF TAKEN IN THANKSGIVING! Our Heavenly Father placed all on this Earth which is Good, but the laws and minds of men pervert it for their own profit, which is an offense to G_d.

    We all must learn and obey; to turn the other cheek is good in the eyes of G_d. To judge another is NOT our domain. When we do this, we essentially elevating ourselves and is an offense to G_d. In Roman times, Christians were considered perverted; we called each other Brother or Sister, had "Lovefeasts," and to outsiders who judged, we were labeled as we would seek to label others today, because we didn't understand, have compassion, or walked-in the path which G_d shows us. Mankind is on the cusp of a new beginning, but we will never make it to that final step if we do not accept each other as brothers and sisters no matter what they look like, no matter which creed or color they belong to or come from, OR what language they speak in. Get to know them and you might find they worship the goodness of G_d, which is the same as ours as Christians.

    If you cannot do this, hateful in your flesh, how then can you ever be close to the Greatness of G_d? Who is EVERYTHING good and just. Recognize these things and you might save yourselves, continue in hatred, lust of the flesh, and greed, the times of great tribulation will be before you. Compassion, love, honesty, faithfulness, being non-judgemental, careful of what you speak, repenting of mistakes, striving to become more than you are through G_d, is the True Way!

    AMEN!

    The Most Imporant Thing:

    It is true G_d commands all Christians to spread the Word, Go Forth and Preach, But Not FORCE others to believe. G_d wants us to love Him of our OWN FREE WILL. NEVER SHOULD WE as True Believers judge another for believing in G_d. It will NEVER change, until the RETURN; there will be good and evil. G_d gave us our minds to RATIONALIZE by logic what good and evil is AND to enforce it and overcome by our hearts. It is for this reason, that evil-doers and unbelievers of G_d, will be resigned to their own ends of destruction. Do not think for a moment that G_d cannot do the impossible for He created Everything. The essense of the power of True Faith is like that of a mustard seed; even a small amount of faith can be shown to move mountains.

    G_d indeed works in very mysterious ways, knows everything, nothing is clothed before Him. Your heart's intents are open as a book; so do not judge your fellow human beings, who are also created by G_d. We must open our eyes and put-away childish ways in order to learn the True Way.

    Our world is in trouble, the animals we have been charged with protecting and are under our domain are being abused and have no voice to speak, but their plights are seen as a profit to men's greed. EVERY life on this Earth is to be cherished and not discarded as garbage for a use to make money. It is our divine imperative to work to save our world in order to prepare it for G_d's return. Would you give G_d a trashcan or a Paradise? Search not everywhere, but search inwardly, in your heart of goodness, for the answer, it is inside every living human being. G_d made man in his own image; why do you not expect to find Him when you look inside yourselves? To do this, one needs to purify themselves of the "rind of sin" to gain the fruits of goodness. It is a task which is difficult, but this is exactly why we were created. Why we have a conscience. Why Jesus died for us. Why G_d loves us as His children, who need discipline or praise when good or bad results come from behviors.

    Pay IT Forward, and no one will ever be hungry, isolated, feeling as if they do not belong; all goodness will be the fruits of our labors...ONLY IF...WE BELIEVE...

    August 25, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  12. Phyllis

    Muslin Bloomberg, you are a muslim and so is Obama a muslim, but I do not take it lightly when some says we are all muslims, I am not a muslin and how dare you say something like that, you are insane, your remarks are uncalled for, I will not let anyone and I do not care who you are call me a muslim, you need to apologize to everyone you have offended by your remark that every one is a muslim. You are a true ignorant person and your statement proves it. If you think I would ever dress like a muslim woman, walk in back of a man or be a part of stoning to death think again, so please do not put me in the same category as a muslim, they also killed 3,000 innocent people, they have no regard for human life.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
  13. bruce

    the muslims have more than just a foothold in this country. Don't fool yourselves into denying that their intent is ultimately to control American elections and America's future. Fools are those that give up one inch of tolerance for these people. Open your eyes, for our day of reckoning will soon arrive. I vote for eliminating them, from this country and from the world map. Bloomberg is an idiot!! I'm not a Muslim, how about you? We've taken far more crap from these heathens than we should, as well as from our lifetime politicians.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  14. Fred Whissel

    Bloomberg is a blooming idiot, and I will thank him not to lump me in with his belief that we are "all" Muslims. Not only am I not a Muslim, but I do not agree with MANY of the tenets of their faith, particularly those covered by their "sharia" laws. One thing I especially do not agree with is flying passenger planes into World Trade Towers. Of course, it was not ALL Muslims who did that, but only radical Muslims, who would be called "terrorists" by anyone outside the Obama Administration. But I guess that is Bloomberg's point: We are all Muslims; all Muslims are terrorists - right? No, I don't think so. I am neither a terrorist nor a Muslim, and don't wish to be either, regardless of what this liberal Democrat (NOT a Republican or Independent) believes.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  15. Deb

    Uh, color me confused, but exactly where does Mayor Bloomberg say "We are all Muslims?" His exact quote was "We in New York are Jews, Christians and Muslims." Go back to college and study English, dude! You got me pissed off by your title, only to be more pissed that you screwed it up.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
  16. Igor Kanin

    islam is cult of terrorist and murderers

    August 25, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
  17. The Kool Aid Works

    All you people who believe 19 morons who could not even fly a cessna
    Hi-jacked 4 commercial jets with box cutters

    The day after (Sept 12th)
    Every news media had the names AND photos of every hi-jacker
    so where did these names and pictured come from
    when the Bush administration was running around screaming that
    there was NO INTEL about any threat ???????????

    When the Soviet Union fell, PNAC decided we needed a new enemy
    and they created one.
    They sold it and you baught it.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
  18. Michael, Chapel Hill

    Hi Waqas Ahmad,
    You may be more politically correct in Russia or China who recognizes hamas.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
  19. mayanman

    Mahabone

    August 25, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  20. Craig Helm

    Well spoken Mr. Bloomberg. I am a Republican. I believe that freedom of religion must be protected here in our country regardless of my own religious views.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:24 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.