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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. mbh

    Stephen, it is clear that you do not understand what Christianity or Islam is all about – which by the way applies to a high percentage of those who have responded to your article. Anyone who proclaims to be a Christian has accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and savior, believes their sins were foregiven when Jesus was cruxified, died and rose again, and has faith in knowing the Lord will return. The teachings of Islam call for death to anyone who does not abide by the teachings of the Koran among many other things.

    Bloomberg is not speaking for the majority of American when he refers to a, "propaganda war now being waged on Islam in America ." The Koran is quite explicit, and teaches hate against all who do not abide by the laws of Islam. That hate is focused on ALL religions other than Islam.

    The argument about whether a mosque should be built in the shadow of Ground Zero is not about religious freedom, it's about the Muslim nations thumbing their nose at the U.S. The saying, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, applies here. In our culture, we have respect for EVERYONE who perished during 9/11 – including those of the Muslim faith. Therefore, the controversy surrounding this mosque should be taken to heart and plans to build a mosque should be redirected to a different location. It's the "Respectful" thing to do, and doesn't hinder freedom of religion or expression.

    Time to put this issue to rest and concentrate on getting our nation back on track!

    August 25, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • Kate

      @mbh

      The ones who truly are being insensitive and disrespectful to 9/11 and the families of those who died are the ones who've hijacked what happened and turned it into political theater in order to get votes.

      Hint: That would be everyone who isn't from NYC, and/or didn't lose family on 9/11 – and no, Sarah Palin couldn't see New York from Wasila, so isn't qualified either.

      Just sayin'

      August 25, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
  2. KeplerPoinsot

    To the old person yelling at me with ALL CAPS: I bet you scream in person, too. My point was that Muslims are all kinds of people, including natural-born Americans raised in public school. You want to marginalize Muslims as foreigners when the simple fact is you can only visually recognize a small % of us. We are everywhere and not going anywhere and most of us are nice people. Your kind on the other hand thrives off feeding fears and inciting violence. Sounds like the work of the Devil to me. Let's work on building bridges folks, not walls. Unless of course you want to live like an Israeli?

    August 25, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
  3. ATATURK (FOUNDER OF TURKEY) ON ISLAM

    "ISLAM IS THE STENCH FROM THE CORPSE OF THAT DEAD BEDUIN PERVERT."

    Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey

    August 25, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
  4. WINSTON CHURCHILL ON ISLAM

    Winston Churchill On Islam

    How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

    August 25, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
  5. Doc

    Islam is an archaic, brutal political system. There's nothing peaceful about it. When a Christian church can be built in Saudi Arabia, then I might change my mind about Islam. In my opinion, Islam has no place in a democracy.

    August 25, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  6. Islam is evil!!!

    I converted from islam to Christianity and I am shocked by the people here claiming islam is peaceful and not a threat. You people don't know what islam is. It is evil. It's a strong word but the only fitting one. Stop posting here if you support islam and don't know what it really is.

    August 25, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  7. EMBARRASSING

    IT AMAZES ME HOW MANY IGNORANT FOLKS WE HAVE HAVE HERE SAYING CHRISTIANITY IS WORSE AND MORE VIOLENT THAN ISLAM. JUST RIDICULOUS AND NOT EVEN WORTH DISCUSSING. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING.

    August 25, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  8. Eric of Reseda

    Can we PLEASE get off this religious freedom NONSENSE! If religious freedom was a priority, then Mormons would be allowed to have multiple wives, religions that believe in the use of psychadelics would be given free rein, and Satanic orders would be fiven offical blessings to sacrifice furry, little animals...or small children for that matter. This is a POLITICS, pure and simple. And when look at the geo-political state of Islam, New Yorkers have every right to be unnerved.

    Blaming a "few radicals" no longer flies. The FACT is, from the Mideast, to South Asia, to the Phillipines, to Europe...whether it's the murder of Hindus in Kashmir, Americans in NYC or Christians delivering aid in desolate Afghan village, Islam has been at the center of conflict. And the conflict is intra-faith as well. Sunnis slaughtering Shia, Shia slaughtering Sunnis. A million dead in the Iraq-Iran conflict. Theo Van Gogh murdered for exercising his freedom in his own country. Cat Stevens condoning the fatwa (murder) of Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali running around the globe in fear for her life, AMERICAN Muslims attempting to blow up the planes we travel on, and now...we see multiple honor killings IN AMERICA of young Muslim woman by their fathers (Amina and Sarah Said, Noor Almaleki, or Palestina Isa to name a few). And people question why Americans might be a little suspicious of Islam?!?

    August 25, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
  9. hey_there

    @mohammed was a murderer, Jesus was not...the more the learn about Islam the more you will be isolated...in your trailer in the land of nowhere

    August 25, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
  10. hey_there

    KEPLERPOINSOT what degree do you hold, redneck! I'm an Aerospace Engineer..what about you???!

    August 25, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
  11. hey_there

    mohammed was a murderer, Jesus was not...the same Bigot with different name..redneck idiot

    August 25, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  12. epmd23

    First of all, for the people that say "why don't we build a church in mecca" well lets take a look around the middle east Syria–there are 15 churches with NO PROBLEM between faiths –let go to Iraq –7 churches –let go to Jordan 7– Lebanon–21 and i could go on and on....wait even in the most barbaric place Afghanistan there are 3–so stop talking, non-sense that they don't let us build churches in there countries because 15% of the Arab world is Christian and beside some cases of racist idiots they all get along. Now we come to USA where we are supposed to be free - but you have some really ignorant comments about Islam and crap about how Muslims want to take over the world - there are stupid people on both sides and by letting the monkeys in these fundamentalist world turn this issue into them against us, we let them win!! please look at famous American Muslims they are just a loyal as any of you.

    With great respect to the lost lives of ground zero. it was a sad day for all faith.

    August 25, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
    • Jeff A.

      epmd23, the message that the muslims will get, is that your outstreched hand, that you believe has an olive branch, is a hand full of Muslim blood, and your weakness will become their strength. Don't even go there. By no fault of your own, you are the enemy of Islam. Every so often, the small m muslims slip up, and show their true hand."

      I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.”

      Imman Rauf on 9/11 New York

      August 25, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  13. Frogist

    Quite frankly if Mr Abdul Rauf wants muslims from all around the world to come to the wtc site, I applaud him. I support him 100%. They need to see first hand the wages of war and terrorism on another country. They need to see the loss and the strength and hope born out of it. That is what can inspire us to stand together against the extremists. That is what could give them the strength to stand up in their own countries as we stand up in ours. In solidarity against terrorism. We need that more than ever.

    And thank you Mr Bloomberg for showing a much needed light in the darkness.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
    • Jeff A.

      Frogist, you are missing the point. With every Muslim that you invite to ground zero, you legitimize the rationale for the downing of the towers, and admit your culpability as a contributor to the Muslim retribution of American policies throughout the world. That may not be what you would write on the invitation, but that is what will be perceived. You see, it comes down to two idealogies that will come to a head. One will be Muslim, and the sharia, and one will be American, and democracy. Although America is not perfect, and mistakes have been made with what I believe to be initially good intentions as perceived by our leaders and their faith, and their decisions, you will be faced with two choices. The first step will be in the direction you have chosen. So choose carefully, because the two idealogies are incompatible. The only problem Muslims have with you is the way you live, eat, work, mate, live, and die. Diid I forget anything. Other than that, no problem.

      August 25, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Jeff A: To justify your idea of their center rationalizing 9/11 you first have to believe in your heart that all muslims wanted the towers to come down. That is not the case. Mr Feisal Abdul Rauf himself condemned the acts of terror on 9/11. You would also have to believe that all muslims do not want democracy, which, as the recent elections in Iran may have shown you, is not the case. Thirdly, do you actually know any muslims. Because I do, and they welcomed me as family even though I was Presbyterian at the time. My friend who is female is highly educated and does not wear a hijab yet she still considers herself moslem. You may say she is not truly muslim, but then you would be exactly like those who advocate sharia law. Face it mate, you do not know of which you speak.

      August 26, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  14. The Kool Aid Works

    Mohamed attas father, to this day still claims his son
    called him on September 12th, 2001.

    At least 8 of the so called hi-jackers have been confirmed alive today.

    The Koran is such a holy book that is is treated with respect by its owner
    yet the FBI says that Mohamed Atta left one in a strip joint
    one in a suitcase in his car (who packs a bag when they are going to die)
    and one in a hotel room.
    Guess Atta was just crawling in Korans.
    The Jet that Atta supposedly flew into the tower was completely disitigrated by the fire ball
    No body parts, luggage, debree, yet the FBI finds his intact passport on the ground.
    Who writes this stuff ??

    August 25, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
  15. Jeff A.

    I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.”

    Immam Rauf.

    This is the moderate Muslim who Bloomberg defends. I would hate to meet his radical cousin who in now on the boat to America. No problem dude, build your mosque atop the dead bodies, and tell your flock about how an eye for an eye is ok by you, invite Bloomberg for some tabouli and rice while your at it as Bloomberg kisses your a%^ss, and tell him what he wants to hear. Message to Americans, either agree that Americans were accesories to the dead of 9/11, or kick the F&^$^er out of New York, one or the other. I guess you can also preach tolerance, and freedom, and blah blah blah, but I don't know what that message really is, do you ??

    August 25, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
    • Jeff A.

      As history as taught us, it will all come down to who has the biggest gun, as Bloomberg and fellow retarded liberals pass the ammo to the Muslims.......

      August 25, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
  16. Matty Deez

    LISTEN UP EVERYONE.

    YES, it is within any American's right to build a place of worship wherever they can legally purchase land and build.

    BUT SHOULD THEY BUILD NEXT TO GROUND ZERO? Of course not. That is ridiculously insensitive to all who gave their lives on 9/11, non-muslims and muslims alike. These people were killed in the name of Islam as an act of war. That sort of thing should never be rewarded like this.

    IF YOU INSIST ON BUILDING IT, as you have the right to do, THEN I INSIST ON BUILDING A HUGE GAY BAR CALLED "MOHAMMED" RIGHT NEXT DOOR. IT WILL FEATURE A GIANT BILLBOARD WITH A PICTURE OF MOHAMMED HIMSELF FLANKED BY TWO HALF-NAKED SLAVE BOYS.

    SHOULD I BE ALLOWED TO BUILD THIS GAY BAR? Of course, this is America. BUT SHOULD I BUILD IT? Of course not, it's offensive and in poor taste.

    DO YOU GET IT NOW, YOU STUPID LIBERAL COMMIES???? STOP ALLOWING OUR ENEMIES TO USE OUR FREEDOM TO FURTHER THEIR EVIL AGENDAS.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  17. David

    Why is everyone scared of Islam taking over? They have to compete with reality television and American Idol first.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
    • Nyarlathotep

      A religion based on Jersey Shore would be better than Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Wicca and Scientology combined.

      August 25, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
    • Frogist

      OMG that show is a disgrace to the state of Jersey... and that's saying something.

      August 26, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
  18. fred nj

    i dont even know why theres a debate on this. to me this just shows that the attacks on 911 were successfull because the terrorist lived up to their names in causing terror in america, the fear and hate still grows in peoples hearts. they want us to be divided and tear each other apart from the inside because they cant do it with conventional weapons. i love this country but theres alot of people that dont think and dont think twice from the other persons point of view. p.s. if the mosque isnt being funded by those who hate america im sure they will be putting in their donations now thanks to those who blew this issue up out of proportion.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  19. The Kool Aid Works

    G – Gold
    O – Oil
    D – Drugs

    They have control.
    You refuse to see it.
    End transmission.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
  20. Nyarlathotep

    Speak for yourself, Bloomberg. I'm an atheist.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:40 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.