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. Tired of Hatred

    If anyone is "creepy", it is you.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  2. RearViewMirror

    Hey David,
    Why do Americans look the other way when Israel blows up Palestanians and their properties? If Israel wants Hamas and Palestanians to recognize Israel as a States, then Israel better Recognize Palestine as a State by Not building Settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
    • das0522

      And why does the world look the other way when Hamas launches rockets from areas the Israelis EVACUATED?

      August 25, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
    • SSA

      The world does not look the other way.

      They allowed Israel to launch an offensive that killed over 1400 innocent Palestinians, many of them woman and children.

      They allowed them to use white phosphorus in a densely populated area; a chemical weapon that burns human flesh to the bone.

      They allowed them to print t shirts glorifying a sniper that killed a pregnant Palestinian woman with the title "one shot, 2 kills".

      They allow them to take land that isn't theirs and stretch far beyond the internationally recognized 1967 borders. All land beyond 1967 that Israel occupies is considered illegal. The USA and the UN do nothing to stop this. The US actually encourage it by giving tax breaks to people donating money to these illegal Israeli settlements.

      The US encourages this by donating over 3 Billion dollars a year to Israel. That is almost $7,000 per Israeli per year. I would love if uncle Sam gave me $7,000 per year for nothing.

      This list can continue for a very long time. So learn the facts before you speak, don't just repeat what all zionists want you to believe. Think for yourself!

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

      @das. Also remember that Israel fires rockets, mortars, chemical weapons, bullets, etc etc from an area that the Palestinians were forced to flee from because Israel invaded and took land that doesn't belong to them. STOP spreading propaganda and let the world remember that Palestine (what you call Israel) was occupied by Palestinians for thousands of years! The Palestinians were forced to evacuate by military force. Nice try!

      August 25, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
  3. CdnJim

    I hope all of you opposing this mosque, are going to take a similar hard-line stance against the new Call of Duty video game that allows players to choose to be Al Quaeda insurgeants and to try and kill as many American soldiers as possible.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
    • hey_there

      CdnJim, you sound from Alberta where the bigots live.

      August 25, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  4. jamesthedog

    Bloomberg can drop dead,

    August 25, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
    • Jim

      atta boy, intelligent conversation.

      August 25, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
    • VAktee

      Drop dead? Yes, and jimmycrackcorn cause I don't care

      August 25, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
  5. Kate

    It never fails to amaze me, how well one's fears can blot out common sense. Looks like we have LOTS of commentary from individuals who have ZERO contact with the American Islamic community, other than from what they see on television. As an American Muslim who has worked overseas for the sake of peace, who has siblings (also Muslim) serving in the American Armed Forces, and who doesn't embrace ignorance, intolerance, or blind hatred from any race, religion, or creed, I feel that some of you are missing the mark as fellow human beings. Try this thought: If someone suggested building a church 2 blocks away from the site of the Oklahoma City Bombing, would that be considered an insult to those slain and a potential breeding ground for anti-government terrorists plots? Oh, I forgot. That was then. This is now. Totally different take on terrorism and ending innocent lives,right?

    August 25, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
    • Ben

      Yeah, I really don't understand how so many people can go there lives without meeting a Muslim. I'm a Christian, but I have a number of Muslim friends, and they are all good people. The only person I know that I have a general dislike for because of there religious views is a Christian acquaintance of mine who is very outspoken about what I would consider some very bigoted viewpoints. I'm guessing that most of the negative post on this board are from his ilk. Are there violent Muslims, yes, just like there are violent members of every religion, and most of the violence committed by extremist Muslims ends up killing other Muslims. I love America, but I worry about my nation as more and more of it's citizens allow ignorance and bigotry to not only control there lives, but attempt to turn it into public policy.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  6. Chaiah

    Mayor Bloomberg is correct. There is no room for compromise. When any group attempts to deny or actually denies another group the same rights/privileges granted by the United States Constitution, we are a weaker nation. Silphy has a right to his/her opinion but that opinion is wrong. However, to think that we in the United States do not have an obligation to be an example and to practice what our Constitution states is hypoctiical at best – and that is, certainly not a very good "best." I am a Jewish woman and fully support my Muslim brothers and sisters in their right to build their mosque where they wish. Shoot, I would LOVE it if Ground Zero was a place where people of all beliefs could gather on a regular basis to celebrate peace. What better way to deny those who would bring hate... Today, I am Muslim.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
  7. Jim

    I feel real sorry for all of you out there that are sooooooo scared of the big bad muslims! Although I am glad you had time to peek your head out from under the pillow to read this article and comment about how frightened you are.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  8. Berliner

    So, I guess what you're saying is, just like John F. Kennedy ("Ich bin ein Berliner"), Bloomberg thinks he's a jelly donut too?

    August 25, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  9. chris

    the N word is offensive ..... so we dont say it....how about keeping your religion to yourself....because it's offensive....believe what you want, pray, sing, who cares....but keep it to yourself....because it's offensive to others...

    August 25, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  10. Michelle - DC

    !I believe in the American dream and I believe in our American liberties I also believe in Freedom of Religion. Islam did not cause 9/11, Terrorist and extremist caused 9/11. We cannot blame all people of certain sects for these horrid happenings. As an educated country we should take more time to educate ourselves on outside culture and religions and not make ignorant judgments against a people as a whole. We must rise above, be an example and show we are what America stands for – Rights, Liberties, Education, and Freedom! Stop the ignorance! open your mind! Read! ask question! and learn! about what you do not know! It is embarrassing to be an American and read these ridiculous rants from undereducated and big mouthed fools. Please take a step back and look at all sides of the equation and learn something for yourself.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
    • Carolyn M

      Michelle – You are so right on this issue!

      August 25, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
  11. Cindy

    Sure, the idea of building a mosque near Ground Zero is protected by the constitution. That does not, however, mean it's a good idea.

    That being said, I fail to understand the draw of religion. Not just Islam, but all of it.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
  12. aba

    Why is the left in bed with islam? When is Hollywood going to step in and make movies glorifiying Islam to help spread it across america? My guess any day now.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
    • Lola

      Someone needs to tell the Left that Muslims oppose gay marriage and abortion.

      August 25, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  13. Patty

    By the way Christians and Jews acknowledge Abraham's God to be Jehovah. Even though the muslims are children of Abraham, they don't acknowledge Abraham's God who is Jehovah, the God of Jesus who claims to be God's Son. The muslims call Allah their God, who is no God and who has no historical events that we know of on planet earth. Jehovah has shown up historically but this god called Allah hasn't shown up for the human race and done one thing for the human race. The muslims worship some "so called" god named allah that has never doen anything in human history. This so-called god might as well be called Ollie. Both allah and Ollie are equal because they have never done anything for the human race. Some guy named Mohammed, a few hundred years ago said some angel spoke to him about a god named allah. Was it an angel or a demon? How many religious leaders have believed what they believed and wound up being nuts? Yet billions of people blindly follow a god with no history and kill because he says to kill all infidels. The only events we have with any muslim influence are violent events by humans. How dumb can you be and still breathe? I like Jehovah better. I like his son. They teach "don't kill but love. If there is any god I want to know it is the God of love. Him I can trust. This so-called god who commands its followers to kill anyone who doesn't believe in the Quran, I don't trust him. Common sense says the "true creator" has respect for his creatures. It isn't buildings and land that is important in this world. It is humans that are important and right now with the muslims demanding to build a mosque at ground zero where muslims destroyed the lives of many humans for allah, I see no regard by muslims for the feelings of humans. They only care about their building. If they cared about humans they would build that building somewhere else.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:05 pm |


      August 25, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
    • Tia

      Paty do you ever read anything besides your own concoted journals. Have you ever met a Christian, a middle easter christian? Do you know that arabic is a language and that your fellow middle eastern Christians call God Allah? Just a thought, lolol!

      August 25, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
    • Chris R

      Patty, Jehovah and Allah are the same god. It's just the name for it in Arabic. Muslims consider Abraham to be the father of their religion. Moses and Jesus are two of their greatest prophets. The Bible is the second holiest book in the Islamic faith. What you are doing is like saying Jehovah and Yahweh aren't the same God because they aren't spelled the same.

      August 25, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
    • verify


      All of the things you say about the mythical god, Allah, are correct. You just need to go one step further and include, Jehovah, Yahweh, the Christian God, Zeus, Jupiter, Ra, Vishnu and any other god invented by man. All are myths.

      August 25, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • OldBalt

      I find your explanation of Allah interesting in light of another worldwide religion which was invented by a man who claimed that he saw/met an angel with golden pages readable only through special glasses, which disappeared and whose existence can never be proven that set down . This religion, one with world wide respect , claims that Jesus visited America in a boat and also advocated that there was/are two races one of which needs to overcome the other (Guess what color the bad races is.). Oh, and BTW they are Christians. Like Muslims the extremist wing of this religion is and has been "at war" with the United States since the religion was founded. BUT...most members of this religion live with all of us, do good works in their communities and good works for many in the world. So, using your analogy of a man-founded religion and an extremist wing representing an entire religion, should we destroy the Mormon Tabernacle in Utah, or the Mormon center near Lincoln Center in New York? Let's keep perspective here: all religion may be man made, every member of a certain religion are not evil, we are all individuals with our own beliefs. They may not be yours, but as long as they don't directly infringe on YOU, I say this country is strong enough to allow everybody to have their own beliefs. Certianly a Muslin Cultural Center in teh same neighborhood as two strip joints doesn't threaten me, nor America.

      August 25, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • OldBalt

      I left out a word – It should read "...extremist Muslims..." – my apologies

      August 25, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • Matt

      allah is the standard Arabic word for God.[1] While the term is best known in the West for its use by Muslims as a reference to God, it is used by Arabs of all Abrahamic faiths, including Mizrahi Jews, Baha'is and Eastern Orthodox Christians, in reference to "God".

      August 25, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
    • Stephen


      Allah is the Arabic word for God. Theyr'e the same God. And no matter whether you're reading the Bible or the Quran, he is one vengeful, jealous, murderous, reactive God! Ever read the Old Testament? It talks about killing non-believers in God's name, and tells many stories about God getting revenge on people, encouraging rape and incest, requiring people to be stoned to death, smiting entire cities, etc. In short, the teachings of your religion are no different from those of Islam. And like most peaceful Muslims, I'm sure you gloss over the nasty bits too.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
    • Hassan

      Actually, Patty, Allah is "The God" In both Arabic and Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. Jesus called God "Alah" and until recently God was referred to as "Alah" at least once in older editions of the bible. Sometime during the 20th century they removed it. But even today, Christian Arabs and Jews, and the Aramaic-speaking Christians of Ma'lula in Syria call God Allah.

      August 26, 2010 at 1:02 am |
  14. erdos

    speak for yourself, Bloomberg! I know I'm not Muslim.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • hookedonphonics

      But you sure are a moron. READ the article, not just the headline.

      August 25, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
  15. TSRVT

    One thing is readily apparent, and that is that there are a lot more bigots and racist, intolerant jerks in this country than ever before. They only crept out of the shadows since a black man was elected president. Every single solitary one of you ought to be ashamed of yourselves, your words, and your behavior. You are proving that the Ugly American is alive and thriving in this country.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    Hilarious. How many moron conservatives are going to post here responding to the headline instead of reading the entirety of Bloomberg's statement, which was "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."

    Note to imbeciles: he didn't really declare everyone in NYC a muslim as the headline suggests...the headline was just baiting you to read the article.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • EW

      No sense in stating the obvious...people are going to acknowledge only what they believe. Unfortunate, I know!!!

      August 25, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  17. Flipstick

    I understand his point think he was right on the mark. However, as an atheist, I'm still waiting for the day when mankind looks into the sky and says: I guess we're alone after all, lets make the best of it.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
  18. Lori V.

    Kudos to Mayor Bloomberg – if we do not "walk the walk" instead of simply "talking the talk", we will never win the hearts and minds of young Muslims who are being taught that non-Islamic people hate them and are against them. Unless our actions disprove what they are being taught in Iran, Iraq, Afganistan, we will never make headway against fundamentalist Islamic terrorists. Moderates on all sides need to speak up and speak up loudly.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
  19. Andy C.

    Amen Mr. Bloomberg. I want to live in the America we learned about as kids, the America of tolerance, the America with freedom of religion and of speech. The America in which our laws are applied equally to all people. What law would we use to keep Muslim people from building a place of worship where they want? And if three blocks is too close to the 911 site then what distance would be acceptable and who gets to decide? It seems that the people waving the flag the hardest sometimes understand America the least. If we’re not all free, none of us are.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Chris

      It's a new law and it's called the law of common sense. You apparently would not understand it.

      August 25, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
    • EW

      The most valid and appropriate statement made in this forum yet. Hey, you must be an American!!!

      August 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
    • Deborah/KansasCity

      This is so true. Why can't people see that. The same people who compalin the loudest about Government interference in their lives, cry the loudest to take our personal freedoms away, and call us Hitler, Nazi, and so forth for disagreeing. They but into my medical decisions, other peoples religious rights; tell you who you can marry, want to rewrite who is eligible to be a citizen; and are calling for warentless arrests and detention of people. We are in big trouble if we do not stand strong four our freedoms agains these people; who want to destroy the constitution they always claim to believe in. Don't vote those people into our government please.

      August 25, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  20. dave

    fraiser - why do Republicans always want to do wrong sttuff

    Arab countries are intolerant of other religions so Republicans want to be intolerant

    Chris Rock used the N word, so Republicans want to use it too

    did youever hear of 2 wrongs do not make a right?

    August 25, 2010 at 12:01 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.