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. justadude

    The mosque does not HAVE to be built at the current site. They have the legal right to build it there, but at a minimum it shows bad judgment and insensitivity to the victims' families and friends to build it there.

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

      I see this "just not cricket" argument arising more now. It's the same argument they're using in Dupage County IL to block a new mosque – 825 miles from ground zero.

      August 25, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
  2. John Theune

    "There is nowhere in the five boroughs that is off limits to any religion." Except any public building or any location or organization that receives any public money. It's interesting that all this effort is being put into freedom of religion for one faith while a equal amount of effort is put into removing any sign of religion for the dominate religion in this country

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

      Examples please? Other than public buildings which by design are free from religious symbols, where any NYC is religious expression on private property (excepting zoning for signage size and auxiliary structures) prohibited?

      August 25, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
  3. Doug

    The Muslims I know are great people but if anyone ever hated on their religion the way Democrats hate on Christians and Christianity, they would go crazy.

    Thank god the Christians in America are so tolerant, must be tuff to be, being that the president says they all "cling to their guns and religion".

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

      I don't think Democrats hate Christians. There is great diversity in the Democratic Party, and among that diversity are African- Americans, Hispanics, and Union members, to name just a few, all who are predominately Christian!

      August 25, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  4. Johnna

    The only Muslim KISS A$$ around here is Doomberg himself ! "F U" Doushbagberg !

    August 25, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
    • Keri

      I'd be curious to see the locations of all those who are lumping all Muslims together as terrorists, and slinging abuse at Bloomberg. My guess is, none of them are NYers and the majority consider themselves to be Christians. It begs the question, why have the oppressed become the oppressors? Christians are supposed to love and accept all people. Yes, we have to fight against terrorism, but fighting our own people solves nothing. The people who want to build this house of worship are Americans, and denying Americans their Constitutional rights is a slippery slope I'd rather not navigate.

      August 25, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Victory Gin

      Johnna and Doug... Please don't breed. You've already dumbed down this nation just by opening your mouths and spewing your horse puckey. Please don't pass that kind of ignorance on to an innocent child. Nimrods, every one of you.

      August 25, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  5. Beth

    Here, here, Michael Bloomberg! Eloquently and truly put. It's nice to know someone out there is willing to speak the truth. We cannot compromise our morals for our fears, do so cheapens us, cheapens our society and cheapens the great efforts of our soldiers.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
  6. SA

    To deny an Islamic center to be built in lower Manhattan (not ground zero) because of the terror attacks on 9/11 is like saying all Muslims are terrorists. Muslims are not terrorists they are wonderful human beings who would like to practice their religion peacefully like they have been doing in USA for centuries. So stop with this nonsense and open your eyes and let them build their center and live with them peacefully or go to another county where there's no freedom.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  7. RedBlur78

    Bloomberg is absolutely right. I love how all of these so called patriots keep saying how much they love their country and it's values yet spit on the constitutional rights of it's citizens. As a New Yorker, it bothers me that people are more focused on this being built a few blocks away from Ground Zero and there doesn't seem to be any outrage over what's not benig built at Ground Zero. There is still a hole in downtown Manhattan but no one seems to hold rallies about that.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  8. mr. mark

    Um... no we're not. Bloomie travels with armed security and in armored vehicles. the rest of us fend for ourselves. He'd be whining a different tune if they were building a mosque next to his brownstone!

    August 25, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  9. Doug

    Ha ha, I love it. Just what would the lib lib response be if a Republican said about Muslims "They cling to their guns and religion"?

    So lib lib hate is just great and fine with you, just as long as it is directed at middle America white Christians. Typical of the Robert Byrd party!

    August 25, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
    • Cher

      Robert Byrd was a former Klan member from West Virginia so how does he represent hate for white middle America?

      August 25, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  10. Avis

    I respect Bloomberg even more now with his remarks, he has balls to stand up for the truth despite media (FOX) propaganda!!
    May he live long. Amen

    August 25, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  11. Joe

    Why so many conservatives do not understand that this Mosque hysteria has Middle East implications. On one hand they fake their support for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on the other they do all they can to antagonize moderate Muslim, and thus, make it impossible for our troops to reach to them and achieve stability.

    Conservatives are destroying our economy, destroying our international affairs, destroying our future. We got to wake up before is too late!

    August 25, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  12. Guerrina

    Thank you, Marcia!

    August 25, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  13. Kenneth Close

    Bloomberg right: Hosting Federal or State dinners for one religion I still think is unconstitutional.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
  14. JP78

    I find it funny that the new catch phrase being thrown around in support of this plan is "fighting terrorism through freedom". Yeah, right. I have at least half a brain in my head, and know it's a load of c.r.a.p.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  15. LIberal4Obama

    Republicans hate muslims but are glued to Fox News which is owned by Sharia Law believing muslims.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  16. hoocuu

    Bloomberg is being a politician. The only thing a politician cares about is appeasing to the majority. No matter what the issue. Just like a whore for money. Islam, if I am correct, is the largest religion in the world. There are probably more and more American citizens who are Muslim. It's simple math.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
  17. Pastor Evans

    Can you imagine if one of these Politicians would come out and say we are all "Christians" here in America? People would lose their minds over such a claim. But awe it's OK to say we are all "Muslims". The Devil is a liar!!! I pray in the name of Jesus that GOD will make Himself clearly known with any quesion or doubt to Mayor Bloomberg!!! Now GOD will answer and honor this prayer but it will take humility on his part to admit to it. Prayerfully he won't do like what most people would do is rationalize and reason out this reality and say this happened or that happened by chance or luck. Whether the Mayor admits what GOD does as a result of this prayer, He's still GOD!!! Amen!!!

    August 25, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
    • Billy

      "pray in the name of Jesus that GOD will make Himself clearly known with any quesion or doubt...."
      Well, He didn't do that for World War I or II, or genocide in Darfur, or the decision to invade Iraq – or when the WTC was bombed the 1st time, then the final time... So he's going to step in over a parcel of real estate in downtown Manhattan?

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

      pastor he ever said we were all muslims

      Read the article again

      He quotes from JFK

      “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."

      basically he saying we are all the same regardless of our religious denomination and all of the right to worship

      August 25, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
    • Victory Gin

      Hey pastor... In the immortal words of Kathy Griffin...
      Suck it, Jesus!

      August 25, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  18. TomBomb

    The easy way woudl be to join the Isalmophobic crowd, as did many Germans, joining the anti jewish "devil" crowd, as did most Americans when we wrongly interned Japanese Americans in WWII, and so many more examples.

    Not many have the courage to stand up and do the right thing. Bloomberg does. Kudos to him!

    August 25, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
  19. CEL1

    WAY TO GO MAYOR MICHAEL !!!!!! God Bless you ! You are good for NYC, good for the USA and good for the world as a leader among men who pretend to be leaders.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
  20. Phil

    Mr. Bloomberg, contrary to your statement, I am NOT a muslim.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
    • archie bunker

      Thank god you're not.

      August 25, 2010 at 1:00 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.