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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. buke56

    Right on. Bloomberg has captured the true essence of what America is about. I dont believe anyone that is denying the mosque at Ground Zero is doing so because of any racist motivation, i think any denial of the mosque is purely out of the fear everyone has as a result of what happened on 911(and justifiably so). Some of the men and women in uniform who have fought and died preserving our Constitutional freedoms were Muslim Americans. We as a nation cannot pay back their valor by denying any of their Constitutional rights, in this case it would be the right of freedom to worship. Once again we must come together as a nation and show those who would oppose us that no matter how much they may terrorize us they can never make us scared enough to deny any American their Constitutional rights no matter their race, religion or creed. When we do we dishonor those who have fought and died for this country. We will have let our enemies defeat our ideology with their own. God bless America. Semper Fi

    August 25, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  2. Jeff38

    Bloomberg doesn't speak for America. If muslims want to hate us, fine. Americans will be more tolerant of muslims when these so called 'peaceful' muslims speak out publicly about the radical fundamentalists who give their religion a bad name.

    Why is it that Americans are so often the ones who have to 'understand' and be 'sensitive' to other cultures? When is a muslim going to speak out publicly and say that, while no one argues the legality of them putting a mosque there, it is extremely insensitive and should no be built.

    On the bright side, Bloomberg just committed political suicide with that statement so he won't be in the public eye much longer.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  3. Jaf

    I was wondering why we always need an enemy?. This madness of hate started with American indians, then African Americans, then Japanese Americans.. the new target are Muslims. Portraying a whole community as a terrorist never went right guys. We always ended up appologizing later.. If developers and builders of mosque has terrorist ties then it is CIA/FBI/POLICE job to investigate and prosecute. Media should not be making irresponsible judgments against a religion followed by thousands of American Muslims who are basically voiceless-in-media. Due to the sensitivities and hype of situation city officials and builders needs should meet and come up with a solution that let both sides save faces. Enough with the useless fights!

    August 25, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  4. allen bender

    Lets not forget all those suposedly peace loving muslims in Afganasan Iran and other islamic arabic nations who celebrated in the streets when thousands died in the twin towers. Theres a peace loving crew for you.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
  5. jacob

    opiate of the masses.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
  6. Natasha

    I am a Christian who has quite a few Muslim friends, and I am appalled hearing comments against Muslim faith. What happened to "love thy neighbor"? What about horrible and bloody mistakes Chrisitan religion has made, like inquisition, prosecution of non-Christians and scientists, witch hunting, non-involvement or even support of Nazis and Holocaust, to name a few? Go to the mirror, face the truth, and humbly pray to be forgiven. Start with yourself, purge the hatred from your hearts, if you are sincere Christians, not church-going on Sundays, Bible waving hypocrits, who have never read a word of Jesus, and never thought about what he really preached. Shame on you. If you found time to put a sticker on your car, "What would Jesus do?", take a moment and really think about that. Jesus died on the cross, but not called for blood and revenge, but for love and forgiveness. And people who are builing the center had nothing to do with the attacks, they even have nothing to be forgiven for, just exercising their legal rights. I pray for the victims of 9/11, same way as my Muslim friends do, and I would be happy to see the Muslim center by Ground Zero as a symbol of Christian love and American freedom. Bravo, Bloomberg. Real Christians will stand by you.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
    • rivirivi

      Yes, and the question is: What happened to the neighbors, sons and other family members who were supposed to love that pregnant woman who was stuck in the sand chest down and then thrown stones, specifically weighted stones so they can cause a slow painful death? What happened to the peaceful "religion" of Islam then? Who loved this woman whose Charia law sin was to love somebody else rather than what her own father wanted? The first stone was thrown by her own son, right into her eye. When the eyes were out of her sockets, then her "loving" neighbors continued until she was dead. She could only cry but then she had no eyes to cry with. Ask this questions to your peaceful loving neighbors.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
  7. Greg

    Abby wrote: Ignorance is what causes terrorism, not religion.
    -----
    You know what Abby? I'm a liberal, Gay parent and if you think that religion is not the cause of terrorism you are terribly naive or just plain stupid. To the Gay community Islam is GENOCIDAL, much like the Christian Cult they would see us wiped from the face of the Earth if they could. People like you would stand by and watch too..."oh it's not religion". Whatever.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
    • Frogist

      Actually Greg, I think that terrorism has many causes: economic, political, social factors all play a part. To blame it all on religion seems a bit simplistic.

      August 25, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
    • Kate

      People cause terrorism.

      August 25, 2010 at 8:31 pm |
  8. jacob

    if everyone could be inside my head for a few days, you might just understand.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
  9. Dr. Phil

    I hope Bloomberg has a fatal case of hemorrhoids.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
    • fairness-for-all

      twice!

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

    I'm signing off with this. GOD hates religion also because he never created or established any religion. This has and still is the work of mankinds own fleshy desires and appetites. GOD through Jesus Christ came to redeam mankind and restore the relationship with Him that was separated/ broken as a result of SIN!!! This is why only by the power of the Holy Spirit through REAL faith in Jesus Christ can any person be saved. Be Bold and Be Strong BELIEVERS for the Lord Jesus Christ is with you!!! Amen!!!

    August 25, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
  11. DLC

    Great job Bloomberg! Edmund Burke would be proud. "when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." -Edmund Burke

    August 25, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
  12. greatestScamEver

    Religions suck, they are the cause of most hatred, pain and suffering.

    August 25, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  13. Amin

    I wish all Americans can read and grasp how deep this article went. We are all Americans. I am a Muslim American and proud of people like Bloomberg, yes he is a jew, a true jew. If what was said here is what qualifies you to be a jew I am a jew and always been a jew. I believe we are all brothers and sisters, under one GOD, the creator of all, which makes us all equal, and will start from myself and say that I am anti-crime anti-terrorism, I always been, because GOD is the only being that can see everything and can judge. We are all like guests in his kingdom so let's get along and use this earth properly. If you see your neighbor sick go visit him, if she is hungry give her from what you eat, if you see a criminal don't blame others than him, don't blame all Muslims when they are serving this country and working hard peacefully. We are all Jews, all Christians and all Muslims and Americans. Peace

    August 25, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
    • rivirivi

      Yes, you say that you believe that we are all created equal. Would you go to all Muslim countries preaching that so that women can also have the same rights as men? Would you vote for a woman to be a Judge? President? Let me know, when and where is this happening, then I will believe your words, as of now, they are only words coming from a person who has been brainwashed. Sorry, too bad too sad.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
    • Marie aka not the all uppercase Marie

      Good response here by Amin. I'm a devout Catholic and have posted here about Jesus, the Trinity and how Jews, Christians, and Muslims don't quite believe in the same God. However, and this is going to sound confusing, I do believe that when we pray, we can pray to the same God. Our Creator is One. I encourage all to pray. He knows each of our paths; we don't. We are taught not to say we will do such and such, but instead say, "if the Lord wills...." We do hold the same respect for, and even belief in, the Lord's words in the Old Testament. As a Catholic Christian, I also believe that your faith is continuing through your life and active, a choice made every day. That's the main reason devout Catholics are Pro-Life, which includes against capital punishment (believe it or not from what you may have heard).

      August 25, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
    • Frogist

      Thank you Amin for your words. To that I would add that we are all human beings with compasssion and understanding at our grasp. We have the capacity to use our intellect and humanity to see the good in each other and make the effort to coexist. I hope other leaders see Mr Bloomberg's ciourage and follow his lead.

      August 25, 2010 at 8:22 pm |
  14. Ninja's with no Brains

    Honoring your fallen country men comes before your religious beliefs. It is your country men who have helped to give you that right to express your religious beliefs. So its time to tuck your religious beliefs away and honor your fallen country men. Anything less is un-American. 🙂

    August 25, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
    • Chaiah

      The best thing we can do is build the mosque and honor the United States Constitution.

      August 25, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
  15. archie bunker

    Thank you Mayor Bloomberg !!!

    August 25, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
  16. Naveed

    Muslims may not have sign the Declaration of Independence, but they have defended the American Constitution with their blood. Take a walk through the National Cemetery some time, the gravestones of American Muslims Warriors will attest to that fact. A Muslim nation was to the first to recognize this great American Republic. THANK YOU MAYOR.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
  17. Ninja's with no Brains

    Honoring your fallen country men comes before your religious beliefs. It is your country men who have helped to give you that right to express your religious beliefs. So its time to tuck your religious beliefs away and honor your fallen country men. Anything less is un-American.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
  18. Loren

    Bloomberg is taking this position because he is a politician. If he had read the Koran and understood how it is interpreted by a majority of Moslems, he would not be saying that. It might be okay to build a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center, but not now and not this size. Rauf is using the proximity to further his own goals and whatever they are, they have very little to do with teachng tolerance. (When a person insists on his position as being right in the face of reasoned opposition, and no one can argue that those who lost family in these terrorist bombings don't have a reason to oppose this mosque, then there is something else behind that position, another goal, another agenda. He can build anywhere else, but he is insisting that he won't. Why isn't he willing to compromise to spare those families the pain?)

    August 25, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
    • fairness-for-all

      Your right! The guy's life and family are probably at stake that is why he will not back down. There is definatly more to this.

      August 25, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  19. Sherry

    I teach World Religions and the First Amendment in high school. It saddens me that we as Americans can't practice what we preach. This country was founded on the principals of religious freedom and personal rights. How can we claim to be a world leader if we are hypocrits. We strut around the globe, all puffed up about our civil righs and how intolerant and unjust other countries are and then we come home and bash and spew hatred and ignorance. We need to be the grown-ups we believe we are and see beyond the fear. The monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all founded on the same basic premise...treat others the way you want to be treated...respect. Sadly, not all followers adhere to this guiding principal. All three religions were founded by God inspired men who were on fire about spreading this teaching of pure love. We all need to listen, whether we are one of the 3 billions followers of these religions, follow a different faith path or none at all. PERIOD!

    August 25, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  20. wilddawg

    Bloomberg is as clueless as he is dishonest.

    August 25, 2010 at 12:58 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.