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August 25, 2010

Fisking Bloomberg

Well, much like Obama, New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to suck-up to Muslims at an official, government-sponsored iftar dinner. We won’t get into the issue of government money going to put on a strictly religious celebration – that is pretty minor in my book. It is his comments at the dinner that deserve some serious scrutiny.

America is a nation of immigrants, and no place opens its doors more widely to the world than New York City. America is the land of opportunity, and no place offers its residents more opportunity to pursue their dreams than New York City. America is beacon of freedom, and no place defends those freedoms more fervently, or has been attacked for those freedoms more ferociously, than New York City.

All well and good, Mr. Mayor – though one does have to wonder why the city continues to thwart churches that wish to be treated equally to non-religious organizations when it comes to renting schools after hours, especially when the city has lost on the issue in federal court. Why don’t you start “defending those freedoms. . . fervently” by directing those under your control to start following the law instead of thwarting the freedom to worship within your city.

In recent weeks, a debate has arisen that I believe cuts to the core of who we are as a city and a country. The proposal to build a mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan has created a national conversation on religion in America, and since Ramadan offers a time for reflection, I'd like to take a few minutes to reflect on the subject.

There are people of good will on both sides of the debate, and I would hope that everyone can carry on the dialogue in a civil and respectful way. In fact, I think most people now agree on two fundamental issues: First, that Muslims have a constitutional right to build a mosque in Lower Manhattan, and second, that the site of the World Trade Center is hallowed ground. The only question we face is: how do we honor that hallowed ground?

Actually, Mikey, almost no one has ever disagreed about the right to build mosques in lower Manhattan. What has been raised is the propriety of doing so on the site of a building rendered unusable by debris from one of the planes slammed into the Twin Towers on that horrible day nine years ago as terrorists shouted “Allahu Akbar”. A majority of Americans see that as unseemly and insensitive.

The wounds of 9/11 are still very much with us. And I know that is true for Talat Hamdani, who is here with us tonight, and who lost her son, Salman Hamdani, on 9/11. There will always be a hole in our hearts for the men and women who perished that day.

After the attacks, some argued -- including some of those who lost loved ones -- that the entire site should be reserved for a memorial. But we decided -- together, as a city -- that the best way to honor all those we lost, and to repudiate our enemies, was to build a moving memorial and to rebuild the site.

Except, of course, you have failed to do so nine years later. At this point, it appears that the mosque in question will be there years before the memorial and replacement building has seen significant progress.

We wanted the site to be an inspiring reminder to the world that this city will never forget our dead and never stop living. We vowed to bring Lower Manhattan back -- stronger than ever -- as a symbol of our defiance, and we have. Today, it is more of a community neighborhood than ever before, with more people than ever living, working, playing and praying there.

But if we say that a mosque and community center should not be built near the perimeter of the World Trade Center site, we would compromise our commitment to fighting terror with freedom.

What a non-sequitur! This isn’t some random site “on the perimeter”. It is a part of the site, by virtue of it being a building damaged by the 9/11 attack.

Saying that the location is the wrong place for this particular project in no way undermines our fight against terrorism or our commitment to freedom – it simply recognizes that even if we concede that that the builders and developers have great intentions, it cannot help but be perceived by most Americans as disrespectful of the nature of what happened that day.

We would undercut the values and principles that so many heroes died protecting. We would feed the false impressions that some Americans have about Muslims. We would send a signal around the world that Muslim Americans may be equal in the eyes of the law, but separate in the eyes of their countrymen. And we would hand a valuable propaganda tool to terrorist recruiters, who spread the fallacy that America is at war with Islam.

Actually, Mikey, no matter what we o there will be a propaganda victory for the terrorists. Yes, as you say, failure to build there will be used by the terrorists – but building it there will be seen as the establishment of a symbol of victory for Islam, and that Americans have surrendered by letting a mosque stand on the site.

Islam did not attack the World Trade Center -- al Qaeda did. To implicate all of Islam for the actions of a few who twisted a great religion is unfair and un-American. Today we are not at war with Islam -- we are at war with al Qaeda and other extremists who hate freedom.

We can argue how representative of Islam al Qaeda is – but we cannot forget that in many parts of the Muslim world there was dancing in the streets to celebrate the attack, nor that there is a continuous terrorist threat coming from the Muslim community in the US and around the world.

At this very moment, there are young Americans -- some of them Muslim -- standing freedom's watch in Iraq and Afghanistan, and around the world. A couple here tonight, Sakibeh and Asaad Mustafa, has children who have served our country overseas and after 9/11, one of them aided in the recovery efforts at Ground Zero. I'd like to ask them to stand, so we can show our appreciation. Thank you.

The members of our military are men and women at arms -- battling for hearts and minds. And their greatest weapon in that fight is the strength of our American values, which have always inspired people around the world. But if we do not practice here at home what we preach abroad -- if we do not lead by example -- we undermine our soldiers. We undermine our foreign-policy objectives. And we undermine our national security.

Shame, Mr. Mayor! Shame! You’ve just questioned the patriotism of your fellow Americans for daring to dissent from your orthodoxy. I thought that was absolutely forbidden, and that dissent constituted a higher form of patriotism. I guess that only counts when the dissent is in opposition to the beliefs of most Americans, not when most Americans do the dissenting.

In a different era, with different international challenges facing the country, President Kennedy's secretary of state, Dean Rusk, explained to Congress why it is so important for us to live up to our ideals here at home. He said, "The United States is widely regarded as the home of democracy and the leader of the struggle for freedom, for human rights, for human dignity. We are expected to be the model."

We are expected to be the model. Nearly a half-century later, his words remain true. In battling our enemies, we cannot rely entirely on the courage of our soldiers or the competence of our diplomats. All of us must do our part.

Just as we fought communism by showing the world the power of free markets and free elections, so must we fight terrorism by showing the world the power of religious freedom and cultural tolerance. Freedom and tolerance will always defeat tyranny and terrorism -- that is the great lesson of the 20th century, and we must not abandon it here in the 21st.

Well, except when it comes to religious freedom for Christians in New York City schools, where Christian religious symbols of Christmas are banned while Muslim and Jewish symbols for Hanukah and Ramadan are welcome.

I understand the impulse to find another location for the mosque and community center. I understand the pain of those who are motivated by loss too terrible to contemplate. And there are people of every faith -- including, perhaps, some in this room -- who are hoping that a compromise will end the debate.

No, you don’t understand the pain of those motivated by loss – you’ve joined up with those who not only question the right of opponents to disagree with the location, but who have also labeled those opponents racists and bigots.

But it won't. The question will then become, how big should the 'no-mosque zone' around the World Trade Center be? There is already a mosque four blocks away. Should it, too, be moved?

The question of how far is open to discussion – but it certainly should not be a towering edifice located on the site of a building damaged in the attack. And as for that other mosque, it predates the attack and is of course welcome – would that St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, destroyed in the attack, were so strongly supported by you and your administration. But they can’t even get started on their work, while you want to rush this project so it can open on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack of 9/11.

This is a test of our commitment to American values. We must have the courage of our convictions. We must do what is right, not what is easy. And we must put our faith in the freedoms that have sustained our great country for more than 200 years.

At the cost of silencing Americans who object to the location as you railroad the project through – sacrificing the notions of self-government and free speech in the process. I mean, let's be honest-- if being critical of the location of the mosque and urging its relocation is an attack on religious freedom, then urging that opponents stop saying that the mosque location is inappropriate is an attack on freedom of the speech and of the press.

I know that many in this room are disturbed and dispirited by the debate. But it is worth keeping some perspective on the matter. The first colonial settlers came to these shores seeking religious liberty and the founding fathers wrote a constitution that guaranteed it. They made sure that in this country the government would not be permitted to choose between religions or favor one over another.

And that is not what this debate is over – and you are notoriously dishonest in framing it as such.

Nonetheless, it was not so long ago that Jews and Catholics had to overcome stereotypes and build bridges to those who viewed them with suspicion and less than fully American. In 1960, many Americans feared that John F. Kennedy would impose papal law on America. But through his example, he taught us that piety to a minority religion is no obstacle to patriotism. It is a lesson that needs updating today, and it is our responsibility to accept the challenge.

And they did so by being model Americans who supported American values, not by seeking to raise their religious values over American values. And let’s not forget – those Catholics had to fight in the streets to protect their institutions from violent mobs, while the only violence in this situation came from Muslims on September 11 – the protests against the Ground Zero Mosque have been peaceful and conducted with words, not fists, fire, or fusillades.

Before closing, let me just add one final thought: Imam Rauf, who is now overseas promoting America and American values, has been put under a media microscope. Each of us may strongly agree or strongly disagree with particular statements he has made. And that's how it should be -- this is New York.

And while a few of his statements have received a lot of attention, I would like to read you something that he said that you may not have heard. 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 other words, your one quote should trump everything else the man has said, and the sentiments of all Americans. So much for encouraging the American value of debate and discussion – you want to silence and delegitimize the opposition. That the opposition includes Daniel Pearl's father makes your use of this quote -- and your failure to address the many offensive statements made by Imama Rauf-- makes your use of the Imam's words at the Pearl memorial disingenuous and offensive.

In that spirit, 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.

By affirming that basic idea, we will honor America's values, and we will keep New York the most open, diverse, tolerant and free city in the world.

No place off limits? Well, except, those schools that are denied to Christian congregations in violation of the First Amendment, the old site of St. Nicholas Church where building has been blocked, etc. But then again, you won’t tolerate open expression of any diverse opinions on this matter by any of the free people of the city, state, or nation, so why should we be surprised by the hypocrisy of your comments at the iftar dinner?





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Imam Rauf has been talking lately about Islam telling people to love their neighbors as themselves. In other words, Islam has the same Golden Rule as any other religion. Imam Rauf is a damned liar. Every version of the Golden Rule that anyone points to in Islamic canon applies only to fellow Muslims. A Muslim is supposed to treat his brother Muslims as he would like to be treated but he is free to treat all the rest of us like garbage.

I'm so very tired of how gullible people are.

|| Posted by Tonestaple, September 10, 2010 12:33 PM ||
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