Bloomberg Defends NY Islamic Center: ‘We Are Not at War With Islam’ (Video)
August 25, 2010
(ChattahBox)–Echoing President Obama’s remarks during the White House iftar dinner, New York Mayor Bloomberg delivered another moving speech supporting the right of Park51 developers to build an Islamic community center blocks away from the site of the 9/11 attacks. He rejected demands to move the center, saying doing so, “…would undercut the values and principles that so many heroes died protecting.” Bloomberg also acknowledged that moving the Islamic center would not end the debate among opponents demagoguing Islam for political gain. “Islam did not attack the World Trade Center – Al-Qaeda did,” said the mayor. And he called attacks on the religion of Islam “unfair and un-American.”
Whether Bloomberg’s impassioned defense of freedom of religion will cool the incendiary national hysteria over the building of the Park51 center, remains to be seen. But over the weekend, a loud and angry group protesting the Islamic center in a former Burlington Coat Factory building, didn’t show any signs of letting up their attacks on Muslims. A group of demonstrators even verbally assaulted a black man walking by, who happened to look vaguely Muslim, as they carried Sharia signs dripping with blood. He wasn’t.
Bloomberg made his 10-minute speech last night, during New York’s annual Ramadan iftar dinner at Gracie Mansion. He noted there are “people of good will on both sides of the debate,” but nevertheless, said if we give in to the “impulse to find another location for the mosque and community center” we would violate our nation’s cherished religious freedom. Because Islam did not attack us on 9/11, radical terrorists perverting the religion did. So, opposing an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan, shows bigotry and intolerance. And such intolerance for religion only serves to embolden al-Qaeda and places our soldiers in harm’s way.
“There are people of good will on both sides of the debate, and I would hope that everyone can carry on a 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. And the only question we face is: how do we honor that hallowed ground?” [...]
“But if we say that a mosque or a 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.”
“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.”
“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.” [..]
“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 already inspired people around the world. 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.”
Mayor Bloomberg also correctly noted, that for opponents of Islam attacking Muslims as terrorists, an Islamic center will never be far away enough from Ground Zero to satisfy them. Protests against proposed Mosques are already underway across the country, far away from Ground Zero.
“Now 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.”
“But it won’t. The question will then become, how big should the ‘no-mosque zone’ be around the World Trade Center site? There is already a mosque four blocks away. Should it be moved?”
The full text of Mayor Bloomberg’s speech can be found here.