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Bloomberg remarks (Iftar Dinner)

Bloomberg remarks (Iftar Dinner)

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Published by Celeste Katz

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Published by: Celeste Katz on Aug 25, 2010
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, NY 10007
August 24, 2010 No. 397www.nyc.gov
The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as delivered.
“Well, good evening, and Ramadan Kareem, and I want to welcome everyone to our annual Ramadan Iftar at Gracie Mansion.“We call this ‘The People’s House,’ because it belongs to all 8.4 million New Yorkerswho call this city home. And people of every race and religion, every background and belief.And we celebrate that diversity here in this house with gatherings like this one.“And for me, whether it’s marking St. Patrick’s Day or Harlem Week or any other occasion, these gatherings are always a powerful reminder of what makes our city so strong andour country so great.“You know, America is a nation of immigrants, and I think it’s fair to say no place opensits doors more widely to the world than New York City. America is the land of opportunity, and Ithink it’s fair to say no place offers its residents more opportunity to pursue their dreams than New York City. And America is a beacon of freedom, and I think it’s fair to say no placedefends those freedoms more fervently, or has been attacked for those freedoms moreferociously, than New York City.“In recent weeks, a debate has arisen that I believe cuts to the core of who we are as acity and a country. The proposal to build a mosque and community center in Lower Manhattanhas created a national conversation on religion in America, and since Ramadan offers a time for reflection, I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on that very subject.“There are people of good will on both sides of the debate, and I would hope thateveryone can carry on a dialogue in a civil and respectful way. In fact, I think most people nowagree on two fundamental issues: First, that Muslims have a constitutional right to build amosque in Lower Manhattan and second, that the site of the World Trade Center is hallowedground. And the only question we face is: how do we honor that hallowed ground?“The wounds of 9/11 are still very much with us. And I know that is true for TalatHamdani, who is here with us tonight, and who lost her son, Salman Hamdani, on 9/11. Therewill 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 theentire site should be reserved for a memorial. But we decided – together, as a city – that the bestway to honor all those we lost, and to repudiate our enemies, was to build a moving memorialand to rebuild the site.“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 thanever – as a symbol of our defiance and I think it’s fair to say we have. Today, it is more of acommunity neighborhood than ever before, with more people than ever living, working, playingand praying there.“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 fightingterror with freedom.“We would undercut the values and principles that so many heroes died protecting. Wewould feed the false impressions that some Americans have about Muslims. We would send asignal around the world that Muslim Americans may be equal in the eyes of the law, but separatein the eyes of their countrymen. And we would hand a valuable propaganda tool to terroristrecruiters, 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 Islamfor the actions of a few who twisted a great religion is unfair and un-American. Today we are notat war with Islam – we are at war with Al-Qaeda and other extremists who hate freedom.“At this very moment, there are young Americans – some of them Muslims – standingfreedoms’ watch in Iraq and Afghanistan, and around the world. A couple here tonight, Sakibehand Asaad Mustafa, have children who have served our country overseas and after 9/11, one of them aided in the recovery efforts at Ground Zero. And I’d like to ask them to stand, so we canshow our appreciation. There you go. Thank you.“The members of our military are men and women at arms – battling for hearts andminds. And their greatest weapon in that fight is the strength of our American values, which havealready inspired people around the world. If we do not practice here at home what we preachabroad – if we do not lead by example – we undermine our soldiers. We undermine our foreign policy objectives. And we undermine our national security.“In a different era, with different international challenges facing the country, PresidentKennedy’s Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, explained to Congress why it is so important for us tolive up to our ideals here at home. Dean Rusk said, ‘The United States is widely regarded as thehome of democracy and the leader of the struggle for freedom, for human rights, for humandignity. 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. We all have to do our part.2
“Just as we fought communism by showing the world the power of free markets and freeelections, so must we fight terrorism by showing the world the power of religious freedom andcultural tolerance. Freedom and tolerance will always defeat tyranny and terrorism – and that’sthe great lesson of the 20
century, and we must not abandon it here in the 21
.“Now I understand the impulse to find another location for the mosque and communitycenter. I understand the pain of those who are motivated by loss too terrible to contemplate. Andthere are people of every faith – including, perhaps, some in this room – who are hoping that acompromise will end the debate.“But it won’t. The question will then become, how big should the ‘no-mosque zone’ bearound the World Trade Center site? There is already a mosque four blocks away. Should it bemoved?“This is a test of our commitment to American values. We have to have the courage of our convictions. We must do what is right, not what is easy. And we must put our faith in thefreedoms that have sustained our great country for more than 200 years.“Now, I know that many in this room are disturbed and dispirited by the debate. But it’sworth keeping some perspective on the matter. The first colonial settlers came to these shoresseeking religious liberty and the founding fathers wrote a constitution that guaranteed it. Theymade sure that in this country government would not be permitted to choose between religions or favor one over another.“Nonetheless, it was not so long ago that Jews and Catholics had to overcome stereotypesand build bridges to those who viewed them with suspicion and less than fully American. In1960, many Americans feared that John F. Kennedy would impose papal law on America. Butthrough his example, he taught us that piety to a minority religion is no obstacle to patriotism. Itis a lesson I think that needs updating today, and it is our responsibility to accept the challenge.“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 usmay strongly agree or strongly disagree with particular statements that he has made. And that’show it should be – this is New York City.“And while a few of his statements have received a lot of attention, I would like to readyou something that he said that you may not have heard. At an interfaith memorial service for themartyred journalist Daniel Pearl, Imam Rauf said, quote, ‘If to be a Jew means to say with allone's heart, mind, and soul: Shma` Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ehad; Hear O Israel, theLord our God, the Lord is One, not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one.’He then continued to say, ‘If to be a Christian is to love the Lord our God with all of myheart, mind and soul, and to love for my fellow human being what I love for myself, then notonly am I a Christian, but I have always been one.’“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 toworship and pray where we choose. There is nowhere in the five boroughs of New York Citythat is off limits to any religion.3

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