Mayor Michael Bloomberg reasserted himself Tuesday evening as the most vocal and, surprisingly, most passionate defender of the Islamic center slated for two blocks from Ground Zero.
Hours after Gov. David Paterson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said they’d like to the see the project relocated further away from where the World Trade Center once stood, the mayor said moving the project would be a victory for “terrorist recruiters” and would open the door to more worrisome questions, like, “How big should the ‘no-mosque zone’ around the World Trade Center be?”
The mayor also said moving the project would undermine the country's national security efforts.
Bloomberg’s comments came just hours after Paterson restated his willingness to help the project’s developers find a new location. Silver, the state’s powerful Assembly Speaker whose lower Manhattan district includes Ground Zero, said he thinks the current location has engendered too much hostility in critics for the project to achieve
it’s its goal of acting as a bridge to other communities.
Bloomberg, in prepared text released by his office, said, “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.”
The mayor also defended the imam behind the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, who, in 2001, said American foreign policy was an “accomplice” to the terrorist attacks on September 11th and that Osama bin Laden was, in essence, made in America.
Bloomberg said he disagreed with the sentiments expressed, but that those unpopular comments alone should not disqualify the project from being built, nor should it be used to characterize the imam.
“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,” said Bloomberg.
“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.”
Bloomberg's speech is aimed at bolstering support for the project, which has come under intense criticism from Republicans nationwide, and conservative news outlets. It's also received tepid support from Democratic elected officials here at home. Among those offering tepid support was the state's senior senator, Chuck Schumer, who told reporters he does not oppose the project, then declined to discuss it further.