The Mayor Needs to Listen to 9/11 Families

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Mayor Michael Bloomberg (C), Council Speaker Christine Quinn (C-L), and religious leaders hold a press conference on Governor's Island to speak about the NYC Landmarks Commission vote to deny 45-47 Park Place landmark status.

    Mayor Bloomberg has expressed great indignation over the people who say they don’t want a mosque and Islamic center built near Ground Zero.

    ”People say, ‘Well, do they have the money, can they raise the money, where is it coming from?’ I don’t know. Do you really want every time they pass the basket in your church and you throw a buck in they run over and say, “Ok, where did you come from, who are your parents, where did you get this money? ”  Bloomberg said last week.

    And he said pointedly: “it’s a handful of people who ought to be ashamed of themselves.”

    The Quinnipiac Poll says New Yorkers oppose the building of the mosque 52-31 percent, with 17 percent undecided.

    Only a handful, Mr. Mayor?

    It seems strange that Mike Bloomberg can’t recognize that responsible people can disagree with him. In his eight years as Mayor, in the style of a tough, no nonsense CEO, Bloomberg has brushed aside reporters who asked questions with an attitude that seems to reflect a basic philosophy:  I know what I’m doing. Who are you to question my decision?

    The Post last Sunday had a front page headline that crystallized Bloomberg’s attitude. It read: “Mike’s Mosque Mania." Bloomberg insists that nothing less than freedom of religion is at stake -- and he seems to disregard the fact that the First Amendment protects both freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

    The Mayor’s attitude seems to be: anyone who opposes me on this question is a troglodyte, a primitive person who can’t grasp the truth.  It’s possible, Mr. Mayor, for reasonable people to disagree. You don’t have to trash those who don’t see the world the way you do.

    It is understandable that some families who lost loved ones at the site of the Trade Center would prefer that the mosque be built somewhere else. One can accept the fact that the great, great majority of  Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding. Yet the sensitivity of the bereaved families deserves understanding and empathy too.

     Why does the mosque have to be built so close to what was turned into a cemetery by the terrorist attackers? I have seen no justification for the location, which some believe is to proclaim the triumph of the attackers over us. Nor has there been a satisfactory explanation for how the center’s sponsors are going to raise the $100 million needed to build it.  

    As columnist Michael Goodwin suggested in the New York Post, Bloomberg should be using his bully pulpit to  bring people together, not inflame differences that may exist. He called the Mayor’s suggestion that opponents are anti-Muslim bigots “a shocking error of judgment.”

    The Mayor is entitled to his opinion and so are those who disagree with him. But Goodwin is right: it might help the Mayor’s standing with the whole New York community if he tried acting like a mediator in this affair, rather than a protagonist.