On Tuesday, New York City Mayor-King Michael Bloomberg passionately defended the downtown Islamic community center that turned into this year's "August Crazy." It was even better than the first speech he gave about the issue. Honest! Here are some highlights:
On America's "commitment to fighting terror with freedom":
"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.
"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.
On moving the community center:
"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' around the World Trade Center be? There is already a mosque four blocks away. Should it too, be moved?
"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.
"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 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. Thank you."
[Pic via AP]