Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Michael Bloomberg's words on freedom of conscience

There are rare moments when an American politician or public official stands up and says something worthy to be remembered over the long haul. Such was Barack Obama’s on race or his speech in Cairo, such was Colin Powell’s, pondering the gravestone of an Arab-American who gave his life at 20 in Afghanistan and Powell's words on democratic inclusiveness. Such today are the words of Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York against one aspect of Republican fascism (the attempt to build a mass racist, imperialist, authoritarian or tyrannical movement in support of American banks and the war complex, though it has a bleak self-destructiveness which even its supposed beneficiaries might detect…). His words coincide with the checking of the attempt to block the center, signified in the letter below from Imam Rauf, thanking inter alia 9/11 familes for peaceful tomorrows. There is only one mistaken word among those below: Bloomberg says that one should not cave in to "popular" sentiment, but as the expression of many jews as well as others in New York suggests, the chauvinism of reactionary politicians does not deserve to be called, in America, "popular."

Now Bloomberg has been particularly vicious in attacking demonstrators for instance at the UN against the war in Iraq on February 16, 2003, and at the Republican convention in 2004 (rounding up whoever the police decided was a “perpetrator” and throwing them in a make-shift warehouse/jail polluted by toxins until the Convention ended). Powell as Secretary of State and Obama as President have pursued wretched aggressions. Bloomberg has been weak on the equal freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, and the equal legal protection against arbitrary, let alone brutal or poisonous detainment. Nonetheless, Bloomberg’s words yesterday are worth taking in, remembering why one might be proud to be an American, a New Yorker, a defender of equal basic rights, a democrat:

“In the mid-1650s, the small Jewish community living in lower Manhattan petitioned Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant for the right to build a synagogue, and they were turned down. In 1657, when Stuyvesant also prohibited Quakers from holding meetings, a group of non-Quakers in Queens signed the Flushing Remonstrance, a petition in defense of the right of Quakers and others to freely practice their religion. It was perhaps the first formal political petition for religious freedom in the American colonies, and the organizer was thrown in jail and then banished from New Amsterdam.

“In the 1700s, even as religious freedom took hold in America, Catholics in New York were effectively prohibited from practicing their religion, and priests could be arrested. Largely as a result, the first Catholic parish in New York City was not established until the 1780s, St. Peter's on Barclay Street, which still stands just one block north of the World Trade Center site, and one block south of the proposed mosque and community center....

“Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.

“This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.

“Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that," - mayor Mike Bloomberg

Statement of Thanks from Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf on the LPC Vote to Forego Designation of 45 Park Place as NYC Landmark

August 3, 2010

"I am pleased to learn that the Landmarks Commission has concluded that 45 Park Place will not be designated a landmarked site. I am very grateful to Chairman Robert Tierney and his colleagues for their careful and thoughtful consideration. I am also deeply grateful to our local elected officials, Scott Stringer, Margaret Chin, Daniel Squadron, Andrew Cuomo, David Paterson, and Michael Bloomberg. Our faith community is indebted to them, and to our local community board, for their commitment to the democratic and constitutional ideals we all hold dear and which the community center we hope to create on the site will honor. We believe that Park51 will become a landmark in New York Citys cultural, social and educational life, a community center to promote the American values we all aspire towards and to realize a better city for all. My testimony, submitted to the Commission earlier this month, sets forth my hopes and vision for the community center we would like to see built at 45 Park Place. In just over a week, Muslim New Yorkers will join friends of other faiths in welcoming the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims around the world dedicate this month to charity, service and community, ideals which I personally hold dear and which Park51 will move forward to realize. Park 51 will be a home for all people who are yearning for understanding and healing, peace, collaboration, and interdependence. We are more determined than ever to take this opportunity, which we also see as a responsibility to our community and to our neighbors in Lower Manhattan. We are creating a new space where fresh stories of cooperation and service will reflect the living vibrancy of inter-connected communities. It is our hope that, during this holy month, New Yorkers and Americans from all walks of life will join us in realizing our hopes and dreams for peace and happiness. The support of our partners, elected officials and friends has made this moment possible. Let us help build something that all New Yorkers - and all Americans - will be proud of. Additionally, we appreciate the support received from the following organizations: September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, J Street, The Arab American Family Support Center, Auburn Seminary, American Jewish Committee, Cause New York, Chautauqua Institute, Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, Faith House Manhattan, Friends of the Arava Institute, Interfaith Youth Core, Intersections, Interfaith Center of New York, The Interfaith Alliance, Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, Lutheran Seafarers and International House, New York Buddhist Church, Odyssey, New Seminary, Out of Cordoba Averros and Miamonides, NY interfaith Disaster, One Voice, One Spirit, St. Bartholomew's Church, Same Difference Interfaith Alliance, The Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, Tanenbaum Center, The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Trinity Wall Church, The Healing of the Nations Foundation, The Migration Policy Institute, Union Theological Seminary, St. Peters Church, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, UJA Federation of New York.

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