Mayor Bloomberg takes his leadership role seriously, even when standing alone!
In his fiercest defense yet of the mosque proposed near Ground Zero, Mayor Bloomberg declared yesterday that it must be allowed to proceed because the government "shouldn't be in the business of picking" one religion over another.
"I think it's fair to say if somebody was going to try, on that piece of property, to build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming," the mayor said.
"And the fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it, too."
Placing the proposed mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site has led to an outcry from opponents, including family members of 9/11 victims, who contend the holy place at 45 Park Place would defile the memories of those who perished in the worst terror attack in US history.
Community Board 1 approved the project Tuesday night by a 29-1 vote after a raucous four-hour hearing in which nine members abstained.
The meeting got so heated that one young girl, whose father is Muslim and mother is Jewish and who went to testify in favor, decided instead to sit silently.
The issue also continues to fuel an intense debate on the Internet. One commenter likened a mosque near Ground Zero to a convent established on the grounds of Auschwitz. Pope John Paul II ordered the nuns to move in 1993 after years of protests from Jewish leaders.
But Bloomberg argued that blocking the 13-story mosque and Islamic cultural center would violate the essence of America.
"What is great about America and particularly New York is we welcome everybody, and if we are so afraid of something like this, what does that say about us?" asked the mayor.
"Democracy is stronger than this. You know the ability to practice your religion was one of the real reasons America was founded. And for us to just say no is just, I think, not appropriate is a nice way to phrase it
". . . If you are religious, you do not want the government picking religions, because what do you do the day they don't pick yours?"
Even with Bloomberg on board, the project still has to win approval of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, because the current building on the mosque site dates to 1857-58 and would have to be razed.
The landmark application has been pending since 1989 and was recently reinstated. The commission is scheduled to hold a hearing and a vote in the early summer.
The mosque's proponents say they are prepared to raise $100 million and hope to accommodate up to 1,500 worshippers on Fridays. About 500 people already use the site for prayers.
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