Mayor Bloomberg defends ground zero mosque plan
We must do what is right, not what is easy, says New York City mayor
New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg has defended the right of a Muslim property developer to build a mosque near ‘ground zero’, the site of the World Trade Center. Bloomberg received a standing ovation for a speech he gave to a largely Muslim audience last night.
“We must do what is right, not what is easy,” said the mayor as he ruled out a compromise solution to the issue which has caused increasingly heated debate across the US. Bloomberg said a ‘compromise’, with the mosque built further away from ground zero, would “undercut the values and principles that so many heroes died protecting”.
Property developer Sharif el-Gamal wants to construct a Muslim community centre, including a mosque – and a 9/11 memorial – two blocks from the site where 2,605 people were killed on September 11, 2001.
The plan has outraged some Americans, and provoked demonstrations and protests. It has been used as a political football, with interventions from Republican Sarah Palin, as well as from Barack Obama.
Last night Bloomberg told an audience composed mostly of Muslim Americans - invited to his official mansion for a dinner to celebrate the end of Ramadan - that the handling of the mosque plan would be a litmus test for “American values”.
The mayor said: “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."
Some opponents of the scheme have asked for the mosque to be constructed further away from ground zero, but Bloomberg said that this would not end the debate. “The question will then become, how big should the 'no-mosque zone' around the World Trade Center be?” he asked.
“There is already a mosque four blocks away. Should it, too, be moved?" ·
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