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Bloomberg has 'stood above' noise of mosque debate

Let me finish tonight with a tribute to a leader.

Let me finish tonight with a tribute to a leader. Whatever your position on the proposed Islamic center in southern Manhattan, this is one person who has stood up, stood out and done the fine thing, the historic thing.Again, there are people of goodwill on both sides of this debate, good people with different views. There are also, to be truly candid, some real troublemakers, people who love this topic and this fight "precisely" because it has drawn heat.I don't want it to draw heat. If the Islamic center becomes a reality, I hope that it will day be a generally unremarkable part of downtown New York, remarkable only in the fact that because of when it was built - just nine years after the tragedy of the Twin Towers, it stands as a tribute to what an open and free country we Americans have built here.One person has stood above the noise of this debate.It is Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York. He has fought from the beginning the effort to make a negative issue of the Islamic center. He said yesterday that saying "no" to its construction - either by throwing up new obstacles or by threatening to blacklist companies who do the work - 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.”Mayor Bloomberg has cut to the heart of this struggle. It's not over real estate, or turf or geography. It's over symbols. What would letting a religious group build a community center in southern Manhattan symbolize? Well, freedom of religion, for one thing.What would it mean to stop the building? Use your imagination?I often think that the fight with Islamic zealotry - Islamism - is really be waged over the little tables in cafes in cities like Cairo and Amman and Riyyad. There's the young adult who speaks openly of his desire to study engineering someday at Michigan State and there's the radical who speaks with sympathy for jihad, who brandishes the wounds, spiritual as well as physical, Islam can trace to those of us in the west.Mayor Bloomberg reminds us that this is the battleground - in the hearts and minds, newspapers and television networks and cafes of the Near and Middle East.Raising cane over the building of an Islamic center helps one side of this fight. Which one do you think it is?I salute Michael Bloomberg. If Jack Kennedy were alive to write more of "Profiles in Courage," Mike would be in the book.

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