Bloomberg's Ground Zero Mosque Dividend

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has continued to portray his support for the construction of an Islamic supremacist mega-mosque at Ground Zero as the moral high ground. But Bloomberg may be getting more out of this than just the glow of moral sanctity—billions more, in fact, courtesy his business dealings in Muslim countries. 

If the mega-mosque at Ground Zero isn’t built, Bloomberg said, the terrorists win: “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.”

There are numerous indications, however, that fighting terrorism and standing against bigotry are not the only things that Bloomberg has in mind when he stands with mosque proponents. His moral high ground is questionable in any case, since Bloomberg claims to be standing against terror and bigotry with Ground Zero mega-mosque Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who refuses to denounce the jihad terror group Hamas, and is an open proponent of sharia, the Islamic legal system that relegates non-Muslims and women to a second-class status that denies them numerous basic rights.

But raising more pointed questions are Bloomberg’s increasing business dealings in the Islamic world. In October 2008, Bloomberg’s financial data and news corporation announced that it was expanding operations in Dubai, making its office there into one of the corporation’s regional hubs and quadrupling its staff in the process. Bloomberg Middle East and South Asia chief Max Linnington announced proudly: “We are going to be bringing all the elements of what you would find in one of Bloomberg’s largest offices here in Dubai.”

And in the spring of 2009, Bloomberg opened a news bureau in Abu Dhabi, joining its existing offices not only in Dubai, but in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. And Bloomberg Chairman and Managing Director Peter T. Grauer announced plans to expand Dubai operations still more: “Central to our growth strategy is the doubling of staff strength in Dubai office, our 10th regional hub, from 48 to 100 people within a year…. We will be investing not just in more people but also in infrastructure to support clients in the region.”

Grauer revealed that while Bloomberg was taking a bath worldwide, business was booming in the Middle East: “Despite the difficulties faced by the financial sector in the economic turmoil, our terminal sales in the region grew by 2% in the past nine months, when globally we faced a major setback.” Khaleej Times reported that “the New York-based company has drawn up a five-year plan that will see it achieving a two-fold increase in revenue from the Middle East region by 2014.”

Imagine how quickly that revenue stream would dry up if Bloomberg sided with the people whom Rauf and other leaders of the Ground Zero mosque initiative are busy smearing as “Islamophobes” and “bigots.” When his company is doing poorly worldwide except in the Middle East, it couldn’t have been hard for Bloomberg to see on which side his bread was buttered.

Business decisions are business decisions. But if Bloomberg was making a business decision when he came out so strongly in favor of the mega-mosque, he would have been more honest, and admirable, if he had just said so. He might even have retained some respectability if he had simply said that his business commitments in the Middle East made for a conflict of interest, and recused himself from the debate over the Ground Zero mega-mosque. But that conflict of interest does make his moral dudgeon over the mosque opponents appear hollow and hypocritical. It isn’t easy to be a saint, and it’s even harder when the material rewards for striking a saintly pose are as ample as they are for Saint Bloomberg of Brookline.