Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Is this why Bloomberg champions Ground Zero mosque? Major Middle East business deals, opening of 'Islamic finance portal'
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a staunch supporter of the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero, recently has been expanding his business dealings in the Arab and Muslim world, including opening a new "Islamic finance portal."
Some critics are questioning whether Bloomberg's unpopular decision to back the controversial mosque project may be colored by his billion-dollar financial software, news and data company's decision to build a hub in the United Arab Emirates and North Africa.
The mayor's privately held company, Bloomberg L.P., has been increasing its revenue in the Middle East while its U.S.-based division has taken hits due to the country's economic woes.
In 2008, Bloomberg announced it was expanding its Dubai office into a regional hub, a move that sought to quadruple its local staff. The new hub will covers Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Max Linnington, Bloomberg regional head of Middle East and South Asia, told The National newspaper that the company developed an "Islamic finance portal," which would be helped by having more people on the ground building relationships.
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“Particularly since the meltdown of the Western capitalist system, there has been an increasingly large focus on the virtues of Islamic finance," he said. "Today, there is no one single provider of information that caters to the Islamic finance market. So by Bloomberg being here, we are in the process of building out an Islamic finance product. We are very confident that we can build a product that meets the needs of the market right now."
The growth plan continued in 2009, when Bloomberg opened a news bureau in Abu Dhabi.
Peter T. Grauer, Bloomberg chairman and president, met with UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to discuss Bloomberg's future expansion in the United Emirates, North Africa and India.
Grauer stated that while Bloomberg was hit by the recent U.S. economic woes, the company's Middle East revenues were growing.
"Despite the difficulties faced by the financial sector in the economic turmoil, our terminal sales in the region grew by 2 percent in the past nine months, when globally we faced a major setback," he said.
In March, the Khaleej Times reported that Bloomberg "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."
Bloomberg's expansion in the Middle East and Arab world has more than a few critics asking questions about his repeated support for the Cordoba Initiative's plan for a $100 million, 13-story Islamic cultural center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.
Bloomberg was one of the mosque's earliest supporters and has repeated that support even in the face of polls that show an overwhelming majority of national voters oppose the plan.
Bloomberg said in July, "I happen to think this is a very appropriate place for somebody who wants to build a mosque, because it tells the world that America, and New York City, which is what I'm responsible for, really believes in what we preach."
Asked last month about GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio's demands that Democratic rival Andrew Cuomo investigate the mosque, Bloomberg replied that investigating or vetting religious organizations goes against what the nation stands for.
Just last week, Bloomberg declared at a speech that "there is nowhere in the five boroughs of New York City that is off limits to any religion."
Radio host Michael Savage first exposed on his national show the pending sale in 2006 of port management businesses in six major U.S. seaports to a company based in the UAE. The sale was delayed amid public outcry.
Savage weighed in on Bloomberg's Middle East and African business dealings.
"'Bloomberg's expansionist business interests in the Middle East are well-known," Savage told WND.
Continued Savage: "That he would spit in the face of the memories of the victims of Islamic terrorism by not only supporting the extremists and agitators who want to build a victory mosque at Ground Zero is one insult. Another is him calling those who oppose this desecration of what is essentially a 'cemetery' various insulting names goes to further show the callousness and greed of this naked opportunist.
"Further, Bloomberg is so out of touch with reality that he actually believes his 5th grade concept of 'tolerance,' and his sing-songy sermons during his Ramadan PR event at Gracie Mansion has rendered him immensely popular. So popular that he may even run for the presidency! What this cocoon-man does not yet know is that West of the Hudson River he is despised and mocked."
Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, quipped, "Imagine how quickly (Bloomberg's Middle East) 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," Spencer charged.