11. Michael Bloomberg and Feisal Abdul Rauf
for reminding a divided country that Muslims are Americans too.
Mayor | New York
Imam, Cordoba Initiative | New York
The Jewish mayor of New York City, who ranks as the 10th-wealthiest man in the United States, and the Kuwaiti-born imam, who had previously worked as an industrial-filter salesman, might seem an odd pair. But after Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's plans to construct a 15-story Islamic cultural center two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center stirred outrage in the United States, he found a staunch ally in Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg told New Yorkers that the right to construct the center, dubbed the "Ground Zero mosque" by its opponents, was just the sort of religious freedom that was attacked by terrorists on 9/11. "Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure -- and there is no neighborhood in this city that is off-limits to God's love and mercy," said the mayor.
Rauf's critics damn him as a closet Islamist or dismiss him as a salesman whose ambition exceeds his influence. But since 9/11, the imam has made an indisputable contribution to interreligious understanding: He delivered a moving eulogy at the funeral of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter murdered by al Qaeda, and continues to work with the U.S. State Department to spread a democratic, pluralistic version of Islam across the globe.
"For many years people have asked, 'Where are the moderate Muslims?'" Rauf mused recently. "But we moderates couldn't get any attention. Now that we've gotten attention, I'm accused of being immoderate!"
Bloomberg: Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Rauf: Mario Tama/Getty Images