Ben Smith has a story up today about a "public conversation" between David Axelrod and Elie Wiesel that took place Wednesday night at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. During that conversation, the talk turned to the Park51 project which had a starring role in this year's Summer Of Insanity. Turns out, Wiesel has an idea that is going to fix everything!
Wiesel, 82, said his solution would be to affirm to Imam Faisal Rauf that "I know your intentions are good" but that his plan would "hurt some people who have suffered."
"Let's turn it around -- let's do it together. Jews, Christians and Muslims together will create this place, a center for interfaith, but sponsored together, financed together, worked out programs tighter, and show a symbol of solidarity, of religious solidarity," Wiesel said. "It can become a very great symbol here -- a great monument for humanity."
"That sounds like a wonderful idea," Axelrod replied, saying it "gives me hope."
The whole proposal that different faiths come together to provide funding for the project is a new and unobjectionable idea. As for the idea that the Park51 center be a "center for interfaith" that is a "symbol...of religious solidarity," well...that's such a great idea that it turns out to be the very idea that the people behind the center already had!
Park51 is a nonsectarian community, cultural and interfaith spiritual center along with a Muslim prayer area and a monument to honor all those we lost on 9/11. Park51 enriches lower Manhattan in body and spirit, with ecologically conscious design and operation. Our goals are pluralism, service, arts and culture, health and healing. A group of downtown Muslim-Americans envisioned a sanctuary where everyone is welcome to learn, experience the arts and culture and explore their relationship to faith. In the near future, Park51 will offer green, world-class recreational and educational facilities, and a friendly and accessible platform for conversations across our identities.
The image of Wiesel and Axelrod, backslapping each other over this new and novel "solution" is deeply hilarious to me. But what the hell? Maybe Rauf should just proceed with the exact plan he already has, and comfort the crazies by telling them that it's all Elie Wiesel's idea!
Of course, the sticking point is probably the whole "Muslim prayer area." Perhaps Muslims can exercise their rights of religious freedom on a trial basis and we'll see how it goes? By the way, in related news, while everyone was frothing over the prospect of Muslims building some basketball courts on Park Street, a new mosque opened in the "Lower Manhattan 9/11 Exclusion Zone" at 30 Cliff Street. That facility joins the already-in-existence mosque on Warren Street. And the Park51 center aims to be an interfaith community center. As of this writing, there remain no plans afoot to literally build a literal mosque literally at "Ground Zero."