Reading Bill McGurn's column in the Wall Street Journal about the mosque at Ground Zero controversy, I couldn't help but think this situation is ripe for a philanthropic solution.
For those of you who haven't been following, the New York Times reported yesterday:
The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9 to 0 against granting historic protection to the building at 45-47 Park Place in Lower Manhattan, where the $100 million center would be built.
That decision clears the way for the construction of Park51, a tower of as many as 15 stories that will house a mosque, a 500-seat auditorium, and a pool. Its leaders say it will be modeled on the Y.M.C.A. and Jewish Community Center in Manhattan.
There are plenty of objections to this mosque, but in my unprofessional opinion, none of them will win in court. The owners of the property want to build a religious institution. And if it were any other religious group, they would be allowed to do so.
That being said, the project doesn't exactly exude sensitivity. Though Oz Sultan, the programming director for the center, said that "We are looking to build bridges between faiths,” this seems like an unlikely outcome. Even the Anti-Defamation League has opposed the project.
My former colleague Bill McGurn suggested that there is an interesting parallel here with a group of Carmelite nuns who wanted to set up a convent at Auschwitz to pray for the souls that died there. Needless to say, Jews were upset. The pope ultimately asked them to move.
The mosque leaders are probably not going to change their mind about the location--indeed, there is reason to suspect that they chose the site for political reasons. But here's what I'd like to see: A New York philanthropist who will offer the mosque another location in the city. (Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg, since he seems so high on the project) I don't know what the terms of the offer should be. But I can't think of any other solution.