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Wieseltier on Park51

The best thing you will read, the last thing you should

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A rally near the proposed site last month. Woolworth Building in the background.(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Though wishing probably won’t make it so, contributing editor Leon Wieseltier’s brief essay in The New Republic on the Park51 controversy really should be the final word on the subject—both because there have been way, way too many words already and because (and I say this as one who has read most of those words, since it’s my job) this is the finest treatment of the subject you will find.

Incidentally, J.J. Goldberg thinks he has found a secret battle royale between Wieseltier and TNR editor Martin Peretz. I think he has found two people who write for the same venue saying somewhat different things on a common topic. But you be the judge, I guess: As long as you read Wieseltier’s piece, one part of which is excerpted after the jump. (And if it is behind a subscription wall, you can maybe cough cough cough find it elsewhere.)

There are families of the victims who oppose Cordoba House and there are families of the victims who support it. Every side in this debate can invoke the authority of the pain. But how much authority should it have? I do not see that sentiment about the families should abrogate considerations of principle. It is odd to see conservatives suddenly espouse the moral superiority of victimhood, as it is odd to see them suddenly find an exception to their expansive view of religious freedom. Everybody has their preferred insensitivities. In matters of principle, moreover, polling is beside the point, or an alibi for the tyranny of the majority, or an invitation to demagogues to make divisiveness into a strategy, so that their targets come to seem like they are the ones standing in the way of social peace, and the “decent” thing is for them to fold. Why doesn’t Rauf just move the mosque? That would bring the ugliness to an end. But why don’t Palin and Gingrich just shut up? That, too, would bring the ugliness to an end.

Mosque Notes [TNR]

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Why should Wieseltier have the last word on this question? His point is that the 9/11 hijackers most certainly represented Islam, not (he points out) Jainism. But Wieseltier might just as well say that Desmond Tutu represents the same kind of Christianity practiced at Dove Church. It’s a false and, frankly, stupid observation.

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Wieseltier on Park51

The best thing you will read, the last thing you should

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