A group of Ohioans has offered to send LeBron James's former Cavaliers jerseys to the homeless of Miami, a purportedly generous gesture to help clothe poor folks. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has offered to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center in the proximity of Ground Zero, a purportedly generous gesture to help build trust between people of different faiths.
The former proposal was rejected by the Miami Coalition for the Homeless; those wearing such a jersey in Miami would likely be met with scorn, which one presumes a homeless person gets enough of as is. The latter proposal is being disapproved of by about 70 percent of polled New Yorkers, for reasons that the media has well regurgitated.
Assuming there is sincerity behind the motivations of the Clevelanders and the imam, there's a solution for each that probably should have been proposed already.
Taking the simpler fix first: Let the Cavaliers remove the name and numbers from the jerseys and pass them out to the homeless in Cleveland; they need the warmth that the extra clothing would provide in winter more than street people here do.
As for that mosque: What if the imam announces he'll forge ahead with the $100 million structure, but owing to the disappointingly hostile reaction it roused, he will turn it into a multifaith center with exhibits detailing the histories of the three dominant Middle Eastern religions -- Christianity, Islam, and Judaism?
And that three lofty prayer rooms -- church, mosque, and temple -- will be built side-by-side, with glass partitions among them so those of each faith can look over between services and witness others offering similarly humble prayer in simply a different format. Plus the front walls of each room will be glass so that visitors can see the three services simultaneously.
Instead of preaching to the converted -- Muslims and those who view Islam favorably -- a center like this would draw people of all faiths from New York City and everywhere else. As such, it could be far more effective in accomplishing what the imam says he wants -- an understanding that all faiths are equal.
Any opponents of this center would, at this point, be few in number and exposed as blatantly anti-Muslim -- while Rauf's face would almost certainly grace the cover of Time's "Person of the Year" issue.
Plus the gesture would be a voluntary sacrifice on behalf of the imam (and by extension, Muslims all over) in the name of inclusion and compromise, an act that would noted by the rest of the world. It would, in short, be a public relations coup as well as the right thing to do.