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Cordoba House “Ground Zero Mosque”: PR & Path Forward Part-1: Public Relations Analysis

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MM’s Coverage of Park51 (Mislabeled “Ground Zero Mosque”)

Cordoba House “Ground Zero Mosque”: PR & Path Forward Part  1Part 2 | Part 3

A Public Relations Analysis (Edited)
By Mustafa Stefan Dill

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Recently, I came across an interesting blog at www.getreligion.org (GR), a nondenominational eagle-eye squad of journalists keeping a sharp watch on journalism and religion. In two recent articles, which covered Cordoba House: Monday’s “Don’t leave Cordoba reporting to pundits” and the earlier “An important Cordoba distinction,” they do a decent job of wading through the thicket of press coverage on the Cordoba House controversy, and the discussions generated via the comments on both articles (despite some occasional minutiae sidetracks).

Between their analysis and references, as well as some independent scouring of my own, several crashing failures from a PR perspective can be gleaned from the Cordoba House controversy. I won’t take sides on the debate – that arena is thick with voices already- but GR gets credit again for surfacing one of the few articles on the subject in the Crain’s New York Business, that succinctly delineates the debate as “about whether building the Islamic center is ‘a right’ or ‘the right thing to do.'” Pushing aside the rhetoric from all corners, it all boils down to that essence.

Without weighing in on its merits, the PR and web failures of this initiative are exhaustive and severe:

1) One huge hurdle is that there still appears to be some confusion in the public perception over whether (a) the project is a community center, an Islamic center, a mosque, or a mix, which got stuck with the label “Ground Zero Mosque,” and (b) questions about the entire project’s organizational structure.

(a) GR writer Mollie Ziegler asserts in one of her article comments that:

It’s called the Ground Zero Mosque because that’s what the group behind the mosque called it.
Yes, they’ve backtracked on that in recent weeks. But their plans were riddled with the phrase until then.
If you don’t think that the group should consider the location important, that’s your beef with them. But as a journalistic issue, it was the billing of this mosque as the Ground Zero Mosque — even more than the close proximity — that got some folks riled up.

I haven’t had time to independently confirm Mollie’s claim (will do so in the next couple of days, insha’Allah). While it might be an accurate assessment, Imam Feisal’s opening statement of the press conference of May 20th seems to contraindicate her assertion, unless she’s going back earlier. At any rate, any mention of a “Ground Zero Mosque” is absent from both the Park 51 and Cordoba Initiative (CI) websites. What I can’t confirm is if such nomenclature was ever officially used.

If the name originated with the initiative, at the very least it shows some poor judgment and lack of forethought or pre-planning on how such a name might resonate. If it was originated by the media, then clear, unequivocal steps should have been taken to correct it at the outset. The failure to control branding early on meant that the damage and perception became firmly entrenched, and Park 51 and CI tweets are now having to continually fight the ingrained erroneous brand, frantically tweeting “It’s a community center with a prayer space, not a mosque”.

(b) I’m not sure it’s clear to the public what the relationship between Park 51 and the Cordoba Initiative is. The best discussion on this can be found in an interview with Park 51 developer Sharif El-Gamal on altmuslim, which also appeared on beliefnet, but neither altmuslim or beliefnet have the mainstream reach of CNN or MSN or Yahoo (a quick Google and Bing search for El-Gamal doesn’t reveal any mainstream media interviews or coverage that I could find; lack of media availability from both El-Gamal and Imam Feisal is an issue I’ll address in more detail below).

For those interested in the story -and especially for those who want to follow it via social media- this means there are two separate media paths to keep track of, one for Park 51, the other for CI: two websites, two Facebook pages, two Twitter accounts, etc. Such duplication is burdensome and confusing for both the end user and media professionals, and runs the danger of not being consistent (they’re doing reasonably well on that point last I checked , but it’s an unnecessary high risk) and sends an overall impression that’s not very solid or cohesive.

2) The web and social media outputs of both outfits is a mixed bag of good and bad strategies, good ideas and poor execution or surfacing, lack of detail, and misunderstood and/or underutilized resources.

The respective websites actually do a fairly good job of explaining and articulating their mission, but from a crisis management perspective, they are spending far too much time and effort across the board chronicling articles about outside support and nowhere enough space addressing or responding to concerns or clearly asserting some key positions.

One thing that does work – but falls far short of its potential – is the embedded youtube clip right on the CI home page of Imam Feisal’s May 20th press conference. However else they may have lost control of their message, this piece is a succinct encapsulation from the founder about the initiative’s purpose. The problem is that they lose huge impact by the generic title for the video, “Imam Feisal Press Conference.” Snooze.

A much more effective approach may have been to headline it with the date of the press conference (important, to indicate this has been their position all along) and the imam’s first words: May 20: “This Is Not A Mosque”

Again, it’s finding every nuance and opportunity to own and take control of your message from the get-go.

Small details on the site could be improved: The link to the Facebook page from the CI site doesn’t work properly, for example. A bigger problem is the link for “Cordoba House NYC” under the “What We Do” drop down menu on the Cordoba Initiative website yields a “The requested page could not be found” message; not a good thing to be absent right now.

I would like to see an embedded Google map somewhere on the site showing the precise location of the center in relation to Ground Zero, since one response CI is touting is that it’s not actually right at Ground Zero. For non-New Yorkers, this could be a helpful illustration.

The Cordoba Initiative Blog is an incredible waste of lost opportunity. The blog consists overhwelmingly of links to or reposts of articles from other sources or organizations in support of their initiative, duplicating in large part material that’s already severely overrepresented on their main site. Earlier, there are posts detailing Imam Feisal’s media appearances but no direct communication or posts from the imam himself, save for one that he co-signed with the CI team but doesn’t read like its actually written by him, unless he likes to refer to himself in the third person.

Nowhere, at first glance, is there a sign of direct engagement or correspondence. That’s generally a good use of blogs.

The sparse calendar widget makes it hard to tell at first glance if there’s an archive index or not. Once found, I discovered three very critical articles by the CI clarifying some positions, buried deep out of quick reach:

After a little consolidation and tightening, these pieces should have been, from the outset the main articles readable on the front and center on the CI and perhaps Park 51 home pages. They could still be. All the articles on external support can easily be moved into a headlines index on the home page sidebar.

For their social media output, they’re not really responding to questions on their Facebook pages when I last checked, and their Twitter strategy ranges from good (responding to followers, even if their own tone gets a little testy and unprofessional and on the verge of losing their cool) to downright poor; long stretches of tweets with consecutive blanket links to articles of support is in no sense any kind of true engagement or conversation. An occasional tweet to do that would be fine -it’s a useful service for your followers in moderation- but at the very least, it should be personalized with a quick intro of a few words then use bit.ly or some other link shortener. Long portions of their Tweet feed look as if an autobot hijacked their Twitter account.

CI’s YouTube channel is also grossly underutilized. They have only three self-produced clips: two from their Sudan initiative, and the clip of Imam Feisal’s press conference on May 20 regarding the Cordoba House. A simple Flip cam could document any and/or all of the following: Imam Feisal or El-Gamal’s responses to some of the more visible outcries and attacks that are proliferating on youtube; sessions with the architect and designers to show where the prayer space is in relation to the rest of the community center’s other activities, where the proposed 9/11 memorial will be and renderings of the exterior to show that it wont be a ‘mega mosque’; documenting the working sessions with other interfaith leaders; and especially finding stories of Muslims who died in the Sept. 11 attacks and talking with their families (see below). The list and opportunity is endless, and it’s painful to see them have only one video up about the current issue.

3) Among the points raised in the comments discussion in both GR articles is that stories of Muslims who perished in the Sept.11 attacks, and what their families think of the Cordoba initiative, are under-reported. Cordoba and Park 51 organizers should have anticipated this and should have had several stories and compelling accounts from family members of Sept. 11 Muslim victims on hand, even if a few of them are opposed to the project. I saw a similar failure after Ft. Hood, where you had to dig deep for stories of Muslims who have given years of service or even their lives in the American military defending this country. While a lot of their word space mentions the fact that Muslims died in the Sept. 11 attacks, there are no stories, no accounts that users can resonate with. The immense value of offering a story versus merely including a sound bite or statistic I’ve discussed elsewhere.

4) and 5) A seeming reluctance to address some of the concerns raised about the project, coupled with a general lack of media presence or availability by Imam Feisal or El-Gamal, runs completely contradictory to the most basic tenets in any PR crisis management evaluation: be available, and answer your critics. The lack of accesibility and unwillingness to take on questions may be the most damaging course the groups have taken out of everything I’ve covered.

A rudimentary lesson in any PR crisis management campaign is to monitor the news about you and address the concerns. In this day and age, it’s even more critical, since the news about you quickly turns into the conversation about you, shared among many through social media. But CI seems much more interested in flaunting the support that comes their way rather than trying to scrub the media to find concerns that need responding to. That imbalance must be corrected.

While they may be acknowledging the more high-profile flashy rhetoric that’s taking potshots (see the Palin quip at the end of the altmuslim article), under their noses are articles that raise legitimate questions that aren’t being addressed. Claudia Rosett at Forbes raises questions about the money for the project (her first two questions seem on the level; the third one a bit more snarky), and ups her ante when Imam Feisal is hard to pin down, drawing concerns about the state sponsored trip in a second article.

Good media monitoring would include the comments and discussion components from various articles as well, from where one would glean that ‘Why not a 9/11 memorial?’ is a recurring question or issue. CI does mention that in the third article from their blog that I singled out (emphasis, mine):

A community center, much like the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) or the Jewish Community Center, is where people from any faith are allowed to use the facilities. Beyond having a gym, the Cordoba House will house a pool, restaurant, 500-person auditorium, 9/11 memorial, multi-faith chapel, office and conference space, and prayer space. After speaking extensively with the residents of lower Manhattan, we found that these were some of the most vital needs for the community.

But again, this material isn’t properly surfaced, which tells me they’re not paying enough attention to the wider and often legitimate discourse around them. While they’re addressing questions to followers on Twitter, had this or any of the pertinent material or answers been placed prominently and early in a proactive stance, they could have nipped a lot of questions in the bud. Since they didn’t, they’re now mired in a reactive sludgefest.

You don’t have to be from Forbes to have questions about the project and find answers hard to get: Muslim blogger Sabrina Enayatulla also had questions about the project and did her own digging, and ran into a few interesting access issues:

According to an outside consultant working directly with Park 51, who agreed to speak about the project on the condition of anonymity…

and later (emphasis, added):

Most of the buzz is due to Cordoba Initiative’s Cordoba House, which plans to use space at Park 51 for interfaith classes and a designated prayer space for Muslims. Cordoba House will have separate programs and initiatives targeted toward the Muslim community, but representatives at the Cordoba Initiative did not respond to queries about their role in this project and types of programming they hope to offer at Park 51 by the time this article was published.

She did speak with one Oz Sultan, “PR liaison and programming project manager for Park 51,” according to her article, but anonymous insider sources, PR spokespersons and lack of response don’t add up to a reassuring tone and is absolutely the wrong course of action at such a time.

As Rossett says in her second article,

But if Rauf’s aim is truly, as he says, to build bridges, reach out and promote harmony in America, then punctuating his Ground Zero project with a summer swing past fonts of Islamic oil money seems an odd way to go about it. With emotions rubbed raw among some families of Sept. 11 victims, with arguments boiling over the “bridge-building” project Rauf himself set in motion, it would seem far more fitting for him to spend his time in America, answering, not least, the many questions he has repeatedly deflected about the money.

LoHud’s religion writer Gary Stern also notes the lack of access: “One thing that’s becoming clear is that the Cordoba Initiative, the group seeking to build the downtown center, is doing a poor job of PR,” he writes. “Their leaders need to be out there, explaining who they are, what they’ve done and what they hope to do.”

Imam Feisal and El-Gamal should be appearing on every news and talk show there is, answering the issues and hammering the key points to regain the message. Come prepared with specific stories and human accounts, don’t talk incessantly about all the support you have, focus on the concerns and if you dont feel media confident, hire a PR coach to help you with your TV jitters. Blog personally, honestly, and transparently once or twice a week, and keep outside links to support minimal.

Post-Script

Someone pointed me to the excellent NYT article “For Mosque Sponsors, Early Missteps Fueled Storm.” The piece provides some much needed background and timeline about the process leading up to the current debacle.

The article also confirms El-Gamal’s continuing reticence to speak about the affair (emphasis, added):

Mr. Gamal said that since May, he had started meeting in private with opponents to explain himself. But he bridled at constantly defending himself publicly. He said he didn’t want to tell angry opponents how he had injured his eye handing out water to emergency workers on 9/11.

He didn’t feel that he should have to, he said. He refused recently to appear on CNN to debate Rick A. Lazio, the Republican candidate for governor who has come out against the project.

“This is not a debate,” Mr. Gamal said. “I’m an American. I’m a New Yorker. I’m exercising my freedoms in this country.”

Didn’t feel that he should have to? With all due respect, Mr. Gamal, guess again — at this stage in the game of public perception for your project, you do have to. Buck up, brother, and do your part to dissipate the heat and hate.

For an organization that says it wants to establish a community open to all, such callous contempt and disregard for those with concerns — the refusal to engage in the very dialogue and openness it claims to offer — is astounding.

How can you want to engage with the community at large and then decide it’s beneath you to talk to them? I can’t think of a faster, more efficient way to build distrust and suspicion and play right into your detractor’s hands.

He has a valid point in not wanting to frame the issues as a debate, but there are ways to keep control of your message for such TV moments, and there are people who specialize in training you for that skill. Call them.

As the public image downgrades daily and the questions mount, the need to be out in public reiterating key mission points and clarifying the misconceptions is urgent. The lack of accessibility is rapidly becoming a huge concern in itself — and could have been so easily avoided.

Get on every news show and start talking, Mr. Gamal (and Imam Feisal, too). Be as open and welcoming as you say you want others to be.

Mustafa Stefan Dill has over nine years experience in media – from radio to web and social media for both print and television – Mustafa Stefan Dill has lectured on online journalism and social change at the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bangalore, India and has been featured in Online Journalism Review, The Media Center’s Morph blog, J-New Voices, motherpie.typepad.com, and participated as a panelist in a national web seminar by the American Press Institute.

Dill covers Muslim and interfaith issues and their relationship to new media, offers social media and PR strategies for the Muslim community and other clients and monitors ongoing developments in journalism and new media in India, South Asia, and the Middle East/North Africa at http://newmedianewmexico.blogspot.com/.

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With nine years experience in mainstream news media -- first in radio, then web and social media for both print and television -- Mustafa Stefan Dill was an early advocate and practitioner for applying social media techniques to mainstream journalism. Dill has lectured on online journalism and social change at the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bangalore, India and has been featured in Online Journalism Review, The Media Center's Morph blog, J-New Voices, motherpie.typepad.com, and participated as a panelist in a national web seminar by the American Press Institute. In August 2010, Dill planned his escape from the newsroom environment launched a new consultancy offering PR, social media and new media strategies for a wide range of clients, with a specialty in serving Muslim and interfaith organizations and NGOs working in Muslim regions. Dill reverted to Islam in 2002.

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Avatar

    BostonMuslim

    August 17, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    Wow, this was very very good. I think we all recognize the Cordoba Initiative had a lot of misteps, i hope you do share this article with whoever their PR person is – it seems that in the NY times article, they did not even have a PR firm until recently when everything blew up. How can you be undertaking a $100M project and not have PR – especially a project as sensitive as this one.

    Very good Article.

    Muslim Matters is a very impressive website – thank you for all you guys do.

  2. Avatar

    zekaria

    August 17, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    This entire issue seems like it’s being given far more media attention than necessary. For a related article, see
    http://flagshipnewsletter.wordpress.com/

    zekaria

  3. Avatar

    Nafees

    August 17, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    No doubt mistakes were made in representation, but the overwhelming response was not down to bad PR but straight up bigotry and hatred stoked by the American right.

    I do not see the point of this article when the issue hasn’t been settled – calling the brother callous etc. is a bit much for me.

    I wonder what PR professionals would have said about our blessed Prophet (PBUH) if they were living in Makkah at the height of the persecution – sometimes no amount of PR can protect you, but in the end the truth prevails.

    Allah Knows Best.

    • Avatar

      BostonMuslim

      August 17, 2010 at 5:28 PM

      yeah but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared

    • Avatar

      Mustafa Stefan Dill

      August 17, 2010 at 8:47 PM

      Thank you Nafees, for your comments and dialogue.

      No doubt mistakes were made in representation, but the overwhelming response was not down to bad PR but straight up bigotry and hatred stoked by the American right.

      I do not see the point of this article when the issue hasn’t been settled…

      It’s my contention, however, that had the PR not been so muddled and amateurishly handled from the outset as it was, then the bigotry and hatred stoked by the right you cite would have been far, far less. If it had been handled well, in other words, there may not have even been much of an issue *to* settle. Sure, there may always be some pop culture -level right wing rhetoric to contend with, but a constant and studious awareness of how our activities may play out to the non-Muslim population — and meticulous planning around that — is, I believe, incumbent and mandatory for every Muslim organization these days.

      Like it our not, fair or not, Muslims as individuals and as organizations are under the most extreme scrutiny right now. To proceed as if we’re not under that lens, is in my view, irresponsible to our own community and disrespectful to those who voice concerns. That level of scrutiny will not lessen by merely pointing out bigotry and hatred, or hiding behind ideology or complaining about how much we’re maligned. The Islamosphere is riddled with those kinds of dialogues and discussion boards, and I don’t see much traction being gained — just a lot of verse throwing and ideology bashing.

      I’m not suggesting we pander or be apologists, but I am advocating we be extremely clear, consistent, honest, transparent, responsive and attentive in *everything* we do and with everyone we engage (or are engaged by). That’s the standard that’s being asked of us at this time, I feel, and we must rise to it.

      Perhaps it’s a test or challenge from Allah (SWT) — Allah knows best.

      calling the brother callous etc. is a bit much for me.

      I’m not intending to call the brother himself calllous — Only Allah can judge another’s heart and niyyah — but I’m simply analyzing his behavior from a PR perspective and how such a stance comes across to a sector that is in the most need of dialogue and answers.

      In the middle section (“Muslims and the Media”) of this writing, I wrote about the mindset of some Muslim leaders to not engage with the media or outside parties. To me, such positions short -circuit the goal of building dialogue and only breeds further alienation and scrutiny. It is entirely within our grasp to stop playing the ‘victim of media’ card, set the example, create the alternative story, realign the perception.

      I wonder what PR professionals would have said about our blessed Prophet (PBUH) if they were living in Makkah at the height of the persecution – sometimes no amount of PR can protect you, but in the end the truth prevails.

      That would be an interesting anlaysis! I might undertake it some day– but I’ll need to give it all the due diligence, research and scholarship it would require. Long-term project.

      Allah Knows Best.

      indeed…
      Thanks again for your thoughts!

  4. Pingback: Michael Kinnamon on Cordoba House and mosque at Ground Zero « Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

  5. Avatar

    abuabdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    August 17, 2010 at 6:24 PM

    William Dalyrimple’s opinion article in the New York Times defending the Cordoba Institute, its shaykh, and its Sufi focus is a telling example of how badly orthodox Muslims are misunderstood.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/17/opinion/17dalrymple.html

    Over and over again, Dalyrimple touts the Sufis as pacifist and pluralist. In PR terms, Dalyrimple is upset that Americans keep lumping the “good” (Sufi) Muslims in with the rest of us.

    Among his claims is that Sufism is more approachable. But anyone who has studied Sufism knows that Sufism is not one doctrine, but a multitude of different paths. There are Sufis among the Shia and the Sunni. Various Sufis who practice grave worship, who practice saint worship, who chant, who pray silently, who use music, who dance, who do none of those things, etc., etc., etc. Sufism is so broad that it cannot even be reduced to one methodology, except perhaps this: that Sufis seek spiritual nearness to Allah including by methods that go beyond those taught by the Quran or by the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam.

    By contrast, Islam is the most easily approachable religion in the world. Bar none. Pick up the Qur’an, and read.

    Muslims complicate that message all the time, unfortunately. But there is no need to travel to Pakistan or India or even to Saudi. No funny chants and no dances and no sitting in a dark room till your brain implodes. No need to change your name or your clothes.

    To approach Islam, you just need to read the Qur’an, read the Word of Allah. And when you accept that there is no one worthy of your worship other than Allah, and that His Messenger is Muhammad, sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam, then you have to learn how to obey Allah. Study with those who have learned more than you of what Allah has revealed, and who have extracted lessons from it that you can learn. (Queue Al Maghrib promo)

    • Avatar

      Safia Farole

      August 18, 2010 at 4:38 PM

      I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who picked up on that NYTime’s article. It made me weezy after reading it. I was left with asking myself the same question too: why is it that Sufism is being characterized as “the” form of “moderate” Islam (no offense to any Sufis)? This conversation needs to be broadened and I think this post on MM really helps to do that. Great job Br. Mustafa.

      • Avatar

        Mustafa Stefan Dill

        August 18, 2010 at 7:44 PM

        Thank you Safia! I have a similar to reaction to your’s and Siraj’s and Iesa’s; Even while trying to point out some diversity within Islam, he doesn’t mention the range and diversity within Sufism itself.

        And your’e right in pointing out his portrayal as Sufism as the only moderate Islamic voice; you don’t have to be a Sufi to be a moderate Muslim.

        While I advocate a lot for Muslims to step up their civic engagement so that we’re known as citizens, that’s just one leg of it. I’m also thinking a lot these days of how to succinctly and objectively present a range of Muslim thought and viewpoint to non-Muslims. By now, even non-Muslims who follow the news know about the Wahabbis, but we know it’s much more complex than just “Wahabbis, Sufis and all other Muslims.” But I think countering the monolithic view is another important project the ummah needs to take on.

        mash’allah, we have a lot of work to do on a lot of areas!

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      August 18, 2010 at 4:44 PM

      Just read that today myself. His initial critique about policymakers not knowing the difference between one group and the next was appreciated, his discussion on sufism, not so much.

      Siraaj

      • Avatar

        Iesa Galloway

        August 18, 2010 at 6:35 PM

        My thoughts exactly Siraaj!

        BTW – Mustafa great piece and I know that many in our community are benefiting from this and other articles on your blog so keep up the good work.

        Iesa

  6. Avatar

    Hassan

    August 17, 2010 at 9:24 PM

    This masjid is leading muslims to lose-lose situation.

    If it is successful in becoming a masjid, then the resentment among non-muslim in america would be great and may cause hate crimes. More over if God forbid if some future terrorist every set foot in this masjid, it would give the opponents huge oppurtunity to stop construction of any future mosques.

    If it is un-successful , then it would empower oponents to stop masjid constructions in future, or close down existing masajid.

    So outcome in both seems to be eventually same.

    • Avatar

      Safia Farole

      August 18, 2010 at 4:41 PM

      Don’t be so pessimistic brother.

      I see this whole issue as a PR boon for Muslims. Why you may ask? Because there’s no reason for anyone with a tv in America to not know what a “mosque” is now. You get that? Its reverse dawah that is going on. Just look at the bright side. And remember that verse in the Quran (paraphrasing here): “they will never be able to burn out the light of Allah with their mouths (i.e. forms of media)…”

      • Avatar

        Mustafa Stefan Dill

        August 18, 2010 at 8:08 PM

        love your optimism, it’s a beautiful way to see it! I view it maybe not so much as a direct boon, but as an opportunity. The challenge will be to not waste the opportunity by further PR mishaps…

    • Avatar

      Hassan

      August 19, 2010 at 6:45 AM

      Allah will keep this religion above all, but it does not mean there could not be localized persecution (it has happened before many times in different places in the world).

      I guess time will tell whether me fears are true or not

  7. Pingback: Cordoba House “Ground Zero Mosque”: PR & Path Forward Part-3 | Move, but for the “Right Price” | MuslimMatters.org

  8. Avatar

    y

    August 19, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    Salam,

    With all due respect, I didn’t think this was a very good article at all. You made some good points about incompetent PR, and I agree it would be wise to be around to answer questions. but you seem to imply that El Gamal and Rauf did something morally wrong by not answering questions. Neither of them are responsible for 9/11, don’t support terrorism, and so I don’t believe they are morally obligated to answer questions. Of course, it is foolish not to, but not wrong.

    Also, I don’t think the Forbes article raised any good questions. Apart from documenting Rauf’s incompetence at PR and such, she did not provide any evidence at all that there was anything wrong with the center, or the money was coming from any terrorists. She seems to be implying in her article that anytime any Muslim gets a bunch of money from somewhere, it is automatically suspect and the person must provide a full account of all donors and everything related to it to the public, far beyond what any other institution would have to provide. She also asked about how will he supply the hundreds of workers who will work at this center and how will he maintain the facility. Again, apart from documenting possible financial and logistical incompetence, I dont think this is a very important question.

    In addition, in the article, you say that they did not clearly state that this was a community center, not a mosque. But what is wrong with building a mosque at the site? As long as the mosque doesn’t preach terrorism or any other evil things incompatible with Islam, why is this a problem?

    I mean no disrespect, but I didn’t think the article was very persuasive, and had deep flaws in it. This is all my opinion, of course. Again, no disrespect intended to you.

    • Avatar

      Mustafa Stefan Dill

      August 19, 2010 at 11:44 PM

      salaams,

      No disrespect taken at all, I welcome the discourse!

      Re: Moral Obligation:I didn’t mean to come off that high -handed. Maybe not a moral obligation, but certainly, to me, at least a professional one. As I said in the article, it’s an elementary lesson in business crisis management: be accessible and answer questions. That said, as I mentioned in another response, I do think the ummah as a whole has to raise the bar of how we engage with non Muslims. Don’t know if that’s a moral obligation, but it seems to me, at least, a good thing to do.

      Also, I don’t think the Forbes article raised any good questions. Apart from documenting Rauf’s incompetence at PR and such, she did not provide any evidence at all that there was anything wrong with the center, or the money was coming from any terrorists. She seems to be implying in her article that anytime any Muslim gets a bunch of money from somewhere, it is automatically suspect and the person must provide a full account of all donors and everything related to it to the public, far beyond what any other institution would have to provide. She also asked about how will he supply the hundreds of workers who will work at this center and how will he maintain the facility. Again, apart from documenting possible financial and logistical incompetence, I dont think this is a very important question.

      I think you’re missing my point on mentioning the Forbes article. Her questions may or may not be legitimate, but the fact that they are raised at all indicates a sense from some non-Muslims that Muslim organizations may be less than forthcoming. That’s the deeper question that’s brought out, that when it surfaces, Muslim organizations, I believe, should at least do some self-analysis and see if it is as transparent and accountable as it should be.

      In addition, in the article, you say that they did not clearly state that this was a community center, not a mosque. But what is wrong with building a mosque at the site? As long as the mosque doesn’t preach terrorism or any other evil things incompatible with Islam, why is this a problem?

      Again, with no disrespect, I think you’re missing my argument. I’m not weighing on whether it’s right or not, the article is simply meant to address how effectively they communicated. If you’re not building a mosque, but everyone thinks you are and is upset about that, then how did you lose your message that it’s just a center and not a mosque? If you are building a mosque, and everyone’s upset about that, then that’s a slightly different strategy and message branding you’d need to work out.

      I mean no disrespect, but I didn’t think the article was very persuasive, and had deep flaws in it. This is all my opinion, of course. Again, no disrespect intended to you.

      None taken! thanks for the exchange :)

    • Avatar

      Mansoor Ansari

      August 20, 2010 at 8:21 AM

      Agreed!

  9. Pingback: “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy « Peace, Bruv

  10. Avatar

    Umm Bilqis

    August 20, 2010 at 8:33 AM

    Assalamu alikum brother,
    I agree, this was an PR disaster!
    We need an Muslim Ad exposing the Bigots as Civil rights Violators.
    Also As Amad has proposed I believe we should ask the CI people to move the project whilst explaining that we did not do this because it is the right thing to do, but as a result of the bigoted stances that have shaped the discourse.
    If you want to take the wind out of the bigots, at least temporarily.
    If you want to save the other masjids in all their locations.
    If you want to expose the Gross civil rights violations that the Politicians and Media bigots are proposing.
    If you want to cut back on Islamophobia especially as an election issue.
    We as the Muslim community do have a choice on how it plays out.
    Running ads works.

  11. Avatar

    JRL

    August 20, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    Blessings on you Mustafa Stefan Dill and Ramadan Kareem,

    Apparently your wonderful analysis of the PR problems experienced by CI have not fallen on deaf ears. Their site looks much better and it looks like all the links are working. There is more that needs to be done, but your work is important for CI, but more important is that any work that is done on behalf of CI and Cordoba House is making the world a better place which is what we are all called to do.

    I am not alone in being horrified by the bitter bigoted Islamaphobia we have all been made witness to in the past few weeks. It is beyond the pale that the far right wing can take it upon themselves to rewrite the constitution of this country for political gain and assault those whose only intention is to redeem a peaceful Islam from the hands of terrorists.

    May your works continue to bring healing, education and peace to our communities, our country and indeed the world.

    best, Judith Levine

    • Avatar

      Mustafa Stefan Dill

      August 21, 2010 at 11:45 AM

      Judith,
      I’m very moved and touched by your kind words and encouragement — thank you so much!

      I can’t take credit for any of it, though, it’s just Allah telling me what to do :)

      really enjoying your dialogue on Pt 3!

      best and blessings,
      msd

  12. Avatar

    abu Rumay-s.a.

    February 6, 2011 at 2:14 AM

    2nd imam is out at Islamic center near WTC site

    http://arabnews.com/world/article252051.ece

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