Feisal Abdul-Rauf is in the news again for statements on Park51. Again, he is muddying the waters, and setting back the cause he is supposedly working towards. When asked if he would move the project, this past week’s answer was yes, when previously he’d suggested it would upset some people overseas, so he wouldn’t. It highlights the persistent leadership failure of Abdul-Rauf.
The Park51 team most recently issued a press release in early January, trying to move the project forward. In the intervening months since the PR fiasco of the summer of 2010, the group has apparently made some progress, addressing many of the concerns made here on RD.
They have a large, fully-functional and fully-professional team, and have cleaned up their online presence. In addition, they have controlled their messaging, and the view from New York was that they were making progress in repairing broken relationships. All of this work went on while Abdul-Rauf was silent.
Now he starts making statements on something over which he has no control, but over which he exercises a disproportionate impact on in public discourse. He does not own the property, he is on the Board of Directors. The Park51 team tried to give him a soft landing, by stating:
It is important to note though that while on tour and afterward Imam Feisal and Daisy Khan will not be speaking on behalf of Park51, nor will they be raising funds for the project. Imam Feisal will remain on the Board of Directors of Park51. …
Due to the fact that Imam Feisal is focusing most of his energies and passion on launching this new and separate initiative, it is important that the needs of Park51, the Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan, take precedence. While Imam Feisal’s vision has a global scope and his ideals for the Cordoba Movement are truly exceptional, our community in Lower Manhattan is local. Our focus is and must remain on the residents of Lower Manhattan and the Muslim American community in the Greater New York area.
In the last 4 months we have seen real progress in the confidence of the Park51 team in explaining who and what they are. They are demonstrating a consistency in messaging, and despite some concerns about their Senior Advisor Abdallah Adhami, they are not reacting wildly. Abdul-Rauf’s newest outburst simply demonstrates that he was never the leader of the project, and is not invested in seeing it succeed. As I said earlier, for someone who is supposedly dedicated to bridge-building, he is doing an amazing job of making sure controversy and divisiveness continue to reign.