On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Yash Gupta
Business School Dean

Yash Gupta

Yash Gupta is Professor and Dean of The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

Defending the diversity we cherish

Q: President Obama weighed in on the issue of the mosque at Ground Zero prompting grumbles that the gesture was unnecessary and politically damaging. Meanwhile the imam at the center of the controversy -- Feisal Abdul Rauf -- has been largely invisible, lecturing for the State Department in Bahrain and, according to his wife, unavailable until next month. What do leaders need to know about perfecting the timing of weighing in on a crisis?

I don't know that there's a perfect method for sensing when or how to weigh in on a crisis. Some leaders might wish they had a manual to consult, but I think it mostly comes down to a feeling for when it's best to speak up.

President Obama did the right thing in his initial comments by providing a broad overview of the issue. He essentially said: This is America, where we respect the rights of individuals, we honor the freedom to worship and the freedom to express one's views, and we revel in the diversity that has made ours a society envied the world over. The president was being fairly clear as to where he stood on the matter of the Cordoba House community center.

Later, when pressed, he said he wouldn't comment on the specifics of the proposal. Some people criticized this as sounding wishy-washy, but I believe he was trying to keep the focus on the context that he had previously provided, the idea of a diverse, inclusive America. If he seemed reluctant to get dragged into a back-and-forth with the fear-mongers who have made so much noise over this issue, I can't say that I blame him.

Perhaps the imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, could be mounting more of a PR effort, going on Face the Nation or Meet the Press to explain why the community center would be a good thing and to describe his longstanding record as an advocate of good relations between the West and the Muslim world. But, in the current climate, I can imagine such an attempt being derided as self-serving and falling on deaf ears. The job of defending the Cordoba House plan might be better handled by political leaders in both New York and Washington. They need to act like leaders and stand up in defense of the freedom of others. Isn't that the true American way?

Unfortunately, fear and retrenchment are recurring themes in U.S. history. They're evident again in the demagoguery over the Muslim community center, and the timing couldn't be worse. As our societies and our marketplaces become more connected, we should be seeking ways to develop greater understanding and unity rather than finding ways to increase tension and hostility.

By Yash Gupta

 |  August 24, 2010; 10:08 AM ET
Category:  Crisis leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Obama did the right thing stepping in | Next: Gettysburg lessons reverberate in a modern world

Comments

Please report offensive comments below.



Many of us who share in the tradition of the original inhabitants think many times that it would been much better for our ancestors to have burned the ships of the newcomers to the waterline just as soon as possible, and bludgeoned any who staggered ashore.

Did you see how they brought their 800 years old war with them?

Posted by: muawiyah | August 25, 2010 10:59 PM
Report Offensive Comment

OSTED BY: RUSSELL_P_DAVIS:

"MLK’s truth on our racial Christian neighborliness "the deep fog of misunderstanding can be lifted from our fear-drenched communities." is not a good fit when applied to the ‘Nation of Islam’ whose scripture commands performance of a multi-generation strategy to religiously, militarily, economically and legally subjugate the lands and peoples of infidels, such as currently inhabit the United States."

HOW TRUE! I'm "sick to death" of those who use MLK's peace speeches in an attempt to justify allowing Islam to build that mosque. To do so would be tantamount to King's preaching equality but still blatantly allowing the white man to run everything. He pushed for equal civil rights...NOT submission to a bunch of crackers (BTW, I AM white!). We should always fight Islam; it's an evil force..NOT a peace-oriented religion at all. The Qu'ran orders them to dominate the whole world, converting them to Islam or killing them. The "peaceniks" among them obviously don't know their Qu'ran.

Let's don't smear Dr.King's words into the dust by misquoting or otherwise misusing his ambitions and theology.

The mosque would be designed to be two things: a cultural but more so a strategic center for Islam, and a monument to their "victory" of 9/11.
(Thanks, Russell!)

Posted by: flipper49 | August 25, 2010 9:32 AM
Report Offensive Comment

“Mosque debate strains every citizen with knowledge of their duty”

Sometime appearances of hate are not based on actual hate, but on diligent acquisition of fact and statutory declaration of duty.

Sometime the appearance of what might be characterized as Islamaphobia ( or any pejorative 'phobia' for that matter ) is, on closer evaluation of a less selective sample of facts, personal representations, and personal motives, a duty bound declaration of reality oriented risk assessment - an assessment that is the converse equivalent to Wilson's "Peace in our Time" assessment of Hitler's evil.

MLK’s truth on our racial Christian neighborliness "the deep fog of misunderstanding can be lifted from our fear-drenched communities." is not a good fit when applied to the ‘Nation of Islam’ whose scripture commands performance of a multi-generation strategy to religiously, militarily, economically and legally subjugate the lands and peoples of infidels, such as currently inhabit the United States.

Our country’s historic encouragement of immigrants and tolerance for other cultures and religions, while very far from perfect is, remarkable when compared to the remainder of humanity during the time that the United States has existed.

That encouragement and tolerance, made excessive and sloppy by our vast wealth and military dominance NOW makes us an easy target for the Nation-of-Islam’s domination.

It is our wealth and military dominance that makes us a high yield target for the Nation-of-Islam’s domination.

With respect to Islam, if our nation lifts “the deep fog of misunderstanding” our nation’s complacency and minor fears will be replaced with fear, loathing and a diligent and implacable commitment found in Thomas Jefferson’s words, "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

You may find your eyes opened to the unmitigatable toxicity of Islam; the unmitigatable felonious acts established by the preponderance of the evidence whenever any Moslim takes an oath of naturalization, office, or witness in the United States.
Look up the meaning of Islam’s commandment to perpetrate TAQIYYA, KITMAN, SHERIA & JIHAD. Be careful of being fooled by translations that are deboned in implementation of TAQIYYA and KITMAN.
There are passage-by-passage comparisons of 31 different translations of the Koran are available at http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/8/39/default.htm

Upon the probable cause of the felonies common to Islam in the United States we are bound to seek remedy in accord with 18USC4 “Misprision of Felony” and other state and federal statutes in our penal codes.

Let them build their VICTORY MOSQUE - maybe they will find that it prospers Islam - I think that they will find that they have awakened and educated a Liberty-under-Constitutional-Law giant.

Posted by: Russell_P_Davis | August 25, 2010 8:43 AM
Report Offensive Comment

"The president was being fairly clear as to where he stood on the matter of the Cordoba House community center."

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

In all things Muslim, obama has pretty much been fairly clear regarding his preferences.
Then he wonders why people would question his claim of being Christian. If you are Mulim, say so.
Don't lie to the people. It just makes them question why you are appearing to side with the Palestinians over Israel.
And in that case, if you can't be objective, then you have no business, whether you are potus or not, to act as mediator between these two. He is more incensed by the perceived injustices of Israel towards Palestine than Iran's obvious injustices towards their own people.

....."explain why the community center would be a good thing and to describe his longstanding record as an advocate of good relations between the West and the Muslim world."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A advocate of good relations (as opposed to a possible fanatic with a hidden agenda) would know when to attempt a compromise.
I would advocate that the Muslims should be able to build their mosque and practice their faith, just not in this particular area, as it is obviously raising protests from the majority of "the people", who as citizens in a democracy are the voices of the people determine what will be.
Muslims aren't used to democracy in their home countries so they believe the leaders have the final word.
Not so in America. We fire our leaders for incompetance and failure to represent the people as they wish to be reprensented.

obama would do better to say, "Hey, you know I support this mosque, as I consider myself muslim, but the majority of the people are against it, so I have to honor the will of the people." "Perhaps it can be moved to a more suitable location."

Posted by: tjmlrc | August 25, 2010 7:35 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Later, when pressed, he said he wouldn't comment on the specifics of the proposal. Some people criticized this as sounding wishy-washy, but I believe he was trying to keep the focus on the context that he had previously provided, the idea of a diverse, inclusive America. If he seemed reluctant to get dragged into a back-and-forth with the fear-mongers who have made so much noise over this issue, I can't say that I blame him.
--------------------------------------
But with 1900 mosques already in existence, is it really the case that diversity would not exist without this one additional mosque in a location that offends so many?

Have you ever tried to teach a child to like spinach. Do you think that forcing spinach down his throat while she is gagging is the right approach?

Spinach is no doubt healthy and the child SHOULD like spinach. But forcing spinach down anyone's throat will create a long lasting aversion to spinach.

It is the same with Islam.

Posted by: rohit57 | August 24, 2010 4:13 PM
Report Offensive Comment

This guy must be smoking something from the 60s.

The Islamic cleric who wants to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero once claimed in a jaw-dropping speech that the United States has killed more innocent civilians than al Qaeda.

"We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims," Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said in 2005.

Now who is ratcheting up fear.

As a crisis leadership scholar, you should read the Qur'an and study Sharia law before you say "And Faisal Abdul Rauf is a humanistic Muslim who preaches that the best of the Muslim tradition is consistent with America's values of liberty and justice for all."

Posted by: tonyjm | August 24, 2010 2:31 PM
Report Offensive Comment

You said: "The president was being fairly clear as to where he stood on the matter of the Cordoba House community center."

My response: Not true! Obama stated the rule of law - HE did NOT endorse the Islamic Center. It is not a presidential decision. As far as government is concerned it is a local zoning matter.

How do you arrive at the conclusion that fear is motivating those who object to its being built so close to ground zero?

You Said: "They need to act like leaders and stand up in defense of the freedom of others. Isn't that the true American way?

You seem to forget that the true American way is that everyone can exercise their right of free speech, even if it is against someone else's exercise of religious freedom. It doesn't require hate or bigotry to object to the building of a house of worship on a particular property.

Posted by: Hazmat77 | August 24, 2010 1:49 PM
Report Offensive Comment

So you want the same Imam that said America was at fault for 9-11 to explain to the rest of us why it is not insensitive to build it at the graves of 3000 victims of Islam?

Posted by: Pilot1 | August 24, 2010 12:34 PM
Report Offensive Comment

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company