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Doug Guthrie
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Doug Guthrie

Doug Guthrie is an expert in the fields of management, economic reform in China, leadership and corporate governance, and dean of the School of Business at George Washington University.

Imam and Obama should defend the mosque

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?

Both Imam Rauf and President Obama have earned the right to weigh in as leaders on the building of a cultural center and place of worship near Ground Zero; and they both have a responsibility to do so. President Obama is the leader of the nation that is currently engaged in two wars that followed in the wake of the tragic events of 9/11. It is crucial that this nation's Commander-in-Chief continually remind this nation that those wars are against institutions and organizations that had a hand in the attacks of 9/11, not against Muslims.

As President Obama has said, America is about freedom and democracy--indeed, those wars are purportedly about defending those very ideals--and no one is excluded from those the rights that come with them. In a time in which political leaders too often scour polls, searching for the most politically expedient approach to a controversy, President Obama showed leadership and should be commended for weighing in on this issue. Indeed, it was Obama's responsibility to do so. The White House is arguably the most powerful pulpit in the world, and presidents that have failed to use that pulpit have failed to lead.

Imam Rauf has worked for the last decade from a different pulpit; he also earned a leadership position following the events of September 11. It should be remembered that Imam Rauf showed true leadership in the weeks and months after the tragedy, reminding America and the world that al-Qaeda did not represent all Muslims; that there are many Muslims who believe in peace, tolerance, interfaith cooperation. His work reminded us all that the justified anger and fury directed at the enemies of peace and democracy should not be directed toward all Muslims.

Yet with leadership comes responsibility, especially when you are leading a cause as sensitive as the proposed mosque and cultural center. President Obama was right that, in America, Muslims have just as much right to a downtown place of worship as any religious group does. However, Imam Rauf's responsibility as leader requires that he be present and engaging with the same sort of calming assurance that he offered in the Fall of 2001. By remaining silent, Imam Rauf failed to take up that responsibility, and this was a failure of leadership.

By Doug Guthrie

 |  August 24, 2010; 11:06 AM ET
Category:  Crisis leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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1nouri in reply to your:


It is time for those fascists, extremists right wingers and their allies the Neocons and Tea party conservatives to realise that American Muslims are not asking to build a drug warehouse or a brothel but a place for worship and where others non Muslims are invited to celebrate diversity, promote mutual respect and accept tolerance.
It is an insult to every US citizen to be dicated to by a non significant minority where to pray and where to build a religious temple even though it is not against the law.
It is within the right of every US citizen to practise his religious rights without intimidation, harassement or threats and I do not need to remind these idiots and ignorant what the constitution has to say on this exact point.
These American Muslims are not guilty of any crime and deserve to be treated with respect like any other US citizens and to be left in peace getting on with their lives and if anyone see any legal reason for them not to have their Mosque being built, let them contact the local authorities and inform them about the objections for these US citizens to fulfill what the constitution has given them as a right.


Before the 1st World Trade center bombing the blind sheik was spewing his hatred at a mosque in NYC, and if I remember correctly, they made their plans in the mosque, so I don't think some concerns people have about what goes on inside a mosque are totally unfounded, so get off the fascist,extremist BS, because that is like the pot calling the kettle black.

Just because people have some legitemate concerns and want those concerns addressed does not make them haters,or racist after all we are hated by muslims in the middle east. I think we have seen enough American flags being burnt in the middle east and the "death to america" signs.

Let's not forget there was a terrorist that lived here in the states for 15 years, and left the country, so yes there are issues.

Posted by: greenstheman | August 27, 2010 9:39 PM
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It is time for those fascists, extremists right wingers and their allies the Neocons and Tea party conservatives to realise that American Muslims are not asking to build a drug warehouse or a brothel but a place for worship and where others non Muslims are invited to celebrate diversity, promote mutual respect and accept tolerance.
It is an insult to every US citizen to be dicated to by a non significant minority where to pray and where to build a religious temple even though it is not against the law.
It is within the right of every US citizen to practise his religious rights without intimidation, harassement or threats and I do not need to remind these idiots and ignorant what the constitution has to say on this exact point.
These American Muslims are not guilty of any crime and deserve to be treated with respect like any other US citizens and to be left in peace getting on with their lives and if anyone see any legal reason for them not to have their Mosque being built, let them contact the local authorities and inform them about the objections for these US citizens to fulfill what the constitution has given them as a right.

Posted by: 1Nouri | August 25, 2010 8:50 AM
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At a minimum, Feisal Abdul Rauf is a terrorist sympathizer and more than likely a terrorist leader. Either way, his citizenship should be revoked.

“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,”

Posted by: hunter340 | August 25, 2010 5:51 AM
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This Imam Rauf has the balls to say that the American Constitution is sharia law compliant??? oh really they are worlds apart.

For one sharia law is intolerant of ANY religion, they want us to be tolerant but they are unwilling to tolerate anyone else. Sharia law has an atrocious human rights record ask many Muslim women who have no rights.

The US Constitution sharia law compliant, no way, and I hope it never is.

This is America we have our owns laws in this land we don't and should never become compliant to any foreign law religious or other wise. While am at it where is the uproar about tax payer dollard funding Rauf's trip to the middle east??? how come no one is crying about the separation of church and state on this one?? oh yeah liberal media.

Posted by: greenstheman | August 24, 2010 10:09 PM
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Specifically supporting the Park51 Mosque might indicate the California one should not be built; general statements from government about the right of ANY religious group to build its shrine in an area zoned for that purpose are perfect. Let those opposed to this notion take the matter to court and waste thousands of dollars. Common citizens, by contrast, should vigorously denounce opponents of religious liberty whenever they appear.

Posted by: Martial | August 24, 2010 3:04 PM
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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 2:30 PM
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Just the thought that our president, the president of the United States of America is even considerating letting this happen is totally incomprehensable to me!! Is this some kind of sick joke??

Posted by: vinanne | August 24, 2010 1:16 PM
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por favor! dont sell us iman/gamal opportunistic
heartless real estate sharkbite
as a call from the divine the
chosen messengers of peace and harmony
the sacredmosque
the us was waiting to lead us out of 9/11 toxic still ditch
they meme helped to push us in through hidden handshakes with greedy
elders founding their false messianic construct in crime zone still
'under investigation'
the optics are too powerful to outsmart AGAIN!!the same neighborhood pretending to be unveiled muslims however veiling the truth and fearing it.
build the spa in las vegas where it seems to belong.
why not?

Posted by: manittou | August 24, 2010 12:45 PM
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By all means, Imam Rauf and President Obama should comment about the mosque, it's location and its meaning. Everyone in the country is waiting for answers as to why such a building should be erected within the debris zone of the worst atrocity committed against American citizens in our history. We should also hear comments from these gentlemen why the feelings of the 9/11 survivors and the families of the victims and 65% of all of the American people should be ignored or worse, interpreted as a vile prejudice. While they are getting warmed up, maybe they should also discuss that while Islam is certainly a religion, it is also a political movement, and a culture whose primary loyalty is to Islam itself, not to nations.
This whole debacle is just the latest episode in the Vacationer-in-Chief's and his party's complete disconnection from the feelings of the country.
See you in November.

Posted by: Independent30 | August 24, 2010 12:44 PM
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Mosque should not be built, because it will honor all the killers:
osama and his gang who conducted the 911 attacks & killed 3000, but also:
faisal shahzad the times square bomber
richard reid the shoe bomber
umar farouk abdulmutallab the underwear bomber
fort hood killer-major nidal mlik hasan (killed 12, wounded 30 & survived)
USA Today article talks about the huge cost of Hasan's killings: Nine months after an Army psychiatrist was charged with fatally shooting 13 soldiers and wounding 30, the nation's largest Army post can measure the toll of war in the more than 10,000 mental health evaluations, referrals or therapy sessions held every month.

Posted by: vk1537 | August 24, 2010 12:35 PM
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Yes, Imam Rauf showed true leadership and admirable restraint in describing America (on tape, too!) as having more blood on its hands than Al Qaeda. No wonder the State Department sees him as such a bridge-builder and a peace-maker.

Posted by: nyadrian | August 24, 2010 11:49 AM
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