It's no wonder the plan to build an Islamic community center and mosque near the World Trade Center site has turned into such a debacle: the two guys behind the project rarely see each other, and each of them have their own P.R. company working separately to try and pull the situation out of a nosedive. Speaking of bifurcation, today both the Wall Street Journal and the Times have published remarkably similar stories with the same narrative: the imam and the developer don't mix.
"One face, one voice is the cardinal rule in any crisis," public relations professor Fraser P. Seitel tell the Journal. "The test is you have to pick the right face and the right voice." The imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is "cerebral, soft-spoken and sometimes otherworldly," says the Times. The developer, Sharif el-Gamal, "is businesslike, brash and sometimes pugnacious." Abdul Rauf has hinted that he's open to relocating the mosque to another location, while Gamal has told supporters he feels more determined the shriller the opposition becomes.
The two men met when Gamal, who works downtown, began visiting Masjid al-Farah, the mosque in Tribeca where Abdul Rauf has presided since the 1980s. Both follow the Sufi path of Islam, which is a far cry from the radical "Death to America" wing of Islam. But these days, according to the Times, Gamal doesn't even worship at the Tribeca mosque, and the two men don't appear together when talking to the media. Abdul Raif keeps referring to the project as Cordoba House, while Gamal insists on the much more anodyne rebranded name Park51. And don't get Gamal started on the way the Abdul Raif drinks milk straight from the container!
One source tells the Journal, "To a certain degree it is egos, the different parties are trying to own the project one way or another." Sufi poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi, who once wrote—"If your guidance is your ego, don't rely on luck for help. You sleep during the day and the nights are short. By the time you wake up your life may be over"—would be so disappointed in these two.