Islamic center trying new Twitter strategy
The organizers behind Park51 never expected such strong opposition to building an Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. The New York Times recently noted the group's "early missteps" in presenting a clear message of what the project's backers planned for the space.
Social media consultant Oz Sultan is now hoping to influence public perceptions of the project through Park51's Twitter account. The change comes after a series of irreverent tweets this week that resulted in one intern getting replaced.
"I was brought on five weeks ago to start together just basically social media engagement," Sultan told Capital's Gillian Reagan. "It's super nascent—where we are right now. A blog is launching in a few weeks, and we're looking for more folks who will write for us."
So far, the Cordoba Initiative—the organization behind Park51—has struggled in getting its side heard against a vocal opposition.
The anti-mosque contingent has proven more successful in defining the project, with high-profile critics making wild claims that the organizers are "radical Islamists."News organizations have helped frame the debate by repeatedly dubbing the proposed Lower Manhattan project the "Ground Zero Mosque"—a phrase that recalls the horror of September 11 and likely benefits the opposition.
But the Park51 organizers haven't made it easy for the press to hear their side of the story. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has been traveling for much of the summer, and his wife, Daisy Khan, isn't easy to reach either. The Upshot's calls and emails to the Cordoba Initiative in recent weeks haven't been returned. And the Park51 website has no press contact.
Sultan acknowledges that he miscalculated in thinking they could make snarky jokes over Twitter at a time when there were so many unanswered questions about the project. However, those days appear to be over, and the public relations apparatus is adopting a more serious tone. Yesterday, Park51's Twitter feed stated it will be "focusing on engagement around questions on the project."
Sultan is a veteran of
's tech scene, where early adopters of Twitter probably would have gotten the jokes and asides. New York
But "Sultan's tweetstream," Reagan wrote, "actually fell into the middle of a series of other culture clashes, really: the clash between
and the rest of the country, and between the young generation of digital natives and their elders." New York City
"You know, the reason it became snarky was if you understood the culture of Twitter, it is predominantly millennial and there is so much pop culture idiom and American culture idiom," Sultan said.
"We're trying to build bridges," Sultan said. "Everything that we're engaged with is 'You murderer, you feminine genital mutilator, you satanists, you people who worship the moon.' And we're not even allowed to have a little level of Twitter jokiness? We had endeavored to kill [detractors] with snark and that typically works on Twitter. What is Twitter besides peoples' attitude? They're not tweeting actors. We are a political organization, we are a community commuted to educating people, of all types, to what Muslim culture is, what our religion is, what our history actually is without distortion."
Photo: AP / Swoan Parker
Source : http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_upshot/20100818/pl_yblog_upshot/islamic-center-trying-new-twitter-strategy/print