Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Detroit Muslims, police voice concern over mosque vandalisms

Local mosque attacks 'scary for us'
Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- Alice Alaouie is quite frightened by the fact that most people seem to know little about her faith, Islam.

The spray painting of hateful graffiti on the side of the old site of her mosque, the Islamic Center of America, and a spike of similar incidents in Metro Detroit and around the country in recent weeks lead Alaouie and other Muslims to believe that hate is escalating to a dangerous peak.
"It's scary for us, it's scary for me personally," says Alaouie, 23, who is active with youth groups at the mosque. "The people are concerned. It's a little snowball that formed on 9/11, and it rolled, and now it's really big. It's a phobia.
"Hopefully, more knowledge and the unity among religions will pull us through."
As they celebrated this week the feast of Ashura, which commemorates the sacrifices made on behalf of the faith, Muslims are anxious for their safety and the safety of their mosques. In three weeks, there have been five local incidents at mosques involving vandalism or a confrontation with a leader.
There have been similar events across the country, including an assault on a man in Lackawanna, N.Y., on Jan. 17; a window broken at a mosque in West Richland, Wash., on Jan. 19; a fire allegedly set at a mosque in Newark, N.J., on Jan. 20; shots fired at an empty mosque in Fremont, Calif., on Jan. 22. All these incidents have persuaded Muslims that they are struggling for Islam in America.
Incidents mainly target Islam
While two of the recent incidents of vandalism in Metro Detroit may be Muslims acting against Muslims, the majority here and nationwide have targeted Islam itself in what appears to be an escalating line of attack.
"At work, I am told (by coworkers) that all Muslims should leave this country," said Hassen Sobh of Sterling Heights, who works for Ford Motor Co. "What can you do? You deal with ignorant people all around the world.
"Who wanted 9/11? None of us! You can't judge 1.4 billion (Muslim) people around the world by Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
"These are Godless people, who do such hateful things," Sobh said of the terrorists, dictators and the vandals. "God will deal with them, either now or after their deaths."
Five months ago, many Muslims said their lives were more worrisome on the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11 than in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 attacks.
"It is disturbing because, in Metro Detroit, there never has been this many vandalisms in such a short period of time," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Michigan. "I am bracing myself every morning, hoping that I am not going to get another report."(MORE)
Muslim leaders, police speak out against violence
By Sean Delaney, Press & Guide Newspapers
PUBLISHED: January 31, 2007
With arms linked in solidarity, religious and government officials gathered Thursday outside the original Islamic Center of America in Detroit to condemn — in one voice — recent acts of vandalism against Muslim businesses and religious centers throughout the Metro Detroit area.
"As a community, we (gathered) to support in spirit the cleansing of this site from brutality and to move ahead with our efforts to strengthen interfaith understanding," said Steve Spreitzer, director of the interfaith division of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, in a statement issued Thursday.
Located on Joy near Greenfield Road, the original Islamic Center of America has served as a mosque for more than five decades in Metro Detroit and remains a historical landmark for many in the community.
Last week, the building became the target of vandals who left messages of hate and intimidation — including anti-Muslim slurs "go home 911 murderers" and "you idol worship" — scrawled in paint on the walls outside the building.
On Thursday, more than 30 local leaders joined together outside the building to condemn the act, as well as those who committed it.
"The incident that occurred at this mosque is unacceptable to people of faith — to people of all faiths," said Rabbi Josh Bennett of Temple Beth Israel in West Bloomfield.
Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights agreed.
"These kinds of acts of violence are unacceptable," he said. "We condemn any acts of violence or terrorism against others. We all pray for peace and an end to the violence."
The Islamic House of Wisdom hosted a similar event earlier this month after vandals targeted several Shi'a-owned businesses and religious centers throughout the Metro Detroit area, including the Imam Ali Islamic Center and the Al-Kifa Cultural Forum.
The motive behind the attacks remains under investigation, police said, although some believe increasing tension between local Shi'a and Sunni Muslims following the execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein may have played a role.
Locally, several Muslim groups celebrated the death of the Iraqi leader in December, while others decried the scheduling of the execution on what some consider the first day of Eid al-Adha, which is among the holiest festivals on the Islamic calendar.
However, many local religious and community leaders were quick to dismiss those claims, and have urged residents to avoid rushing to judgment before the investigation is completed.
"At this point, no one is certain of the religion of the vandals," said Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI). "We must be patient — we cannot categorize an entire group based on the action of a few of its members." (MORE)

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