Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Imams meet to discuss vandalism

Not known to most, Sunni and Shi`i leaders in Metro Detroit have had regular meetings in the past to coordinate programs and to discuss ways of better presenting Islam to the American public. Sunnis and Shi`is are intermarried in Metro Detroit, they pray together and shop in each others' businesses.


Muslims seek peace
Sunnis, Shi'ites to meet after Detroit spots vandalized
January 10, 2007


Concerned about the possible spread of sectarian violence in metro Detroit, Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims are set to meet today in a Dearborn Heights mosque to hash out any tensions between the diverse Middle Eastern and Muslim communities.

As Iraqi-American Shi'ites seethed over the trashing of several of their businesses and mosques in Detroit over the weekend, leaders in the Shi'ite and Sunni sects of Islam worked Tuesday to try to defuse animosity between the two sides that has existed for years but was amplified with the execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in December.

There was some talk of reprisal attacks, but no more incidents were reported Tuesday. Detroit police are investigating the vandalism and are aware that Shi'ite-Sunni tensions may be involved, said Sgt. Eren Stephens, Detroit police spokeswoman. The FBI also is monitoring the situation, said Special Agent Dawn Clenney.

One Sunni leader, Dawud Walid, spent long hours late Monday in a Shi'ite mosque, where he delivered a sermon urging unity.

"It's important that Sunnis and Shi'ites come together," said Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Moments after Hussein was hanged, Shi'ites and others celebrated in a public display in Dearborn that was televised around the world. The execution -- along with the cheering -- upset some local Sunni Muslims. They said it was disrespectful, especially since, for them, it came on the day of Eid-ul-Adha, a holy day.

Over the weekend, several businesses and mosques, including the Imam Ali Center, were vandalized and had their windows broken. At the Al-Rafedain restaurant, store employees said they had received two phone calls from a man speaking in Arabic and English. The caller cursed at the owner, noting that he was a Shi'ite, Walid said.
At the restaurant Tuesday, diners were upset about what happened along Warren Avenue in Detroit, which borders Dearborn. They saw it as an attack on the Iraqi community by other Arabs, and they worried about the future.

"The Arabs don't like us because we don't like Saddam," said Ali Al-Taye, 52, of Dearborn. "Today, they broke windows. Tomorrow, they may get a gun and shoot us."

Muslim leaders hope it doesn't come to that.

Late Monday, Walid stopped by the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center, a Shi'ite mosque on Warren in Dearborn, near where the celebrations erupted after Hussein's death. The center was vandalized two months ago after its members celebrated Hussein's death sentence. The center's leader, Imam Husham Al-Husainy, asked Walid to lead the prayers and to speak. Today, they and other Muslim leaders are expected to gather at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, a Shi'ite mosque.

"It's important our leaders get together to overcome this," Walid said.

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