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Area Muslim Leaders Call For End Of Fighting In Middle East (January 07,2009)

DEARBORN – A number of Michigan Muslim leaders on Monday held a press conference at the American Muslim Center, 21110 Outer Drive, to release a statement on behalf of the Imams Committee of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan (CIOM) in condemning in the strongest terms the current violence in Gaza.
The group of Muslim leaders — representing CIOM, the American Muslim Center, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the University Islamic Center of Detroit — called on Michigan residents to push elected officials in Washington, D.C., to broker a cease-fire in the ongoing Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip.
Steve Mustapha Elturk, president of the Islamic Organization of North America in Warren and vice chair of CIOM, called Israeli attacks targeting militant Hamas members as “carnage in Gaza” for killing hundreds of people, including civilians in air and ground attacks that began more than a week ago.
“We pray for an end to the conflagration of violence and excessive use of brute force by the Israeli military,” Elturk said. “We further call on all people of conscience to express their outrage and pledge support for the people of Gaza.”
Elturk went on to say the Imams encourage Michigan residents to give charitable donations to groups such as Islamic Relief USA and Kinder Hearts USA.
Cease-fire discussed
Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR, said the religious leaders aren’t taking sides in the political issue that Israelis said began with Hamas firing rockets into their territory.
Walid added there is ongoing dialog between Muslim and Jewish leaders, including members of the Michigan Roundtable of Diversity and Inclusion. He said discussions continue, and he hopes a cease-fire is called as quickly as possible.
“There is enough land in the region for there to be peace,” Elturk said.
The press conference comes on the heels of several events that have taken place in Dearborn in the last week in response to the violence in the Middle East. A protest took place Dec. 30 where thousands of people braved chilly temperatures, holding signs and banners, on Warren Avenue from Chase to Schaefer. Several people also turned out Friday night at Dearborn City Hall for a candlelight vigil.
Adam Baker, spokesperson for the Walled Lake Michigan chapter of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, said Muslims in Gaza are at fault for the violence taking place. He said Hamas, the political party that won control of Gaza in 2006, is in the wrong for targeting civilians and shooting from large population centers, such as hospitals.
“When Hamas won the election in 2006, the Israelis left,” Baker said. “Their reward for leaving was having thousands of bombs fired at civilians.
“The world has said Hamas is wrong. Israel has to defend itself. What else is there to do?” Baker added he’s all for a cease-fire, but with provisions.
“If it’s a cease-fire where Hamas is allowed to bring more weapons into the country, then, no, I wouldn’t want that,” Baker said. “If the area is patrolled and everyone on both sides is allowed to live in peace, that’s the type of cease-fire I can get behind.”
Permanent solution needed
A statement obtained by the Press & Guide on Monday from the Interfaith Partners, which includes Muslim, Christian and Jewish clergy, said there is demonizing of each other and too many community leaders seem to communicate through news reports and opinion pages of the newspapers rather than engage in any meaningful dialogue in person.
“The tragic loss of life and property in the Middle East, and the prolonged failure to negotiate a far, two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, are a matter of grave concern for all people of faith,” the statement reads. “A permanent solution to the escalating cycles of violence must be found in the Holy Land that affects all of the people of the Middle East.”
Interfaith Partners member Brenda Rosenberg, of Bloomfield Hills-based Reuniting the Children of Abraham, said fear — on both sides — is playing a role in the violence.
“The news from Israel and Gaza is devastating and heartbreaking for everyone, but especially for us who are involved in peace building. A number of us felt silence was not an option and we must rise to the challenge of the pressure we were feeling from friends and family to pick sides,” Rosenberg said.
“We choose to remain deeply open to all people involved on both sides of the conflict. We could not stand by and watch our brothers and sisters destroying each other in the M.E. and demonizing each other here. We wanted to be part of a solution.”
Rosenberg said what is taking place in the Middle East is the highest level of fear, with two groups of people who both believe the other is out to eliminate the other. She added that what is constantly being shown on television isn’t all that’s taking place.
“You don’t see the pictures of people coming together. All you see is people protesting and people dying,” Rosenberg said. “There’s going to have to be a lot of educating and healing when all this is over.”
Contact News Editor Jason Carmel Davis at (734) 246-2652 or jadavis@heritage.com.