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Religions Stand United

Christians, Jews Join Muslims (January 26, 2007)

Metro Religious Leaders Decry Mosque Vandalism, Attacks

DETROIT — In a striking display of determination to stand against hatred and bigotry, about 30 leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities in Metro Detroit gathered Thursday to say that vandalism and other incidents at four mosques in the past month are attacks not only against Islam, but against all faiths.
Religious, civic and law enforcement officials met at a former mosque, the old Islamic Center of America, on Joy at Greenfield, to decry the vandalism that occurred there sometime Sunday night, and at least four other incidents in Dearborn, Detroit and Warren since late December.
"We stand together with our Muslim sisters and brothers and point to the antidote to this bigotry and vandalism: Our relationships and learning to care about each other," said Steve Spreitzer, director of the interfaith division of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, which helped to organize the event.
The religious leaders said they are concerned that the incidents may be a sign that hatred directed at Muslims, especially since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, may be taking a new, nasty turn in Metro Detroit. The region, home to about 125,000 to 200,000 Muslims of mostly Arab and South Asian descent, has been largely immune from the vandalism against mosques that has plagued other areas of the country, particularly in the two years after the attacks, civil rights leaders and observers have said.
"I think it's important for all of us people of faith to stand together in solidarity when we're attacked in physical ways like this," said Michael Hovey, assistant adviser in the Department of Education, Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs for the Archdiocese of Detroit. "We had to stand together as friends and allies to say that this is unacceptable to treat people of faith in this way."
There was an arrest in the incident last week in Warren, at the Islamic Organization of North America, in which a man took a fallen tree limb to a sign at the mosque and later brandished it against a Muslim leader. But other recent incidents in Dearborn and Detroit, at the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center and the former Islamic Center of America, remain unsolved.
It was the second time in recent weeks that Muslims and Jews, in particular, joined to protest religious bigotry. Earlier this month, Muslim leaders traveled to the Holocaust Memorial Center in West Bloomfield to criticize an international conference on the Holocaust, called by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
"This is an act that anyone of good faith has to condemn, no matter which group it is," said Robert Cohen, executive director of the Jewish Community Council, an umbrella group of about 200 Jewish organizations in Metro Detroit. Gail Katz, a vice president of the council, Rabbi Josh Bennett of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, and David Henig of the Michigan Board of Rabbis also attended the session.
Police in Detroit and Dearborn said Thursday that they continue to investigate the series of incidents.
"The Muslim community is grateful," said Victor Ghalib Begg of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan. "You are giving a clear message that defacing or destroying a facility where the name of God is recited inside will not be tolerated."
Members of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities stand arm in arm to show solidarity Thursday outside of the former Islamic Center of America mosque in Detroit, which was recently vandalized. At least three other incidents also occurred at mosques in Dearborn and Warren in the past month.
Robin Buckson / The Detroit News
Rabbi Josh Bennett, from second left, Imam M. Jowad Al-Ansari, Steve Mustapha Elturk and the Rev. Dan Appleyard are among 30 community leaders standing outside of the former Detroit mosque.
You can reach Gregg Krupa at (313) 222-2359 or gkrupa@detnews.com.