By: Samer Hijazi
DEARBORN-Hundreds of locals turned out on Friday afternoon at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn where a group of interfaith leaders stood in front of the mosque to condemn the anti-Islamic film that has led to worldwide outrage in the last few weeks.
Those speaking at the event included Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America, Reverend Edwin Rowe from the Central United Methodist Church, Dawud Walid, the Executive Director of CAIR-MI, Michael Hovey from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, Imam Mohammad Elahi from the Islamic House of Wisdom, Robert Bruttell of the Interfaith Leadership Council and Victor Begg from the Michigan Muslim Community Council.
Imam Al-Qazwini started off the event at the podium by telling the audience that it was time for both the Muslim community as well as Americans to draw the line between freedom of speech and hate speech when it promotes discrimination and bigotry.
"Islam will not tolerate or condone violence in honor of defending our holy prophet. Yes as Muslims we need to defend the dignity of our holy prophet, and yes as Muslims we need to demonstrate and condemn this kind of movie. But Muslims should not resort to violence by attacking innocent people. And finally, my dear brothers and sisters....this is what we Muslims expect; we ask that Muslims respect all the prophets of God. We respect Jesus, peace be upon him. We respect Moses and Abraham...and all other prophets and messengers of God. Therefore we demand that the rest of the world respect our prophet Muhammad," Imam Al-Qazwini told the crowd.
Michael Hovey from the Archdiocese of Detroit then took the stand to inform the crowd that as Christians they condemn the spread of hate speech and recognize the importance of Muslims and Christians standing side by side in peace. Also speaking was Reverend Edwin Rowe, who took the podium to tell the crowd that the blame of the escalating violence should be placed on those individuals who were responsible for creating the movie first and foremost."Blood is on their hands. There is absolutely no way we can call this anything close to free speech. In fact, if you know the action that you are going to create is going to result in violence and death, then you are responsible for the blood that it causes and I pray that these folks will be brought to justice. What our faiths together teach us is if we respond to evil with evil, then we all become the very thing we hate," Hovey told the crowd.
Dawud Walid, from CAIR-MI told the audience that it should be American Muslims' responsibility to react to hate against Islam by advocating peace and explaining to other Americans why the video was so offensive and disgraceful in the first place. Walid stated that Muslims shouldn't tolerate when hate groups attack any of the religion's prophets."The Qur'an says that the prophet is closer to the believers than to their own souls. Prophet Muhammad says none of you will truly believe until he has more love for me than he has for himself, his parents and his children. So when we see a movie molesting our prophet, molesting his wives, it hurts us more than someone literally molesting our fathers, mothers, wives and our husbands. But prophet Muhammad never returned insults with injury. And this Muslim community has been very responsible because out of seven million American Muslims, we can't even recall one act of violence or intimidation," Walid stated.
The crowd at the Islamic Center not only included Muslim and Arab Americans, but individuals from other religions also came out to show their support for the cause. Bystander Peter Blohm, a Scottish Christian Dearborn resident, said he came to the event because he is a big supporter of peace."I think the community has a right to speak out against it but at the same time there is a very thin line between freedom of religion and freedom of speech. I was also here when Pastor Terry Jones, if you can even call him a pastor, when that ordeal happened with him and I think it's really important that we spread a message that everyone can live together. I also believe it's important that the Muslims stand up and condemn what some extremists in the Middle East have been doing," stated Blohm.
But not all bystanders were happy with the event that took place on Friday afternoon in front of the mosque. One local Muslim woman was extremely disappointed, stating that she expected a bigger turnout."Dearborn has the biggest Muslim population ever...where are they? Not enough people showed up. We need to get the word out there that prophets are not toys for anybody to play around with. We don't condemn anybody's religion, so why are they bothering our religion," the woman stated wishing to remain anonymous.
Residents will have a second opportunity to address the issue next week, where community leaders have been organizing an event that will take place at the Dearborn Civic Center located on Michigan Ave. The event, scheduled on Friday, September 28th at 5:30 p.m. in the venue's performing arts theater, is asking for all residents of all religions to come together to stand up against hate.