Muslims in Detroit must have missed the course on basic American freedoms and rights - like the freedom to speak, assemble, and the freedom of the press. All of them are clearly spelled out in the Bill of Rights, the amendments to the constitution. It’s in the first amendment.
We take these freedoms for granted in the West.
But in Detroit, it’s easy to see signs of challenging or simply ignoring these basic freedoms - like broadcasting one’s religious preference in public. That’s what is happening in Hamtramck at the al-Islah Islamic Center. It’s called the call to prayer - azan or adhan - in Islam.
Outside a mosque in Dearborn, a Muslim man, incensed by Christian protesters, got into his SUV and tried to run over nine Christian protesters in the public right-of-way.
Fortunately, all were able to jump out of the path of the oncoming vehicle.
He was charged with nine counts of attempted murder.
In another video, we see a Christian peacefully talking to young Muslim boys at the Arab International Festival being arrested by Dearborn police.
In still another video, a Muslim man in Dearborn is seen spitting at a Christian holding a video camera. The unexpected presence of Christians among Muslim men seems to be enough to cause them to violate others with whatever method they deem most effective.
Samer Hijazi and Ali Harb reported on the festival, and it’s demise in the Arab American, an online news site, which focuses mainly on Detroit. It was cancelled in 2013, mostly because the insurance cost ballooned from $13,000 to $56,000, the result of lawsuits and a $300,000 award to Acts 17 Apologetics for being arrested, unjustly charged and being held overnight by Dearborn Police.
In 2009, when Acts 17 Apologetics, attempted to talk to people in the festival, they were constantly harassed, and hit multiple times. The group counted the number of times someone put their hands on their camera while they were taping. At least half a dozen Muslim security people acted aggressively toward the two, who were merely talking to people at the event: One security guard hit a camera that was being held by a woman.
The video is disturbing, since the security personnel, with walkie talkies, were obviously local Muslims recruited by the American Arab Chamber of Commerce.
(There would seem to be a reality problem with one calling oneself the Arab American Chamber of Commerce, when it only represents select areas of Detroit).
Worse, when Act 17 Apologetics returned in 2010 and 2011, it faced similar problems from both security and Dearborn Police. (Response to Dearborn Mayor O'Reilly by Acts 17).
In 2012, a group calling themselves the Bible Believers, protested with signs in a general area of a street, which was not designated for such a protest. Though the Wayne C0unty Sheriff's Department was given the task of assisting with security, they did nothing to protect the protesters as they were being pelted with rocks, bottles, debris. The video shows a large injury on a man's forhead, the result of the young Muslims pelting things as him.
But the group was protected by police in 2011, and allowed to preach in an atmosphere that was not exactly receptive.
Nasser Beydoun, executive director of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce, welcomed Christians who were not attempting to talk to people about Islam and Christianity.
“They were there, promoting understanding and tolerance,” he says.
But his attitude is different about Christians who are there to ask questions.
He says groups like Acts 17 Apologetics were there to “create controversy and make money out of it.”
What is again, quite disturbing about Beydoun, is that the security element which harassed and assaulted these few people were chosen by his own chamber.
Also, while he claims to represent all Arabs, it is clear that he does not represent Arabs who are Christians, but rather, those who are exclusively Muslim.
Muslims in Detroit, and perhaps the Dearborn police, could learn a lot from Muslim Bosnians in St. Louis. The river city has the greatest population of Bosnians in the U.S. But you won’t hear many Allah Akbar cries from Bosnians in St. Louis.
They are too busy enjoying the freedoms that were taken from them during the mass genocide in the 90’s, when they started arriving in the U.S. by the hundreds.
Bosnian Muslims in St. Louis, as many as 70,000, have blended in with the population, adopting the American culture in a way that has occurred differently in Detroit, or Dearborn, a city with a high concentration of Muslims. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch offered a special section on the Bosnians, describing how they adapted to their new country and city.
A minaret is traditionally used to call Muslims to pray, and typically has speakers attached to it. One can easily see this happening in Mecca, with hundreds of thousands of worshippers heeding the call. But there is no loudspeaker attached to this minaret in St. Louis.
When Bosnians say they are American first and Bosnian second, they are also probably saying that they are Muslim third - at least in St. Louis.
The Imam in St. Louis, Muhamed Hasic, claims the reason why Bosnians have been “embraced by the community” is, in part, because they “face fewer cultural and racial barriers than other Muslims.
There may be some truth to this; Bosnians prefer Bosnian first names to Mohammed.
They may not adhere to all the tenets of the Muslim faith, but they were persecuted by Serbians for being exactly that - Muslim.
Some claim this diluting of Islam in St. Louis is because the exposure to American influences. But American influence, culture in Detroit all that different than St. Louis?
The Bosnian Imam in St. Louis refers to church steeples in view of the Islamic center as signs of freedom and equality in the U.S.
Why are they so unlike their brothers from the Motor City, who feel it necessary to broadcast their claims about Allah in public?
One Muslim man, Masud Khan, felt victimized by residents questioning the broadcast in Hamtrmck. In 2004, Khan was secretary of the al-Islah Islamic Center. He claimed that all the opposition to the azan meant that Americans “hated” Muslims. Unfortunately, this part of Islamic thinking - that opposition to this kind of religious broadcast is really hate, is common for Muslims.
Perhaps Muslims there are hoping Americans won’t notice the call to prayer because it is broadcast in Arabic. In traditional Muslim countries, the call to prayer is something that is an accepted religious disruption of their lives - five times a day. Bosnians must have appreciated the fact that Americans don’t force their religion on others. It’s a different story in Hamtramck, a nearly forgotten city located near Dearborn, in downtown Detroit.
Poles flooded into the area during the 50s’, when they worked in the automobile industry. In 1970, the population was 90 percent Polish. Now it is 14.5 percent, with an influx of Muslims from Middle East countries during the past 30 years, especially from Yemen and Bangladesh. The al-Islah mosque also serves people of mostly Bangladeshi descent.
Overall, the decrease in white population reflects a general, but massive population decline in Detroit over the years - from 1.5 million in 1950, to 713,000, in 2010
In 2003, Abdul Motlib, president of the Hamtramck mosque, applied for approval to amplify the call to azan. With half of the six city council members Muslim, the ordinance amending the noise ordinance was approved in 2004, with Robert Korazen presiding as mayor.
The original noise ordinance, approved in July of 1989, makes no mention of church bells.
But the ordinance approved by the city council in May of 2004, mentions both the Muslim call to prayer and church bells. The mayor at the time was Thomas Jankowski.
This is how the first section of the new ordinance reads: “The city shall permit “call to prayer” “church bells” and other reasonable means of announcing religious meetings to be amplified between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. for a duration not to exceed five minutes.”
Here is what the Muslim call to prayer means in English:
Allah is the greatest. I testify that there is no God but Allah. I testify that Muhammed is Allah’s messenger. Rush to Salah. Rush to success. Allah is the greatest. There is no God except Allah.
For people who have no concept of religious tolerance, this may seem beautiful. For those in the West, it is a dangerous incursion into rights of religious establishment that explains a lot. The fact that many Muslims think it is appropriate to broadcast it over loud speakers in the U.S. is even more troubling.
What Americans can easily gather from the festivals in Dearborn is that Muslims have a propensity for violence as a means of settling religious debate. The fact that Muslim thugs - whether part of security details or not - behaved the way they did year after year confirms this.
And it would seem to explain why Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo were persecuted by non-Muslim Serbians in the first place. It may have been hundreds of years ago, but Muslims from Turkey invaded the Balkans, requiring servitude of the conquered. The Serbians did not submit and suffered harsh consequences.
Gilbert Bailon, general editor of the Post-Dispatch, explains the articles (in news speak - the package) about the topic, and attempts to provide some context. But he provides no information about why the Bosnian Muslims in the Balkans were persecuted and killed in the first place.
I suppose it would offend Mr. Bailon’s cultural and religious sensitivities, however, to draw on the Detroit experience or the history of Islam in the Balkans. Let’s hope Muslims in Dearborn can learn how to respect American rights by some others means.
© 2013 Larry Ingram
Based in St Louis,
Larry Ingram writes about the news media, movies and culture, as well as topics like race, privilege, Christianity, religious expression and tolerance.
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