08/10/12: Local mosque fights Islamophobia with interfaith dialogue during Ramadan

Local mosque fights Islamophobia with interfaith dialogue during Ramadan

By Samer Hijazi

Friday, 08.10.2012, 05:01am- Arab American News

DEARBORN HEIGHTS — Last Saturday the Islamic House of Wisdom (IHW) in Dearborn Heights hosted an Interfaith Iftar Dinner that brought out a variety of guests including the mayor of Dearborn Heights, civil rights groups, local church leaders and congregation members, as well as imams from local mosques who joined in solidarity to discuss the importance of diversity and dialogue.

The IHW started the reception one hour prior to Iftar on this particular evening. Imam Elahi welcomed the diverse crowd during a speech in the venue's auditorium, stressing on the importance of building bridges with communities of other faiths.

"Diversity is a blessing from God...he created us with different colors, different races, and different identities…disagreement does not mean destruction. The goal should be to have dialogue and co-operate with each other while living in peace. Understanding and working together is good for humanity," Imam Elahi told the crowd.

Imam Elahi thanked the diverse group for their efforts and discussed one positive contribution spearheaded by a Pastor from the Christus Victor Lutheran Church, located in Dearborn Heights. Pastor Amy Kienzle, who was in attendance at the event, spent three months in Palestine as a way to personally learn about the suffering of the Palestinian people. Upon her return, Pastor Kienzle has been spreading her message to her congregation and other community members, shedding light on what she witnessed during her visit. Imam Elahi acknowledged her actions as both inspiring as well as a perfect example of reaching out to communities of different faiths.

The topic of Islamophobia was also a major discussion point of the conversation during the evening. Imam Elahi stated that the best way to tackle Islamophobia is through interfaith, as reaching out to various communities would break any stereotypes that might have been implemented by the media. Imam Elahi mentioned the recent movie theater shooting in Colorado as an example of this.

"How come when James Holmes did that crime nobody talked about his religion. But if it was an Arab or Muslim, all we would hear about is his faith. Unfortunately this tactic has been used to brainwash people...this is why there is so much ignorance out there," Imam Elahi stated. 

Local leaders included representation from CAIR-MI as well as H.Y.P.E Athletics, who recently opened up their new facility down the street from the mosque. Ali Sayed, the founder of H.Y.P.E, also discussed ways the community could make an impact on the youth. Mayor Dan Paletko of Dearborn Heights also gave a brief speech, recognizing the mosque's continuous efforts. 

But even through interfaith discussions, the message of Ramadan was not left un-tackled by Imam Elahi.

"The month of Ramadan is the month of revelation and resistance. Fasting represents resistance against our physical desires and demands. When we have the two together, it brings a message. It makes a revolution out of the soul," Imam Elahi added.

Imam Elahi’s continued interfaith efforts were acknowledged by various attendees. Elahi says that the mosque will continue to reach out to the surrounding communities. For their next interfaith event, which is expected to take place sometime in September or October, they are opening up their doors to the neighborhood that surrounds the mosque, which is located on Warren and Ann Arbor Trail.

"It was inspiring to see people from all  faiths and cultures come together like a family and sharing issues from the heart. Sharing their ideas and thoughts in such an honest and sincere way. We think one of the best ways of bringing education and fighting Islamphobia is through interfaith. It’s one way of changing the situation. Bringing together the people who live in the neighborhoods and making our mosque an open house, it brings a sense of clarity and understanding."

The IHW has also been busy holding their nightly Ramadan lectures for both their English and Arabic guests with speaker Sayed Mohammad Qazwini. The lectures take place every night at 10:00 p.m.