Attack against pilgrims calls for renewed intrafaith cooperation
By Dawud Walid
(As published in Arab American News)
Thursday, 10.24.2013, 09:12pm
News that Michigan Muslims were attacked at Hajj recently, due to sectarianism, increases the need for American Muslim leaders and activists to cultivate a spirit of constructive engagement among the followers of Islam, especially in America.
I personally know some of the Shia Muslims who were reportedly beaten, choked, threatened with rape, and called “kafirs” (disbelievers) in Mina. I have no reason to doubt that this incident happened, as I have witnessed sectarian harassment up close, while visiting Saudi Arabia and other places. Moreover, in the past decade, we have seen certain regions ravaged by sectarian violence, including numerous bombings at houses of worship during Friday prayer sermons
It is a mistake to act as if sectarianism does not exist among Muslims; as if ignoring the problem will make it go away. Moreover, it is irresponsible to say that the mere mention of it is somehow promoting it. It must be approached, head on, with spirituality as the guide, as well as wisdom. In February 2006, after the bombing of Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) saw an opportunity to bring the Metro Detroit Muslim community together by, not only asking its religious leaders to denounce sectarianism, but by also creating a platform that could bring them together. This area of cooperation was needed, in order to robustly challenge Islamophobia, which is a common enemy to all Muslims and to the integrity of America as a whole. I was part of the effort, which organized imams for bi-weekly meetings over a span of months and produced scholastically correct replies to common attacks used by anti-Muslim bigots against the Qur’an, Prophet Muhammad (prayers and peace be upon him and his family) and the Prophet’s wives. These answers can be found online, under “Imams Defend Prophet (S).”
These meetings birthed the practice of Detroit area imams attending and speaking at events, hosted at Islamic centers of different schools of thought, as well as the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan Imams Committee monthly meetings, which are now under the banner of the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC).
In 2007, Michigan imams showed leadership, by signing the Muslim Code of Honor, which affirms that Muslims should respect differences of opinion within Islamic theology and jurisprudence and not to pronounce “takfir” over other Muslims, calling them nonbelievers. In September of this year, a number of national Islamic organizations, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and CAIR, signed onto a similar code that rejects sectarianism among Muslims.
We ought to demand that Islamic scholars overseas and governments abroad vigorously denounce violent sectarianism and grant all people of faith equal protection under the law.
However, our primary concern should be on working towards better cooperation among Muslims of all schools of thought in America. We face challenges that range from Islamophobia to the crisis of drug and alcohol use among our youth, which Muslims have a vested interest in addressing with our intellectual and financial resources. We simply cannot allow voices of intolerance to concretize the community discourse to the point that we divide ourselves to the detriment of our collective interests in America.
As pilgrims return home, it is my hope that our community renews its commitment to a key principle of Hajj, which is the unity of the collective interests and welfare of all people under their Creator. We will never eradicate sectarianism, but we can work, in our own way, to marginalize those who seek to promote intolerance and hatred and who falsely fly the banner of Islam.