Editor’s note: The original version of this story omitted the fact that the attorney for Roger Stockham, who was charged with making terrorist threats against a Dearborn mosque, says his client is a Muslim convert.
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
Madison Heights, Michigan (CNN) - Dawud Walid asked the worshipers for a show of hands: How many had heard about the Muslim radicalization hearings in Washington earlier that day?
About half of the 50 or so Muslims in the banquet hall-turned-mosque indicated that they had.
So Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter, briefed the other half about the hearing, calling it an “unfortunate first in American history.”
Then he went further, warning about what he said were a handful of growing threats to American Muslims.
“As we approach the 10th anniversary of September 11, we are seeing unprecedented acts of Islamophobia,” Walid told the worshipers at the American Islamic Community Center, 10 miles north of Detroit.
“After 9/11, it was coming from a few right-wingers,” he said. “But now, in 2011, we’re seeing it from Congress.”
Walid went on to tell the congregation that a dozen states - from Georgia to Missouri to New Mexico - are considering bans on Sharia, or Islamic law, and warned that such bans could lead to prohibitions on women wearing the hijab, or headscarf, and even on Muslims worshiping Allah.
“Praying five times a day is Sharia,” he said. “Do you go to jail for that?”
As one of the largest and oldest Muslim enclaves in the nation - and, with its century-old ties to Ford Motor Co., one that’s intimately bound up in the modern American story - the metro Detroit community is perhaps as close as one can get to the soul of American Islam.
At a time when the country is wrestling with its views on Islam, the faith causes relatively little friction in the largely Arab cocoon of southeast Michigan.
But narratives playing out in the national media, from the radicalization hearings spearheaded by New York Republican Rep. Peter King to the wave of proposed Sharia bans to anticipation of the September 11 anniversary, have left many Muslims here feeling ostracized in their own country.
The community is growing more defensive in the face of what many here say is a national climate of suspicion reminiscent of the period immediately after the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
In response to what he called “a spike in anti-Muslim bigotry,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, is holding a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing Tuesday on “measures to protect the rights of American Muslims.”
Witnesses will include Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick - the former archbishop of Washington - and the top civil rights officials from the administrations of Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
On this Thursday night, however, worshipers at the American Islamic Community Center echoed the embattled tone of the guest speaker from Center for American-Islamic Relations.
Hadir Ghazala, a 49-year-old Iraqi immigrant in a black-and-white polka-dot hijab, said she’d been turned down for jobs at local salons because she refused to remove her headscarf.
Mohammed Elzhemni, 39, bemoaned what he called a growing national stereotype of Muslims as terrorists.
“These people raise their families and work hard,” he said, gesturing to a cluster of small children chasing each other across the mosque’s faux marble floor. “I’m a manager at GM and work to make the country better. This is the true face of Islam.”
At a time when King and others are alleging that radical American Muslims pose an under-acknowledged threat to national security, a popular refrain among Detroit-area Muslims is that they’re the ones under attack.
The sentiment is especially acute at the Islamic Center of America, which calls itself the nation’s largest mosque.
This year, police said they thwarted an explosives attack on the house of worship in Dearborn, just west of Detroit city limits. In January, police arrested a man in the center’s parking lot in a car they said was packed with fireworks.
Police said the suspect, Roger Stockham, drove to Dearborn from California. He faces two felony charges carrying maximum sentences of up to 20 years.
The arrest provoked state and local law enforcement agencies to urge the 70,000-square-foot mosque to bolster security and develop a new emergency response plan.
“We’ve never had an incident like that, where we were targeted by someone who wanted to do us harm based on who we are,” said Kassem Allie, the center’s executive administrator.
To Allie, the incident is evidence that some Americans are being radicalized against Islam, turning the allegation of growing Muslim radicalization on its head.
“The suspect was apparently radicalized quite some time ago,” Allie said. “And there are other instances of radicalization that are of great concern to us.
“I have no problem addressing Islamic radicalization,” he said, monitoring the mosque's security cameras from a computer screen in his ground-floor office. “But there should be an acknowledgment that other communities have the same problem.”
Indeed, a common complaint around Dearborn, the epicenter of southeast Michigan’s Muslim community, is that the only time religion is mentioned in a crime story is when the suspect is Muslim.
“When Timothy McVeigh did his bombing, we didn’t investigate or blame Christianity,” said Al Machy, 32, referring to the 1995 attack on a federal building in Oklahoma City that left 168 dead.
Machy works behind the counter at the Golden Bakery on Warren Avenue, a miles-long Dearborn strip lined with halal butchers, hookah bars, Lebanese restaurants and locally owned groceries with names like Baghdad Market and Sahara West. Signs for most businesses are in Arabic.
“Every day, there are hundreds of rapes and murders, and they never put the words 'Christian' or 'Jewish' in the story,” said Machy, an Iraqi refugee who arrived in the U.S. after the Gulf War.
Unlike most such crimes, in which religion doesn’t appear to be an issue, recent instances of homegrown terrorism - such as 2009’s Fort Hood shooting and last year’s failed Times Square bomb plot - were allegedly carried out in the name of Islam.
But many Muslims around Dearborn say those cases garner inordinate news attention while recent attacks against Muslim Americans, including the defacing and burning of mosques, are largely neglected.
According to the Justice Department, there were 107 anti-Muslim hate-crime incidents in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available, compared with 28 such incidents in 2000.
After a sharp spike in 2001, when there were 481 anti-Muslim hate crime incidents, there have since been fewer than 200 such incidents annually, though there were generally fewer than 50 in the years before 2001.
Muslim advocacy groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, say they have seen a more recent uptick in anti-Muslim threats and violence.
Officials at the Islamic Center of America, which draws about 1,200 worshipers for Friday prayers, say local law enforcement encouraged them to take a low-key public stance on the January explosives arrest. Authorities wanted to avoid inspiring copycat attacks or reprisals, mosque officials said.
The mosque issued a news release after the suspect’s arrest but limited its interviews with the media. Chuck Alawan, 80, a founding board member of the mosque, has some regrets about the mosque keeping relatively quiet about the incident.
“You never hear about all the threats against mosques,” Alawan said in the thick Midwestern accent of a lifelong Michigan resident.
“I was born in this country, and I have never felt persecuted,” he said. “But it’s getting close to that.”
As Alawan spoke, a surveyor from the Michigan Department of Transportation was setting up equipment on the mosque’s lawn as part of a “vulnerability study” after the January incident.
Last week, the Islamic Center of America learned that the Florida pastor who triggered an international firestorm last year by threatening to burn the Quran would take part in an April protest at the mosque.
The protest against "Sharia and Jihad" is scheduled for Good Friday, two days before Easter.
"It is necessary that we set very clear lines for Muslims that are here in America,” Terry Jones, the Florida pastor, said in a statement Wednesday announcing his plans to protest at the Dearborn mosque. "If they desire to change our Constitution, in other words to institute Sharia, then these Muslims are no longer welcome in our country."
Officials at the Islamic Center of America are still deciding how to respond, though they are leaning toward a Good Friday counter-event that would bring together religious leaders of different backgrounds to encourage tolerance and interfaith dialogue.
"For us to try to fight fire with fire like in this case - to fight hate with hate - is really unproductive and actually destructive," said Allie, the mosque's executive administrator. "Under different circumstances, we'd welcome a dialogue with Terry Jones or other detractors, but it's got to be civilized."
Developments like the mosque protest have some local law enforcement officials sympathizing with growing Muslim anxiety.
Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad is among them. He estimates that he has received 10,000 anti-Muslim “hate e-mails,” some calling him a “Taliban police chief” or alleging that he’s persecuting Christians.
The senders assume he’s Muslim because of his last name, Haddad says, even though he’s a Christian of Lebanese descent.
Like Alawan and Haddad, many Arab-Americans in the area trace their local roots back generations. The first big wave of Middle Easterners arrived in southeast Michigan around 1910 to man Henry Ford’s automobile plants in Highland Park and Dearborn.
Those immigrants were mostly Christians from the area that is now Lebanon but was then part of the Ottoman Empire.
“Ford seemed to think that that this particular segment of the empire was industrious and productive and a good source of cheap labor,” said Saeed Khan, a lecturer in Islamic history, politics and culture at Wayne State University in Detroit.
Khan said Ford also favored immigrants from that region because, unlike some other groups, they tended to be light-skinned.
After the defeated Ottoman Empire was carved up at the end of World War I, Christians were given favored status in the newly created Lebanon, provoking more Muslims to exit the region. Some wound up in new Arab strongholds like metro Detroit.
“Especially after Henry Ford announced the $5 workday, (immigrants) would get off the train in Detroit looking for work, and police would pick them up and take them to Ford’s Rouge plant to apply,” Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly said, referring to a huge Dearborn manufacturing facility that opened in the 1920s.
Today, southeast Michigan’s Muslim population is estimated at nearly half a million, Khan said. Though there are larger Muslim populations in New York and Southern California, there are few places in the country with such a heavy concentration of Muslims.
“Once Henry Ford established that community, it had a pull effect and became an epicenter of Arab life,” Khan said. “It was influenced by employment opportunities and the availability of resources like mosques and schools.”
Though Dearborn retains its Lebanese flavor, the area’s Muslim community includes many immigrants from India, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, along with a growing Eastern European contingent and many African-Americans.
The historic Muslim presence here helps explain why local allegations of Islamophobia are pretty rare - and why Haddad, the police chief, suspects that most of his anti-Muslim e-mail is from outsiders.
Zeinab Dbouk-Chaayto, a recent immigrant from Lebanon, says that she was the only woman donning a hijab when she took classes recently at Madonna University, a Catholic school in Livonia, just west of Dearborn, but that no one gave her any trouble.
The school’s conservative culture jibed with her Muslim values. “There’s no partying and no alcohol,” she said, adding that administrators in a school office where she worked even threw her a baby shower and a birthday party.
Local law enforcement officials, for their part, say they strengthened ties to greater Detroit’s Muslim leadership after September 11, launching a program called Bridges to create an ongoing dialogue between those leaders and the FBI, state and local law enforcement, and other government agencies.
“Sometimes, there’s a relative who feels that someone in the family might be doing things that probably aren’t in the long-term best interest of the country, and they want to bring that forward,” said O’Reilly, the Dearborn mayor, explaining the program.
“But they don’t want to be responsible for throwing a family member in jail,” he said. “There’s a delicacy to that, so they have a dialogue about where people can bring this stuff forward.”
Haddad, the Dearborn police chief, said the Bridges program helped create a parents’ task force to combat gang activity in the city’s Yemeni community. That move contributed to an 11% drop in crime in the heavily Yemeni South End neighborhood last year, he said.
At the same time, many Muslims around Dearborn are convinced that they are under government surveillance, exacerbating feelings of alienation.
Sitting with friends at the Islamic Center of America, Alawan says, they often joke that law enforcement has the mosque’s phones tapped and its rooms bugged.
“The agencies will deny it,” he said. “But we know they’re doing it.”
The suspicion was given credence after FBI agents killed a Muslim cleric in an October 2009 raid in Dearborn.
The charges against the imam, Luqman Ameen Abdullah - which included mail fraud and the illegal possession and sale of firearms - were based on information from three confidential FBI informants who’d infiltrated Abdullah’s mosque.
The case raised the specter of government spies in other Dearborn area mosques and prompted a 2010 letter of protest from Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
“People of all faiths should be free to worship without undue fear that the person in the next pew is a government agent,” Conyers wrote, invoking the FBI’s wiretapping of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a regrettable precedent for such surveillance.
Many Muslims around Dearborn find it ironic that what they see as a growing suspicion of Muslims in America comes at a time when much of the Arab world, from Tunisia to Egypt to Libya, is rising up against despotic leaders and demanding more U.S.-style freedoms.
“While the Islamic world is rising up against dictatorship, dishonesty, deception and corruption … America should show solidarity with people who are looking for dignity and democracy,” Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi told hundreds of worshipers at recent Friday prayers at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, a mosque situated across the street from Henry Ford Community College.
“That’s not the right time to bring another wave of Islamophobia and ignorance,” he said, blasting the King hearings of the previous day. “It is so dangerous to provoke people who are ready to commit hate crimes with this kind of wrong information.”
Elahi wasn’t referring to the danger of inciting Muslim radicals to commit terrorism against the United States. The threat, in his eyes, is that Americans will be provoked to terrorize Muslims.
A little perspective for so called "Islamophobia" from the FBI website on hate crimes:
"Of the 1,575 victims of an anti-religious hate crime [in 2009]:
■71.9 percent were victims because of an offender’s anti-Jewish bias.
■8.4 percent were victims because of an anti-Islamic bias."
Jews are victimized 9 times more frequently than Muslims. The FBI conveniently ignores data on the religion of perpetrators, but I bet a significant percentatge of anti-Jewish crimes are committed by Muslims. So let's quit the perpetual victimhood and take some personal responsibility as Americans.
wa bi wa bari gal hai bi definately certainly scenarioj
Get only the half of the story that the spinners at CNN want you to have... for the rest of the story, from Islamist Watch:
Back on January 31, the AP described the arrestee as "a Vietnam veteran-turned Muslim holy warrior" based on what he had said to a Detroit restaurant manager, who later testified that in addition to bragging about the plot, Stockham had told him about becoming Muslim and joining the "mujahedeen." Stockham's own attorney also called his client an "Islamic convert." Behaving like a radical Sunni, the defendant rejected his first lawyer because "he is a Shiite and I am not," asserting that the man attends the Shiite-run ICA. The same news item cites sources claiming that Stockham spoke fluent Arabic and quoted from the Koran during an interview.
So the fact that the anti-muslim "terrorist" IS A MUSLIM is somehow not important to the story?????
NewsBusters: CNN.com Paints Would-be Mosque-burner as Anti-Muslim Radical, Omits That He's Muslim
What does the Koran say about how Muslims should treat non-Muslims? Be truthful and omit nothing.
Stockton is a sunni muslim. Don't you think telling the people the WHOLE story would be part of being the "most trusted name in news".
Apparantly, truth doesn't fit your agenda.
Amazing to read the story of the "radicalized" American, Roger Stockham, who was ready to wage war against Islam & this mosque.
Even more amazing to then read that Roger Stockham claims to be a Sunni Muslim – a claim reiterated by his defense attorney – and who (by his own admission) was targeting the Shiite Muslims who run the ICA. (http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=12799992)
Kind of says something about the caliber of reporting going on at CNN when they just forget to report that the attempted attack on the ICA could have been a case of sectarian violence within the Muslim religion. Instead they represent it as an angry, bigoted American Islamophobe.
More inaccurate and biased reporting by CNN and Mr. Gilgoff who omits important information to promote Muslim victimhood. He fails to report that an AP article (Yahoo News 2//11/2010) stated that the alleged mosque bomber, Mr. Stockham, WAS HIMSELF A MUSLIM, and had expressed an interest in joining the mujhadeen. His own attorney is said to have confirmed his religion.
The nations of the earth will gather against the Muslims like hungry people going to sit down to a table full of food. This will occur when the Muslims are large in number, but "like the foam of the sea".(A minor sign of the judgment day).
The Truth vs Falsehood
[13:17] He sends down water from the sky, causing the valleys to overflow, then the rapids produce abundant foam. Similarly, when they use fire to refine metals for their jewelry or equipment, foam is produced. GOD thus cites analogies for the truth and falsehood. As for the foam, it goes to waste, while that which benefits the people stays close to the ground. GOD thus cites the analogies.
[13:18] Those who respond to their Lord deserve the good rewards. As for those who failed to respond to Him, if they possessed everything on earth – even twice as much – they would readily give it up as ransom. They have incurred the worst reckoning, and their final abode is Hell; what a miserable destiny.
Islamic waves are foaming out the waste....
As I watched the broadcast on Saturday I became more & more amazed @ the ignorant responses but of course it was filmed in TN. Has this country forgot on what principles it was formed-that unless you are Native American "you aren't from here either"? The gentleman who initially filed the lawsuit has he forgot that slavery was only abolished 140+ years ago & that Civil Rights weren't really fought for until Martin Luther King in the 60's? There will always be some prejudice in each of us-to deny it is being naive, however that doesn't mean we act on it in ignorance. Here it is 2011 & as a Roman Catholic I still hear the comments, the "I know it all" statements of those who speak about what they don't know. This is exactly what people do with Islam/Muslim. The people who are responsible for the atrocious acts both here & abroad aren't those of who are wanting to be a part of our communities. For that matter lets just "group" all people by their race, so since there were whites in the KKK-well then all white people are bad. Such generalizations are the sign of ignorance; this was ever so obvious of the "complainers" of Murfreesboro TN. Did that real estate agent-one of the pillars of the community realize how stupid she sounded? As she said she knew lots of Muslims, I had to laugh; sure she did. Is she prejudice about the Catholics, the Jews, the Mormons & others if they want to build a church there? Or is it just a prominent southern church(es) that are allowed? I pity, truly pity those who will one day have to answer for their treatment of others who are different from them. Thank goodness Jesus isn't here on Earth at present day because he definitely wouldn't fit in with his embracing of all. Sad, sad day in America that's all I can say.
CNN: The people are getting sick and tried of CNN not exposing the TRUTH about Islam. If a Bible was set on fire by a Muslim Christians would not go out and BEHEAD people like MUslims do. That is what they are taught in their Quran to HATE & NEVER FORGIVE. They only take REVENGE on Christians. They LIE and keep making excuses that we don't know Islam and their Quran. WE actually know their Quran better than they knowas their eyes cannot see TRUTH and are SPIRITUALLY BLINDED STOP all construction of all Mosques in the western world and don't fall for their LIES. Their goal is to overtake you as they have openly tell you. Have you being blinded by all these LIES they tell you. Islam has one intention and that is to ENSLAVED the Whole world to Islam. Islam is an EVIL Ideology and NOT A RELIGION. DON'T BE FOOLED CNN BY THEIR ACADEMY AWARD WINNING LIES.SATAN IS ALSO A DECEIVER.
Mr Zudic seemed to know everything about Islam and Quran !! "They only take REVENGE on Christians. "- really ! As far I know Quran talked about Christians and Jews. According to Quran you (Christians and Jews) are the "People of the Books." Quran permitted to marry Christian people, it permitted to have lunch with them!! And now being a Cristian you are telling that Quran teach Muslims to take Revenge ! YOU ARE RADICAL CRISTIAN. I KNOW LOT OF FAMOUS CHRISTIAN RELIGIOUS PERSONAL AND THEY DON'T THINK IN THAT WAY BECAUSE THEY ARE THE "TRUE CRISTIAN."
It really hurts to observe this stuff. Muslim do believe Jesus. Do you know that ? They also respect Jesus as much as you do and they also believe that Jesus will come back again to save the world. Please I beg you before making frivolous comments, try to understand it.
well Jesus told us this would happen when he was on earth in the book of Matthew 24 chapter
5For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
10And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
11And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
13But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
Christain all christain need to stand up for this country. Cause the one's that scream the loudist is the one that gets there way...So we need to quit burrying our heads in the sand and stand up for our God in heaven..Take our Country back..Stand up for God he did for us....God our country or right....
I am proud to be a Muslim in the US. No matter what you think about me or my religion. If you learn about Islam in your own and filter out the media and the haters you will come to respect it.
I was born a Muslim American and I will die one.
its interesting that you say Muslim-American, Its quite obvious your loyalty is to Muslims first and a distant second comes America. I could not care less if your a muslim or whatever, matter little to me. But if you engage in activities against this country and try to preach your islamist hate. That i DO have a problem against and you will pay for it.
You should be proud to be a Muslim American. I am proud to be a Christian American. A person of any faith should align their faith to their God first, Country second, family third and self last. A true faith in God naturally aligns a person to love and protect their country and its people. Islam would not be the first faith that found its message and tenets subverted by a small minority that traffic in hate and bigotry and use their faith to rationalize it in their own mind. There is a difference between vigilance and fear. Vigilance is a healthy awareness that people of hate of EVERY stripe are out there and seek to undermine this great Nation. Fear allows the hateful people of this world to dictate who and what kind of people we dicide to hate in return, in which case they win.
This Nation is unique in al the world in that from its very outset, it was created so that freedom of speech and religion are among its most basic tenets. That would be Freedom of ALL religions, not just those that are convenient to us. Freedom isn't free- there are heroes tht dedicate their lives to defending it. Muslims have fought and died defending America in every war in the last hundred years. The sacrifices of ALL our servicemen of every faith will be in vain if we alow our fears to guide us down the slippery slope of deciding which religions are "too dangerous" to be freely practiced without restraint. Do not allow your thoughts and actions to be dictated by 10-second soundbtes. Study history carefully: if we start choosing which faiths are "better than" or "safer than" others, that path only leads to tyrrany. America and its people are better than that.
people are forgetting what christians are and it depresses me God forgiving he gave his only son's life to save people God is about forgive right who are us to tell other people who or who not to worship. jesue didn't chase people that did not believe in him why not let then build if God forgive us why can't we for a group of people that don't do 911 . are you people that call your self christans forgetting about God and Jesue believes . sounds to like you are
This lady always seems to think she strikes the controversial subjects, be it black issue or the one like this one.. religious issue. If this is aired in india, that will go with a mini riot and couple of hundred lives. The same with the way she brings the black issue. She should go back and read the history of muslims rule in india. And would they accept temples, churches or buddhist statues in the muslims world ? How about saudi arabia ? How about arabian mainlands ? Would they allow buddhist temples to be built ? And also it is most of the time directed by imams, common man would not know how to interpret, and it is these imam's direct things either in good or bad directions, you have no control over it. So how do you term islam ? it is not about islam realy, it is like any other religion on the planet, but it is the way it is practiced and culture. It is going to be troublesome in the long run if islam spreads through imam centric culture, at least india obsolved all those pains and suffering, i dont think other countries would do the same. It is painfull process. And it all depends on infusion of other religions into Arabia. At the end, Saudi Arabia holds the key for the reform. This is like the trouble waiting in the doorstep. If the door is not locked, you very well end up facing it.
This lady reporter is on wrong path all the time, she almost all the time demonizes the majority. Minority interests should be protected and know doubt about that. But the way she presents is like as if she has personal animosity towards majority americans. That would do bad than good. I am not happy with this reporter.
Radical 'Christians' need to quit sticking their noses in other peoples' business. Ignorant people can't stand the sight of someone more prosperous than themselves, so naturally they hate them. If people try to prohibite Sharia law, let's compromise and stop letting Baptists going around and condemning everything under the sun. Poor, ignorant , and arrogant white Christians make intelligent Christians like me very, very sad.
This is America. We believe in free speech here (within certain limits) people are free to think and say what they want. If you are offended, that is ok too. You have the right to be offended. Americans do not want to live under sharia law. People in America enjoy the freedom of religious expression. However your religion cannot break the laws of our land. If you don't like this. Why are you here? Maybe you should live someplace where sharia law is the law of the land.
Stockton is a sunni muslim. Don't you think telling the people the WHOLE story would be part of being the "most trusted name in news".
Apparantly, truth doesn't fit your agenda.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.