With arms linked in solidarity, religious and government officials gathered Thursday outside the original Islamic Center of America in Detroit to condemn – in one voice – recent acts of vandalism against Muslim businesses and religious centers throughout the Metro Detroit area.

“As a community, we (gathered) to support in spirit the cleansing of this site from brutality and to move ahead with our efforts to strengthen interfaith understanding,” said Steve Spreitzer, director of the interfaith division of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, in a statement issued Thursday.

Located on Joy near Greenfield Road, the original Islamic Center of America has served as a mosque for more than five decades in Metro Detroit and remains a historical landmark for many in the community.

Last week, the building became the target of vandals who left messages of hate and intimidation – including anti-Muslim slurs “go home 911 murderers” and “you idol worship” – scrawled in paint on the walls outside the building.

On Thursday, more than 30 local leaders joined together outside the building to condemn the act, as well as those who committed it.

“The incident that occurred at this mosque is unacceptable to people of faith – to people of all faiths,” said Rabbi Josh Bennett of Temple Beth Israel in West Bloomfield.

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights agreed.

“These kinds of acts of violence are unacceptable,” he said. “We condemn any acts of violence or terrorism against others. We all pray for peace and an end to the violence.”

The Islamic House of Wisdom hosted a similar event earlier this month after vandals targeted several Shi’a-owned businesses and religious centers throughout the Metro Detroit area, including the Imam Ali Islamic Center and the Al-Kifa Cultural Forum.

The motive behind the attacks remains under investigation, police said, although some believe increasing tension between local Shi’a and Sunni Muslims following the execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein may have played a role.

Locally, several Muslim groups celebrated the death of the Iraqi leader in December, while others decried the scheduling of the execution on what some consider the first day of Eid al-Adha, which is among the holiest festivals on the Islamic calendar.

However, many local religious and community leaders were quick to dismiss those claims, and have urged residents to avoid rushing to judgment before the investigation is completed.

“At this point, no one is certain of the religion of the vandals,” said Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI). “We must be patient – we cannot categorize an entire group based on the action of a few of its members.”


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