Regional Islamic leaders are expected to sign an agreement this week to strengthen ties and ward off conflicts between the faith’s two major sects.

About 20 Sunni and Shiite leaders from Detroit, Flint, Ann Arbor and Lansing plan to sign the one-page “Intra-faith Code of Conduct” during a meeting on Thursday at the Islamic House of Wisdom in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights.

“It’s a covenant of cooperation,” Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Tuesday. “It affirms that each sect is legitimately within the fold of Islam. Each side should not say disparaging things about the other.”

Islamic leaders in Detroit, home to one of the nation’s largest Muslim populations, will follow leaders in Southern California, who recently signed a similar code. Muslims in Washington, D.C., also plan to sign a version of the agreement.

With sectarian divisions fueling violence in Iraq, Sunnis and Shiites in the U.S. are increasingly wary of a spillover effect.

Detroit-area leaders say sectarian tensions are not a serious problem, but Shiites recently blamed Sunnis for vandalism at Shiite-affiliated mosques and businesses after the execution of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni who repressed the Shiite majority in Iraq.

At the same time, intra-faith efforts can address the graver problem of anti-Muslim sentiment. Bias incidents against Muslims including harassment, violence and discrimination rose nearly one-third last year to a 12-year high, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Walid said it’s important for Detroit-area Muslims to come together, given the area’s status as a Muslim center.


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