CAIR-MI: MUSLIM ACTIVIST STRIVES TO BRIDGE CULTURES
When Dawud Walid opened the mail one day last June in his Lathrup Village office, he found a torn page of the Quran smeared with feces.
It was an unpleasant reminder of the challenges that face the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which Walid heads.
"We have a lot of work to do," Walid said he thought after opening the letter.
Those efforts are drawing a growing number of supporters in metro Detroit, as evidenced by a sold-out fund-raising dinner in Dearborn today that's expected to attract about 1,100 guests -- compared to 600 two years ago.
"Islam isn't often portrayed correctly," said Nayeem Amin, 18, of Bloomfield Hills, a CAIR supporter. "They're educating the public on what Islam is about."
Walid, a Sunni Muslim, does that by speaking often at universities and churches and to media outlets. Since becoming executive director of the council's Michigan branch in July 2005, Walid has frequently been the public face of Islam in metro Detroit.
His first week on the job, after terrorists struck the London subway on July 7, 2005, Walid quickly organized a group of imams to condemn the attacks at a news conference at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.
And after a significant Shi'ite mosque was attacked in Iraq in February 2006, Walid spoke in Shi'ite mosques in Dearborn to help defuse tensions between Sunnis and Shi'ites. Walid did the same after a number of Shi'ite mosques and businesses in Detroit and Dearborn were targeted in January.
Founded in 1994 by Sunni Palestinian immigrants, CAIR was initially perceived as more of a Sunni group. But in recent years, the Michigan branch has made increased efforts to reach out to Shi'ites and others. Today, CAIR has 32 chapters in the United States and Canada, and is considered the leading civil rights group in the United States for Muslims.