Sunni and Shia imams in America have unified their in stance by rejecting sectarianism.
Religious leaders and community elders gathered at Dearborn Heights days before Ramadan in unity against sectarianism in the Muslim community.
The Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC) sponsored the forum that was organised by the Imams’ Council of the organization at the Islamic House of Wisdom.
Shia and Sunni co-chairs of the Imam’s Council of the MMCC joined hands, along with sixty Muslim community leaders and area imams, representing various mosques across the tri-County area, to pledge the prevention of sectarian influences that have plagued the Middle East from affecting Muslim communities in America and to reaffirm Islamic values of religious tolerance.
Medical student from California, Aisha Mehmet, told 5 Pillarz: “This fantastic initiative encourages dialogue between both Sunnis and Shias to have a sincere discourse on subjects and issues that affect us both. Sowing seeds of discord amongst Muslims is one of the main tools being used by global imperial powers to weaken and wreck our ties, including dividing and attempting to conquer Muslim lands.”
Imams from different communities, organizations, and religious institutions agreed on a shared set of beliefs and values, reaffirming that an agreement exists among local imams which would assist the unity in the region’s diverse Muslim communities. They also highlighted an emphasis on the process of “mutual consultation” on common religious matters.
The main objective of the forum was to help bring both the Sunni and Shia communities together in closer cooperation and to establish concrete actions, and to resist and reject the influence and affects of sectarianism.
The group identified practical relationship-building steps, along with a follow-up action plan, including the formation of a “task force” that would be responsible for cultivating and nurturing the process of unity and shared common beliefs.
Imam Mustafa Elturk of the Islamic Organisation of North America and the Sunni co-chair of the Council said: “The speakers spoke eloquently. The dialogue between Sunni and Shia imams, as well as community leaders, reflected the challenges that Muslims face and the maturity of the Muslim American community in dealing with the issues facing them.”
Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom and the Shia co-chair of the MMCC reiterated the idea of heading down a “road of moderation” and standing for truth and justice, regardless of sectarian affiliations. He said: “The brutal bloodshed in the Middle East, from Iraq to Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Egypt has nothing to do with true teachings of Islam.
“Neither does terrorism and extremism. The factions are engaged in political domination.”
Executive Director of the MMCC, Dawood Zwink said: “The event was very much needed and the implementation of the ideas and proposals that were offered would greatly help both communities and future generations.”
The Imams’ Council of the MMCC and other Islamic leaders in Michigan meet frequently to strengthen relationships between the diverse Muslim communities by establishing strong communication and alliances in pursuit of an inclusive community and peaceful neighbourhoods. A “Code of Honour” was developed by the Imams’ Council of MMCC (formerly CIOM) in 2007 to tackle sectarian divisions.
Ms Mehmet said: “For years, Sunnis and Shia have worked together to build mosques, support charities, and hold great feasts for Eid. Both show tolerance towards the other because the Qur’an ultimately is the authority which is unifies us. Though we haven’t spent as much time as we should in educating ourselves more about one another, we certainly don’t have the sort of uncomfortable tension between us that you see in the Middle East or South East Asia here in the US.”
Imams and leaders from all major Muslim groups, sects and denominations in Michigan vowed to respect each other’s traditions and continue dialogue with each other.