Dearborn vigil honors slain mosque worshippers
The small crowd that congregated Friday night at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn to honor six worshippers slain this week at a Quebec mosque were miles away from the bloodshed that sparked mourning around the world.
But at a time when Muslims across the United States face renewed tensions amid presidential orders many feel target their group, the impact was felt as deeply.
The victims fatally shot when a gunman stormed the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre and opened fire during evening prayers “lost their lives due to a terrorist attack that was motivated and fueled by hateful rhetoric towards Islam,” Hassan Abdallah, who is active with Islamic Center of America, told guests gathered on the mosque steps.
“Please understand, brothers and sisters, that this attack is not only an attack on the Muslim community; that it is a show of the ripple of the waves of issues and attacks on all minorities, both religiously and culturally, who may be subject under the failing leadership of this president’s administration.”
The fallout permeated the memorial vigil Friday, which focused on the Quebec attack that killed six men aged 39-60 and wounded 19 people.
University student Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, has been charged with murder and attempted murder in the case. He was a fan of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and President Donald Trump, and acquaintances described him as someone who took extreme nationalist, pro-Le Pen positions at Laval University and on social media.
As mourners braved frigid air to light candles near the steps outside the ICA, many linked the slayings to rising anti-Muslim sentiment.
“We can’t allow this sort of hate to spread,” Wayne County Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak said. “We need to reach out and put our arms around our community and to keep these things from happening.”
Others noted the shooting coincided with heightened anxieties worldwide over Trump’s controversial executive orders that temporarily bans entry into the United States for all refugees and migrants from seven Muslim-majority nations with terrorism concerns: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Admission of refugees from war-ravaged Syria has also been suspended indefinitely.
On Friday, a U.S. judge temporarily blocked the ban on travelers and immigrants from the predominantly Muslim countries after Washington state and Minnesota urged a nationwide hold on the executive order that has launched legal battles across the country.
Though the White House has backed the executive order as a national security step to protect citizens from terrorism, the move has prompted numerous protests and public outcry from many who wonder if it infringes on constitutional rights.
“Many Iraqi-Americans are affiliated with our mosque,” said Kassem Allie, executive administrator at the Islamic Center. “There is some great concern for those people who had travel plans. … There have been a number of people that have applied for visas for their families to rejoin them and now they’re essentially separated. It’s very disappointing, very shocking especially for people who have been here for many years.”
The restrictions also were the focus of a forum Friday night at Islamic Center of Detroit. Dawud Walid, executive director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter, joined attorney Muna Jondy and former NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf to discuss the issue and legal challenges. Similar events are planned this weekend at area mosques.
“These gatherings have a therapeutic effect,” Walid said. “People in the community are concerned but also outraged. In times like this, people need to have outlets where they can commiserate with each other as well as get some hope.”
That is why Amanda Saab stood among relatives and friends in Dearborn on Friday night, solemnly reflecting on the current social climate.
Though news of other Muslims facing detainment and harassment has been “heart-breaking,” the social worker finds solace in unity.
“I’m always hopeful when I see our communities coming together,” Saab said while wearing a pink-accented hijab. “It’s so important. Together, we can overcome.”
Surrounded by supporters at the mosque, Hoda Amine, a social worker from Dearborn Heights who immigrated from Lebanon nearly 50 years ago, also was optimistic such events could spark change.
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