US Day 1: The Islamic Center
The Islamic Center of America located in Dearborn was the second destination of today’s agenda. Arriving approximately at 2 PM, we were greeted warmly by Eide, one of its committees. Eide is American, but his father was Syrian. His father came to America in the 1910’s as an attempt to run away from the violence towards Shi’a (which he was) by the Sunni. Eide himself practices Shi’a but admits that he is more of a Su-shi, which is the coming together of the two groups, Sunni and Shi’a. Eide is the very few people who live with high respect and tolerance yet still is passionate of Islam. People like Eide are very hard to find even in wider scopes of religion, which is sad. Eide believes that Islam is one thing, and Muslim is another; Christian is one thing and Christianity is another; and the two cannot be combined and seen as one.
Eide explained that the Dearborn Mosque is one of the biggest mosques through out the United States of America. It does not belong to a certain group of people, though most who come are Shi’a. Even so, the mosque provides all instruments needed for the two different sects, such as the pebble or clay for sujud by the Shi’a. The most common ethnicity seen around the Mosque is Arab, but some also come from Asia and Africa. The Mosque is not only used for praying but for holy ceremonials like weddings. The weddings held are done according to the Shariah of Islam, in which music cannot be played and men and women are somewhat kept in a certain distance. Some settings may require women to be in a different kind room from men, in which the woman may take off her hijab and can dance (etc.) once she gets inside the auditorium where the wedding’s held, and men will be escorted to another room for a chat and coffee. During the holidays (such as this summer holiday) the Mosque is packed with little children (approximately 1400), both playing and being part of some learning activity. So basically it is busy all year around.
The people that go this mosque is taught of high tolerance and respect. At Christmas and Hanukkah (and any other possible religious holidays), some delegations are sent to attend the churches and synagogues to wish a happy holiday, or give a gift as a sign of respect. This way the relations and trust of one religion to another becomes stronger and better, and this is what Eide considers to be something very important as an American. Even though America does not formally recognize religion, the presence of religious communities makes one community stronger, and they all may protect each other when one is in harm. So they actually gain power by having faith, though the faith itself varies.
During our hour-long conversation, Eide dominated his part of the discussion by talking about how Sunni and Shi’a takes a big part in the Islamic world of America. He described that the two groups were very different and how very little things can create such a big conflict. However, nowadays some parts of the Islamic community are forming what is known as Su-shi, which is the coming together of the two groups. The coming together happens from marriage of individuals from the two groups, by more activities held together, etc. Eide then asked whether there were any Su-shis in Indonesia. We then explained that the presence of the two groups are not as common as in the States, but there are other Islamic organizations that create a similar divide in the Indonesian Islamic community.
The conversation, to me, was very interesting. The way Eide delivered his sentences and how he described the American Islamic way of living was so passionate. My interpretation of his passion is that Muslims in America really choose to be Islamic and are very sincere in living according to the Qur’an and Hadith. This is something that I may find slightly different from my home country, where there are still people (though maybe not much) that live under the name of Islam but only use it as a formal identification and not actually living it.
Our day ended with a tour of the insides of the Mosque, where Eide explained that he calligraphy on the walls are painted by a Catholic young man who did not wanted to be paid even a penny. He also explained why there was only one door and why there was no dividing between men and women. Again, his explanation was very interesting and I was in awe of everything he was talking about.
So that was the end of USIPP’s first day in America. Stay tuned for more stories!