My wife and I have lived in the Detroit area for 33 years. It is considered to be the largest Eastern Mediterranean (Middle East) group outside the Middle East. It includes Christians of most of the churches in the Arab world as well as the variety of Islamic groups. We are fortunate to have such a religious mix (including Jews, Sikhs, Bahai, Buddhists, and Hindus) since it forces us to take seriously the God-created diversity of the real world in which we live. Those of us who live here, in my experience, get along well with each other.
Recently, during the present presidential campaign, Islamophobia is on the rise. It is not unusual for me to receive one or two anti-Islam emails per month from friends who ask for a response. These emails are filled with hateful untruths suggesting that Dearborn is a center for the establishment of Islamic Shria’ throughout the country. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact one email actually made the comment “Dearborn is being run based on Islamic Sharia’” that will expand elsewhere. These are blatant lies of which people should be aware
I meet on occasion with Muslim leaders and there is no evidence that this is the case. Also, the Muslim leaders meet regularly with the local FBI and CIA representatives where information is freely shared about what is going on, in a very transparent environment. I have given leadership in interfaith activity for the time I have lived here and there is no Sharia’-controlled movement evident to everyone.
On Sunday, September 9, Littlefield Presbyterian Church, Dearborn, held an interfaith worship participated by Muslim, Sikh and Christian leaders. The larger community was invited to come. One story shared at the time of fellowship following was this: A Muslim gentleman was standing on the outside front steps along with two young Muslim women. They were hesitant to enter until the man said, “You have no need to fear. This is a safe place for all. This church respects all faiths.”
Two days later a meeting of religious leaders in Dearborn were told that Terry Jones from Florida was planning to visit Dearborn again, presumably to promote his hatred of Islam. He was here last year much to the objection of the local religious leadership. The information was intercepted on Facebook.
William Gepford is an honorably retired member of the Presbytery of Detroit, continuing on as volunteer staff of Littlefield Presbyterian Church, Dearborn as Interfaith Consultant. He is a former mission worker (with wife, Barbara) and served ten years in Lebanon (1953-1963).