Anti-Islam gathering in Dearborn protested, defended

Anti-Islam advocates from across the U.S. gathered Sunday in Dearborn for a conference to bring attention to what they say is a problem of Muslim honor killings.

About 150 gathered at the Hyatt in Dearborn for the Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference, named after a 20-year-old Arab-American Muslim woman who was killed by her stepfather last year in Warren.

But at another conference in Detroit, about 100 people gathered earlier in the day to oppose the anti-Islam conference, saying it was the latest attack on metro Detroit’s Arab-American and Muslim communities. Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the U.S., many of them Muslim.

“We stand for America,” said Osama Siblani, publisher of the Dearborn-based Arab-American News, at a panel at the DoubleTree hotel in Detroit. “And they (anti-Muslim activists) stand against America and against the American way of life.”

Later, at the Hyatt, the message was the opposite. People gathered there said they are the ones who are standing up for the U.S. Constitution, freedom and justice. Islamic law “asserts authority over non-Muslims,” said Pamela Geller, a blogger from New York City who often writes about Islamic extremism.

Robert Spencer, an author who also speaks out against Islamic extremism, said he and others have been unfairly labeled as bigots. “There is nothing hateful about saying we want everybody to be subjected to the same law,” he said. Spencer said that Islam teaches Muslims to rule over non-Muslims and subject them to second-class status.

Geller said Mokdad’s death was a honor killing based on Islam, but Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Bill Cataldo told the Free Press on Friday it was not. The family of Mokdad is opposed to the anti-Islam conference and didn’t want Mokdad’s name on it, Cataldo said.

Imam Hassan Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn said at the Arab-American conference in Detroit: “Honor killing has no religious roots in Islam.”

Speakers also included U.S. Reps. John Conyers and Hansen Clarke, both Detroit Democrats, as well as Daniel Kirchbaum, executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. It was organized by the Arab American Institute, based in Washington, D.C.

Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said the anti-Muslim activists are “against our true American values.”

Detroit Free Press, 30 April 2012