Community rally sends unified message to extremists
By Samer Hijazi | Friday, 10.05.2012, 12:10 PM

DEARBORN — A message was heard loud and clear last Friday evening in Dearborn when a community rally standing up against violence and hate was held at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center located on Michigan Ave. 
DEARBORN — A message was heard loud and clear last Friday evening in Dearborn when a community rally standing up against violence and hate was held at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center located on Michigan Ave.
Over 1,000 participants turned out to condemn hate speech and violence, while also standing up for the prophets of God, including Prophet Muhammad. 
The event included speeches from several local, political and religious leaders, who all supported a unified message as a community in response to the recent attacks against the religion of Islam, which intensified over the last several weeks after an anti-Islamic video was uploaded on Youtube and caused worldwide outrage.  The event started with a message from Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News, who told the packed venue that despite the intimidation that might have led the Muslim community into silence, he was glad to see the strong turnout to this particular event. 
"When you were called to duty to come and stand up for Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and all the messengers of God, you said 'when and where' and now you are all here today. They keep dividing us into Sunni and Shi’a, but today all of us stand here more importantly as Muslims, more importantly as Americans and more importantly as human beings to condemn the violence, the hate, the extremism, the terrorism and the attack on our prophet," Siblani told the crowd. 
The venue was packed with women and men of all ages as well as children and teenagers, many of whom held signs that demonstrated their love for the prophet and signs that denounced all forms of hate speech. Some of the signs in the audience included ones that read "We love Prophet Muhammad" and "Stand up against hate." Religious leaders from local mosques were also present at the event, some of them taking the podium to speak in both English and Arabic.
"I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to come here to raise your voice in condemning the filthy movie that degrades our holy prophet in such a horrible way. We are gathering here to say that we as Muslims and all Muslims around the world do not accept this kind of bigotry. Freedom of speech does not entitle these bigots to attack our holy prophet," stated Hassan Al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America. 
Siblani also weighed in on the topic of freedom of speech, telling the crowd that the community is not looking to remove or modify the First Amendment as has been claimed by ultra conservative pundits, but are instead here to denounce the extremists who use hate speech to incite violence. 
"To the contrary, we value freedom and we cherish its values," he said. 
Attorney Tarek Beydoun, who was one of the lead organizers of the event, got the crowd involved through the use of social media, telling the audience to take a picture of the packed room and use their Twitter accounts to send a tweet with the message "#stopthehate." 
The event also included a strong turnout from both non-Muslims and non-Arabs. Paint Creek Unitarian Church Of Rochester as well as church representatives from the cities of Farmington, Lansing, Southfield and Grosse Pointe were also present at the event, making a point that Christians are willing to peacefully stand side by side with Muslims. Reverend Leonetta Bugleisi of the Unitarian Church took the stage to send a peaceful interfaith message.  
"It is time for us to highlight common beliefs among neighbors rather than taking the lowest interpretation of the media, and the extremist approach. Unitarian Universalists stand on the side of love and they stand on the side of the Islamic people in our town and beyond...we are here tonight because we want you to know that Unitarian Universalists are your friends. There is no room for hate," Reverend Bugleisi stated. 
Other speakers at the event included David Sole from the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice, Donnell White, the Executive Director from the NAACP-Detroit, Reverend Maya Reynolds from Rev. Wendell Anthony’s Fellowship Chapel, Congressman John Conyers Jr., Sheikh Magdy from the Dearborn Community Center, Sheikh Mohammed Ali Berro of the Islamic Council of America, and Judge Richard Halloran from the Wayne County Circuit Court.  Also in attendance were Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly, State Representative George Darany, Wayne County Commissioner Gary Woronchak and and Dearborn School Board member Roxanne McDonald. 

By Samer Hijazi

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