A Model for Islam in America – Last week, a Qur’an was burned in East Lansing, Michigan. What, you didn’t hear about it? The Muslims of that community did not take to the streets in violent protest? This story is not about what happened, but about how the community responded.
In the early morning hours of September 11th, members of the Islamic Center of East Lansing found pieces of a Qur’an left on the center’s doorstep. They apparently had been smeared with feces and burned. Mosque officials filed a police report, but out of respect for 9/11 remembrances they did not alert the media. Mosque spokesperson Abdalmajid Katranji said, “We felt (Saturday) had its own purpose, its own need for reflection, and so we wanted to make sure that the focus stayed on the issue of 9/11. We did not want the messages to be mixed. We stand opposed to what happened on 9/11.”
Throughout the day, torn pages of the Qur’an were found in the city streets. Many neighbors went out to pick them up, and solemnly returned them to the center. Karen Hoehne, who picked up Qur’an pages with her 9-year-old son Elijah, spoke about her feelings: “I got real emotional at that point, because it was shameful to me. I don’t know if I felt shame… as a resident of this town, or just a general disgust with anyone who would do something like that.”
That evening, East Lansing police left an unattended police vehicle in the mosque parking lot, as a sign of support and as a deterence to any further incident. At the local Episcopal church, hundreds of people of various faiths attended a Qur’an reading, a previously-planned event to counter a Florida pastor’s plan to burn Qur’ans on that day.
On Sunday, the city mayor met with mosque officials, and the Muslim community began their Eid al-Fitr celebrations. The first notices about the incident were sent to the media. Photos of the mosque’s “peace garden” (planted recently in memory of 9/11) were run next to the story in the local newspaper. About the incident and the community’s response, Mr. Katranji said, “The goal that these guys intended to achieve, which was to incite anger or to incite controversy — they were not successful.”
This same sense of mutual respect and cooperation was felt in East Lansing last year, in different type of incident which also did not make national news. A Michigan National Guardsman, Army Major David Howell, became friendly with a 12-year-old Iraqi boy during his tour of duty in Iraq. Mohammed had been injured as a baby in a house fire, which left him with disfiguring scars and little use of his left arm. Mohammed’s father had been a translator for the U.S. Marines before he was killed by insurgents in Ramadi. After meeting Mohammed and learning his story, Major Howell arranged for him to be brought to the U.S. for medical treatment.
Back in Michigan, the greater Lansing area rallied around this young boy. Dr. Edward Lanigan and Sparrow Hospital provided medical treatment free of charge. The Greater Lansing Islamic School opened a place for Mohammed in their 5th-grade class. A host family came forward from the Muslim community in East Lansing. Major Howell arranged for Mohammed’s transport, communicated regularly with his family back in Iraq, and set up the Martyrs Medical Fund for Children, to further help the children of murdered Iraqi translators. From all corners of the community, help was provided and people worked cooperatively — with respect for personal faith, and a common sense of human values.
This is what Islam in America can and should be: Muslims living, working, contributing, sharing, and cooperating. Practicing their own faith while respecting the faith practices of others. Downplaying the ignorant acts of a few. Working together with others for the common good. ( islam.about.com )