This is Progress?
Perhaps some would consider this
progress. It seems more regressive to me.
Decades ago, Muslims could dance, listen to rock music and intermingle with the opposite sex inside the American Moslem Society mosque in Dearborn.
But all that ended after new leaders, influenced by a revival in the Middle East, adopted a more rigid interpretation of Islam.
As the mosque -- believed to be the oldest in Michigan -- celebrates more than 70 years today, local Muslims see it as an opportunity to reflect on past changes and its future.
"This mosque has been the seed for the Muslim community in Michigan," Mahdi Ali, 37, of Detroit, president of the mosque's board, said of the building near the historic Ford Rouge plant.
The mosque was opened in 1938 by Arab immigrants who hailed from what now is Lebanon and Syria, said Sally Howell, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn who studies the Muslim communities of metro Detroit. Today the mosque is predominately Yemeni-American.
From the early 1950s until the late '70s, the mosque was considered the main Islamic center of metro Detroit -- a symbolic place visited by Muslims across the region, visiting Arab leaders and non-Muslims seeking to learn about Islam.
But as immigrants from Yemen and the Palestinian territories started to move into the south end, they pushed out the old board members and took over leadership of the mosque in 1978.
The newcomers were concerned with what they saw as permissive attitudes and banned old practices such as sock-hop dances for teens, Howell said.
"They weren't quite comfortable in their Americanness yet," Howell said.
They also required women to enter through separate entrances and wear headscarves when entering the prayer hall -- practices that continue today.
The mosque is believed to be the first in Michigan to broadcast over outside speakers the Muslim call to prayer, Ali said. Over the years, it has seen several expansions, the last one in 2000, and now is 48,000 square feet.
Are Muslims becoming less comfortable in their Americanness as they are compelled by "a more rigid interpretation of Islam" to support jihad? Are any feminists going to question the mosque's practice of requiring women to enter through separate entrances? In the future, will this mosque become even more rigid as the city of Dearborn continues its transformation into a piece of the ummah
Labels: Dearborn mosque, islam, Muslims