Tag Archives: dearborn

A year after the death of WD Mohammed

One year ago today we were in the Dearborn/Detroit area in the fist stages of our trip when we heard the news of the passing of WD Mohammed. Madeeha wrote beautifully about it then. We visited the Muslim Center of Detroit that evening for Iftaar and a special prayer for WD Mohammed.

A year later, I am still struck by the man. We asked people throughout the country who their role models were. Many African American Muslims said WD Mohammed. After a year of hearing about the man, his legacy and all that he did for the country, I would put him at the top of my list as well.

Before the trip started, I knew very little about the impact of WD Mohammed. I knew his history and when he died , I knew it would be a big deal. But his cultural import, and the direction and heroic vision he gave to African American Muslims have been staggering to me.

He changed the direction of the African American Muslim community, led them from his father’s Nation of Islam to Sunni Islam, and encouraged Muslims to integrate into American life.

One Imam told me that WD Muhammed is the reason that he and many other African Americans “are not on the street selling drugs, hangin’ with the gangs. People don’t understand what he did for America in taking African Americans to mainstream Islam.  We could have been gangbangers; instead we live the best life we can”.  We heard this same sentiment over and over—that he saved peoples lives, kept them off the streets, inspired many to work in the community instead of being part of the destruction of the community.

The communities that followed his examples were, to me, the most inspiring that we met. His impact on the Muslim community is rivaled by none as far as I can tell and yet the  anniversary of his death is nowhere to be found in the mainstream media while we are on our third month of Michael Jackson memorials. Today, I think we should remember the man and be thankful for his extraordinary legacy.

Jonathan Hayden

Don’t Judge, Just Listen and Learn

The team had iftaar and broke the fast during Ramadan with Imam Qazwini at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn. Michigan. This oppurtunity, like so many other events for me on this journey, was an experience which I have never had before. It was my first ever visit to a predominantly Shia mosque. Prior to this journey, I was somewhat guilty of perceiving Shias in a similar way in which history books, media outlets, and American political leaders have portrayed Shiaism as anti-American, inherently violent, and politically radical. In meeting Imam Qazwini, all of those rumors have come to fruition as false. Now, I know that I can never judge anyone or any group until I engage face-to-face with them.

In driving down the Ford Highway, the Center becomes visible from a ways away, as its grandiose minaret sticks out amongst its neighboring churches. The outside of the Center is even more aesthetically pleasing at night, as it illuminates the dark horizon with a white glow. Inside of it, beautiful Islamic calligraphy lines the walls of the main prayer room while sparkling mosque shaped chandeliers hang from the ceilings. The Center itself is undoubtedly striking in its appearance, but its preeminance is much deeper than the majestic looking building itself.

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A visit with Iranians, “30 Days” and Dearborn/Detroit

We had a really great day last Thursday in St. Louis. Starting at breakfast hosted by the lovely Ms. Susan Zuckerman, our journey was blessed by a Rabbi. This isn’t an interfaith project and we are on a mission to listen, not to convince anyone of anything, but a blessing by a Rabbi was a great way to start the trip.         

Following breakfast, Dr. Ahmed, Frankie and Hailey went to a lunch and got some great information. Hopefully, one of them will be blogging about that later. After that, me, Madeeha, Craig and Frankie went to a meeting at Mayor Slay’s office where we met with the Mayor and had a discussion on American identity.

Hailey, Madeeha and I then ventured out into the night viiting Webster University and finally after an exhausting day headed to a dessert organized by Parsa Bastani from ISPU and hosted at the Bastani family’s home. The Bastani family was great. They gathered about 15 people to discuss some of the issues that we are researching. This was an Iranian focus group and one with strong opinions. Some were new to the US and some had been in St. Louis for a long time. This was by far the most open and honest discussion that I was involved in during our stay in St. Louis.

We discussed several very sensitive subjects, from Israel, to President Ahmedinejad, to American arrogance–”you have the World News Tonight with only what is happening in America, you have the World Series and you only play with each other”, we were told by one man. He had a point on that one.

We may post some of the video from the discussion. Some of it was very critical of American culture and I’d love to hear some reaction to it. I know some will say “If you don’t like it, get out.” We’ve heard this already a number of times. I’ll save my opinion for later.

At the end of the evening, when we asked one man with some of the strongest criticisms what he admired most about America, he said “that we can have conversations like this”. Indeed.

As in Journey into Islam we are having many conversations like this very often and as researchers we have to remain impartial when you disagree and even when you agree. We’re just here to listen.

We arrived in Dearborn, Michigan late Friday night and were all exhausted but excited about a new challenge in a new city.

On Saturday night in Dearborn, I had the chance to talk to Shameal Haque who starred on “30 Days” for an episode. This is the reality show where a person immerses himself in some culture or lifestyle and has to adjust and learn from his or her surroundings. He and his family hosted a Christian man from West Virginia who knew nothing of Islam but the stereotypes. It was a really interesting episode. I would suggest taking a look. Here’s the link.
Here’s my conversation with him.

Also, as you may have noticed, the blog addressed has changed to wwww.journeyintoamerica.wordpress.com Bookmark it.
Jonathan Hayden