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In the Name of God بسم الله

Code Of Honor Should Unite Shia, Sunnis

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Code of honor should unite Shia, Sunnis

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi

May 8, 2007

The Detroit News


"The faithful are indeed brothers. Therefore make peace between your


-- Quran 49:10

Muslims regardless of their school of thought are targets of nonstop

Islamophobic prejudice. The fear that the daily tragic news from Iraq

may ignite clashes of opinions urgently requires responsible

engagement by the highest Islamic leaders.

This Thursday at 4 p.m. will be an unforgettable moment for Muslims in

Michigan. Religious leaders from both the Shia and Sunni communities

and members of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan will

meet at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights to sign a

Muslim Code of Honor. The code commits its signers to reject extremism

in all its forms.

Hundreds of great scholars from Shia and Sunni backgrounds have

struggled to unify Muslims.

That's why there is no place for calling others nonbelievers when they

do believe. All Muslims regardless of their different interpretations

of the khelafa (successorship of the prophet) share a belief in the

unity of God, the prophethood of Mohammad, the authenticity of the

Quran and the certainty of the Day of Resurrection. There is no

disagreement over the principles of prayer, Ramadan fast, charity and

pilgrimage to Mecca.

Let us behave like the prophet with compassion, courtesy, sincerity,

humbleness, patience, dignity, fairness and understanding, recalling

that our prophet created the bond of brotherhood among citizens and

immigrants in Medina. Despite their differences, he took serious steps

against prejudice based on nationality, race and culture.

Differences in opinion are not only allowed in Islam, but critical

thinking is vital in dealing with new developments. When thinkers

disagree with piety and sincerity, and if the goal is solving

problems, variation in thinking leads every side of a debate closer to

the truth.

There are many different approaches and many similarities between the

five major Islamic schools of thought on jurisprudence. One of the

most frequent arguments between Shia and Sunni is the question of

khelafah vs. imamate(the selection of religious and political

leaders). This is something to be discussed among those interested in

theology and history, but diversity is our strength.

Religious extremism, ignorance and hunger for domination have been

exploited for many centuries in the Islamic world as part of the

divide-and-rule policy. The code of honor prevents any inflammatory

language for the sake of petty political and personal gains. We should

all pledge to avoid negative labeling that could result in false

alarms such as "the Shia Crescent" made by King Abdullah of Jordan.

We are Muslim first. At the time of the prophet, there was no

Sunni-Shia issue. We are all Sunni if that means we try to follow the

Sunna (tradition) of our holy prophet. We all are Shia if it means to

love Imam Ali and the prophet family.

I am looking forward to the day when the highest leaders of the three

Abrahamic faith traditions in America sign a similar interfaith code

of honor. While our country has had its international image damaged,

it's the duty of all people of faith to demonstrate God's wisdom and

let this country become a source of hope for humanity. Let Americans

build bridges, not walls.

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, a Shia, heads the Islamic House of Wisdom in

Dearborn Heights.



MPAC Press Release

More Than 20 Leaders Will Sign Historic Document at May 10th Press


(Detroit - 5/8/07) -- On Thursday, May 10, more than 20 prominent Shia

and Sunni Detroit area Muslim leaders will hold a press conference

where they will sign a historic "Intra-Faith Code of Honor" as a

demonstration of their commitment to speak out against communal

divisions and all forms of sectarian division and violence.

The reconciliation effort, which was initiated in February by the

Muslim Public Affairs Council, was prompted by spiraling violence in

Iraq and several incidents of vandalism in Michigan.

At the press conference, the Detroit Muslim leaders will publicly

endorse the Code of Honor, commit themselves to upholding it, and

encourage their congregations to honor the terms set forth in the

document. Among the code's guidelines are banning the practice of

takfir, judging other Muslims as nonbelievers, and forbidding hateful

speech about the beliefs and revered figures of other branches of Islam.



WHEN: Thursday, May 10th, 4:00 p.m.

WHERE: Islamic House of Wisdom

22575 Ann Arbor Trail

Dearborn Heights, MI 48127

In a statement released today, the Council of Islamic Organizations of

Michigan said:

As Muslim Americans who live and struggle for a dignified existence

for Islam and Muslims in a spirit of peaceful coexistence and respect

for all, we believe that the practical challenges of the future

supersede the ideological differences of the past. In recognition of

our communal duty to promote goodness and peace, we remain eager to

offer any help we can and to join hands with all those who wish well

for the Family of Believers (ummah) in stopping the senseless,

inhumane violence in Iraq and elsewhere in the world.

In our view, we must begin by preventing such tragic sectarianism from

spilling over into our Muslim communities in the United States. As a

first step toward this goal, we agree to live in peace and respect

each other in accordance with a 'Muslim Code of Honor.' We remain

committed to this Muslim Code of Honor not only during times of

agreement and ease but, more importantly, when faced with contentious

issues and in times of mutual disagreement.

Among the prominent leaders scheduled to attend will be Dr. Sherman

Abd al-Hakim Jackson (Univ. of Michigan Ann Arbor), Imam Hassan

Al-Qazwini (Islamic Center of America), Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi (House

of Wisdom), Imam Muhammad Musa (Muslim Unity Center), Imam Husham

Al-husainy (Karbala Islamic Educational Center), Hajj Ghalib V. Begg

(Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan), Imam Abdullah Bey

El-Amin (Muslim Center of Detroit), Imam Abdul Latif Berry (Islamic

Institute of Knowledge) and Dawud Walid (Council on American Islamic

Relations - Michigan).

The Detroit "Code of Honor" event follows similar events in recent

weeks in Los Angeles and Chicago. Other events are expected in cities

across the country in the coming weeks and months.

[CONTACT: Victor Ghalib Begg, Chair of Council of Islamic

Organizations of Michigan, 248-334-9225 or 586-808-2864;

Edina Lekovic 213-383-3443, communications @ mpac.org]


U.S. Muslims Tackle Sectarian Divisions

By ERIC GORSKI, AP Religion Writer

May 7, 2007


Muslim leaders are trying to strengthen Sunni-Shiite ties in the

United States, hoping to head off conflicts between the faith's two

major sects and get American Muslims to focus on common problems.

With sectarian divisions fueling violence in Iraq, Sunnis and Shiites

in the U.S. are increasingly wary of a spillover effect. In one public

example, leaders from both traditions have launched "Intra-faith Code

of Honor" campaigns in three cities with major Muslim populations.

So far, 20 Sunni and Shiite leaders in Southern California have signed

the first such code. The document denounces "takfir" -- the labeling

of another Muslim as a nonbeliever -- forbids hateful speech about

revered figures and urges debates at the scholarly level, not the

street level.

Similar agreements are expected to be completed this month in Detroit

and Washington, D.C.

"As technology has made information from across the globe and

information from historical conflicts more available, people have been

pondering their self-identity," said Salam Al-Marayati, executive

director of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council, which

is helping organize the effort. "That has brought a requirement to

appreciate the nuances, but it's also brought challenges."

Those include questions over how prayer is conducted, said Dr. Maher

Hathout, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Southern California,

which eschews Sunni or Shiite labels. The honor code urges

congregations to follow worship traditions of whichever groups is in

the majority locally, an issue that has arisen over the Shiite custom

of combining some of Islam's five daily prayers, Hathout said.

Another concern is keeping virulently sectarian literature from the

Middle East out of American mosques.

"As much as we can make clear the Muslim-American identity is not a

natural extension of the Middle East, the better off we'll be," he said.

Other steps under discussion include gathering national Sunni and

Shiite leaders, workshops at mosques and political analysis of Middle

East trends "so people are not caught off guard," Al-Marayati said.

Although no reliable data exists, it is presumed America's estimated 2

million to 6 million Muslims are 85 percent to 90 percent Sunni and 10

percent to 15 percent Shiite, reflecting the global breakdown.

Conflicts have been few, scholars say, in part because this country's

Muslim population is relatively small. Plus, immigrant U.S. Muslims

tend to be prosperous and are melding into society instead of

clustering in poorer neighborhoods, which has caused conflict in Europe.

Theological divisions between Sunnis and Shiites are less pronounced

than, say, those separating Roman Catholics and Protestants, Muslim

scholars emphasize. The main dividing line: a disagreement over

succession that began after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.

In the Detroit area -- home to the nation's largest concentration of

Muslims -- Shiites blamed Sunnis for vandalism at Shiite-affiliated

mosques and businesses after the execution of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni

who repressed the Shiite majority in Iraq.

Shiite Imam Hassan Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America in

Dearborn, Mich., the largest mosque in North America, said sectarian

tensions are not a serious problem, and most Sunnis and Shiites get along.

At the same time, intra-faith efforts can address the graver problem

of anti-Muslim sentiment, he said. Bias incidents against Muslims

including harassment, violence and discrimination rose nearly

one-third last year to a 12-year high, according to the Council on

American-Islamic Relations.

"Shiites and Sunnis need to work together so we can face our joint

challenges," Qazwini said.

Ihsan Bagby, an associate professor of Islamic studies at the

University of Kentucky, said challenges posed by the terrorist

attacks, the first Gulf War and the ongoing war in Iraq have united

Sunni and Shiites in the United States more than divided them.

"There's never really been a very strong ecumenical movement in

Islamic history that has really tried to forge understanding," he

said. "Maybe this is the beginning of it."


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