Moral revival hinges on religious leaders
Imam Abdullah El-Amin and Dawud Walid
The religious leadership in Detroit must place its major emphasis on morality and behavior modification for our city to experience a true renaissance. New bricks and mortar will not necessarily remove the sordid actions of some, but discipline and enhanced focus on human values will. Within the past two years, we made a number of trips to Mali and Zanzibar for cross-cultural and informational purposes that reminded us that turning around Detroit’s battered economy and improving her low literacy rate are secondary items in changing the overall wellness of the city.
For instance, Bamako, Mali, whose population is about 700,000 greater than Detroit, averages 400 fewer murders per year despite it being the capital of the world’s third poorest country. Also, drug and alcohol abuse levels are staggeringly low, and out-of-wedlock births are communal rarities.
Despite these areas suffering from lower life expectancy rates due to malaria, yellow fever and higher infant mortality rates than industrialized nations, we saw a different spirit among the people and felt safer walking the streets at night than we do back home. The reason for this is simple. They have community life based upon strong families in which certain behaviors that we accept here are generally not accepted there.
The moral climate of those areas dictates the manner in which people interact. Respect for elders and the property of others is bred into the people from birth. This is in contrast to the current-day Detroit.
A number of studies such as the July 2010 report titled, “Unmarried Fertility, Crime, and Social Stigma,” in the Journal of Law and Economics state that there is a direct correlation between the rise of crime and thus depravity in populations where the out-of-birth wedlock rate is high. As good of a job that many single mothers do in raising their children without the presence of fathers and as much as we discuss overhauling the school system’s curriculum, we cannot honestly believe that maintaining the status quo of 7 of 10 children born out of wedlock in Detroit will cultivate a safer city and healthier learning environments in our schools.
The freedoms we enjoy in America allow us to have one of the best standards of living in the world, and we cherish that freedom. It also allows us to hold our religious and civic leaders to higher standards, which would transfer to leadership that enhances moral humanity rather than suppress it.
As we all share concern for improving our economy, we know that living below the poverty level does not mean that people cannot live in security and with dignity.
One of the big differences between the times of our parents and grandparents is discipline, class and respect.
Sassiness was not tolerated. It is common now to see young people use some of the vilest language in the presence of the elderly and seem unaware that their actions are unacceptable.
Perhaps the religious leaders in the city should organize a number of emergency summits of how we can begin to rejuvenate the moral climate.
One thing that we have in common as American’s various faiths is the message of human love, decency, and respect which the scriptures of the Divine contain.
Imam Abdullah El-Amin is chairman of the Muslim Center in Detroit; Dawud Walid is assistant Imam of Masjid Wali Muhammad in Detroit and CAIR-MI executive director. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.