Ground Zero Mosque leader calls for unity, healing
Protesters interrupt after speech to 500
By NAOMI R. PATTON
Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
In his first public speaking engagement in Dearborn — months after controversy flared over the construction of an Islamic Center blocks from where the World Trade Center towers fell in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf spoke of affirming the Muslim identity and unity as Arab Americans.
The speech, titled, “The Need for True Collaboration Across Sectarian and Racial Lines to Achieve Islamic And American Ideals,” was part of the first ever Islamic Society of North America Diversity Forum held Friday and Saturday.
Speaking in a subdued tone to the crowd of about 500 people at the Detroit Doubletree Hotel, Rauf said he was surprised the local story of Park51, also known as the Ground Zero Mosque, became an international story.
He said American Muslims can have an impact, because they are being watched as a community.
“Our obligation is to shift the discourse,” he said. “Find a way to make sure who we are and what we represent becomes a recipe for healing.”
Earlier in the night, the Virginia-based Christian Action Network, a group opposed to Park51, showed the documentary “Sacrificed Survivors: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Mega-Mosque,” at the nearby Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.
After the film ended, Jason Campbell, project manager for Christian Action Network, and a film crew came to the Doubletree to confront Rauf to appeal to him to move the project away from Ground Zero. They were peaceful and left without incident.
“Why doesn’t he come talk to us,” Campbell said, adding that families of Sept. 11 victims consider Ground Zero a graveyard. The group plans to follow Rauf on his speaking tour across the country, showing the documentary.
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan, said groups like CAN want to portray American Muslims as villains.
“Our Constitutional rights are not going to be sacrificed to their desires,” Walid said.