Photo by Bob Oliver
Terry Jones (right), the controversial Christian pastor for the Gainesville, Fla.-based group Stand Up America Now! speaks from the steps of City Hall during the Dearborn Freedom Rally June 14. The event, which was advertised as being a “rally against Islamic Sharia Law which threatens freedom of speech in the United States” was sparsely attended. Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad (second from left) is in the background.
By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN — Just days before controversial pastor Terry Jones came to the city, three Qurans were found burning in the street outside the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center, a mosque on Warren Avenue.
No connection has been made between the book burning and Jones’ visit, but Karbalaa Center Imam Husham Al-Husainy said he has his suspicions and that police are investigating the incident.
“I have been here 20 years and this has never happened before,” Al-Husainy said. “It was a hateful action to burn the books.”
Jones, pastor of the Gainesville, Fla., group Stand Up America Now! came here June 14 to be the guest speaker in the Dearborn Freedom Rally, an event hosted by the American Patriotic Bikers.
Designed to “rally against Islamic Sharia Law which threatens freedom of speech in the United States,” the event was originally slated to be held outside of the Islamic Center of America, 19500 Ford Road, but a permit was not pulled for the gathering so it was moved in the last week to the steps of City Hall, one of the city’s designated “free speech” zones.
Jones and fellow pastor Wayne Sapp appeared, but the bikers did not, drawing the ire of Jones.
He said he was told that the bikers did not want to come to City Hall for fear of having their license plates photographed, which could lead to surveillance.
“They’re a bunch of stinking cowards,” Jones said.
Al-Husainy said he spoke with Dearborn police and Wayne County sheriffs deputies before the rally and was advised that ignoring the rally was the best response.
“We agreed and advised that the event be ignored,” Al-Husainy said. “We decided to fight back by ignoring the hate. Jones cannot bring attention to himself through love so he has chosen to do it through hate. Love is always stronger than hate.”
Al-Husainy also said he was proud of the community response to the event.
“I drove by and saw Jones speaking and saw that there weren’t too many people listening to him,” Al-Husainy said. “That is a victory, not just for Muslims, but also for Christians and everyone else in Dearborn too. We have no room for hate in our peaceful community.”
Jones has been a vocal opponent of Islam and has posted numerous messages on the Stand Up website calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants into the United States and an ending of Sharia, the moral code and religious law of Islam.
He and Sapp last visited Dearborn in October 2012, and they held a protest in front of Edsel Ford High School.
The protest was titled “Stand Up, Walk Out” and called for students at the school to walk out of the building in response to what Jones called “aggressive bullying by gangs of Muslim youths.”
Al-Husainy said he felt Jones’ opinions against Islam are un-American.
“We have always sought to strengthen our community by looking for common ground and building bridges with our neighbors,” Al-Husainy said. “We have visitors from all over coming to the center and we talk about our beliefs and listen to other voices. We have to be peaceful and learn from each other.”
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected].)