Background and Purpose
Unity is a goal Muslims strive toward, but in many ways, the community is divided. Some aspects of this diversity are positive (after all, we were created in nations in tribes to know one another), while others are negative. Since 2011, the Diversity Forum has offered a platform for the Muslim community to discuss difficult issues (e.g., sectarian tensions, segregation and stereotyping) and also to propose and develop ideas to overcome such challenges and build on our diversity. The idea is to congregate disparate groups in the Muslim community in one room to get to know one another and openly discuss problems, solutions, and ways to work together.
Planning for the first Diversity Forum started in 2010, as MMCC (then CIOM) and ISNA looked for ways to collaborate and build a relationship in Michigan. Imam (Dr.) Muneer Fareed, familiar with both ISNA and the Detroit community, suggested a focus on diversity related issues, given the unique mix Detroit has along ethnic, sectarian, and socioeconomic lines. With this inspiration, a team of local community activists (including Syed Mohiuddin, S. N. Syed, Saeed Khan, Raheem Hanifa, Zafar Razzacki, Erica Vandenberg, Farhan Latif, Sofia Begg, Muhi Khwaja, Killoud Dabaja, Nadia Bazzy, Tariq Hafeez, and Kashif Siddiqi) partnered with ISNA to turn the Diversity Forum vision into a successful annual event. Now, Muslim leaders from across America are looking to Detroit's Diversity Forum model as a framework to facilitate difficult conversations in their own communities.
Outcomes and Next steps
The 2011 Diversity Forum at the Dearborn/Detroit Doubletree was a success, with ~500 attendees braving the snow on MLK weekend to generate many intriguing ideas (DF 2011 takeaways). One such idea, the Mosque Tour, was successfully launched later in 2011 through the efforts of Imam Dawud Walid, Saima Akhtar, and Ismail Ali. A second Diversity Forum was convened in Dearborn's Islamic Center of America in 2012, illustrating that despite the sectarian tensions facing the global community, we can still come together to try and resolve our differences.
The conversations facilitated by the Diversity Forum format need to happen in Muslim communities across America, where segregation and divisions are common. MMCC will continue to support such dialogue in Detroit. However, the focus is now on turning more of the ideas from past Diversity Forums to strengthen our community into reality.
Michigan Muslim Community Council
30701 Woodward Avenue, Suite 310
Royal Oak, MI 48073,