Hundreds packed a Dearborn Heights mosque Wednesday night for an interfaith Ramadan dinner that featured Jewish, Christian, Sunni, and Shia leaders preaching a message of unity and tolerance.
And tonight, the Downtown Synagogue in Detroit will host its first interfaith Ramadan dinner, inviting Muslim guests to speak and share a kosher iftar, the meal that Muslims eat at sundown after fasting all day during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The event falls on a Jewish day of fasting, an overlap that organizers say highlights commonalities between Jews and Muslims.
The two dinners are part of a number of interfaith Ramadan events that have been taking place in metro Detroit.
"The message of our faiths is the same," said Imam Mohammaed Elahi, leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, the Shia mosque that hosted Wednesday's Ramadan iftar dinner. "We have so many commonalities, much more than our differences. We need to, as the Quran teaches us, to have dialogue with the entire humanity, and especially Jews and Christians, because we share so many aspects of our faith, whether it's about God, or it's about social issues and justice."
Elahi said the Quran is "a book of interfaith" that makes many positive references to leaders revered in Judaism and Christianity: Abraham, Moses, Jesus and his mother Mary.
Imam Husham Al-Husainy, of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center, said: "We are here united, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, under the light of God. If the maple tree is able to make syrup out of the sun, than we the believers better make love and harmony and unity from the light of God."
The head of the FBI office in Detroit, Paul Abbate, also attended the Wednesday dinner, speaking to the crowd before the dinner, as did Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Islamic leaders.
Rabbi Dorit Edut, of the Downtown Synagogue, who attended the event in Dearborn Heights, said her Detroit center will host on Sunday — which is a Jewish day of fasting — Muslims to come and break their fasts. Imam Achmat Salie, of the Islamic studies program at the University of Detroit-Mercy, is expected to speak at the event, believed to be the first of its kind at the Downtown Synagogue, the only free-standing synagogue in the city of Detroit.
"In the midst of...Ramadan, there is also a Jewish fast called the 17th of Tammuz" that falls on Sunday, Edut said. "We thought it was a perfect opportunity to hold a special joint program."
For observant Jews, this Sunday "is the start of a three-week mourning period for the destruction of Jerusalem and the two Holy Temples," according to Chabad, an Orthodox Jewish group. The day also marks other tragic events in Jewish history, and includes fasting from sunrise to sundown, like Muslims do for the 30 days of Ramadan.
Called "Purpose and Meaning of Fasting in Islam and in Judaism," the Sunday event at the Detroit synagogue will include both Muslim and Jewish prayer services, followed by a kosher Ramadan dinner. Other Jewish centers in the U.S. and Canada have held similar events.
Elahi said that Ramadan is a time of cleansing of sins and reflection, calling upon religious leaders can play a role in reducing extremism in society.
"It's up to our interfaith to bring more, better guidance for our government, that in their politics, whether internal or external," Elahi said. "For example, in Syria. Out of hatred for Bashar Assad, they opened this gate of supporting terrorism. And now, ISIS is getting out of control. Now, we see it in France. Now, we see it in the United States."
Elahi also condemned domestic terrorism, expressing sympathy for the victims of the church shooting in Charleston that killed nine people, expressing "our solidarity and support with our African-American brothers and sisters."
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