This is a story that I’ve been following since it first started to develop a week or so ago and considering that today is the annual “National Day of Prayer” I thought it would be apropos to talk about it. It concerns a relatively well-known city in the Metro Detroit area called Hamtramck and how a changing population has led to a clash of religious cultures. Outside of Michigan Hamtramck is known for two particular traits: 1) it’s literally a city inside a city in the sense that it is surrounded on all sides by the city of Detroit (as is Highland Park) and 2) it’s traditionally a Polish enclave. Over the last ten years, however, there has been a ten fold increase in the city’s Asian population and these immigrants have brought their Muslim beliefs with them. For the most part the largely Catholic white citizens have managed to get along pretty well with the growing Muslim population in their midst, or at least they’ve managed to hide their resentment of the newcomers up until recently, but simmering tensions finally boiled over due to a request to the city council by the al-Islah Islamic Center for permission to broadcast the Islamic call to prayer over outdoor loudspeakers for about two minutes five times a day. Suddenly the resentment and bigotry came to the surface:
They can believe whatever they want to, but IӒm against them pushing their content into my head like brainwashing, said Joanne Golen, 68, a lifelong Hamtramck resident. ԓThere are seven mosques in the city, and Ill be in the middle of all of them.Ҕ … Though the calls to worship are in Arabic, Golen said shes offended by words that praise Allah. ғHes not my true God,Ҕ Golen said. I canӒt stay locked in my house with cotton in my ears every time they do it. … “It says Allah is the one and only God. I am Christian. My God is Jesus Christ. That is my only objection—that I have to listen to a God other than the one I believe in praised five times a day.”—Detroit News
Oh how terrible it is to be exposed to religious traditions outside of your own! Keep in mind that Hamtramck has many Christian churches several of which ring bells for various reasons throughout the day. The Muslims argue that the call to prayer is the same as the ringing of church bells and have agreed to conditions prohibiting them from broadcasting the call to prayer before 6AM or after 10PM. This isn’t without precedent in Michigan as Dearborn has a very large Muslim population and for the last 15 years the American Muslim Society’s mosque has broadcast daily prayers there, though it is true that most mosques in America keep their broadcasts indoors if the neighborhood isn’t largely Muslim. While the city council weighed the issue upset Christians didn’t sit idly by waiting to see what the decision would be. Petitions were circulated and lawsuits were threatened though most legal scholars don’t think there’s much that can be done about it. Technically the mosque didn’t even need to ask permission under the law as it stands, but they did so out of a sense of being a good neighbor. This is what they get for trying to be polite:
ԓIve made friends. I go to their weddings. (But) weҒre losing our tradition and Im getting mad,Ҕ Alice Dembowski said. If theyӒre going to live in America, why cant they be more American?Ҕ—Detroit News.
Jackie Rutherford, a librarian and youth-care worker, sat on her front stoop watching three men in Islamic shirt-dresses and tupi caps at the house across the street. “I don’t know what’s going to happen to our little town,” said Ms. Rutherford, 39.
“I used to say I wasn’t prejudiced against anyone, but then I realized I had a problem with them putting Allah above everyone else,” she said, of the plan to amplify the call to prayer, which mosques announce five times a day. “It’s throwing salt in a wound. I feel they’ve come to our country, infiltrated it, and they sit there looking at us, laughing, calling us fools.”—New York Times
A number of citizens have shown their ignorance of what their Constitutional rights are in this issue:
“My main objection is simple,” she said. “I don’t want to be told that Allah is the true and only God five times a day, 365 days a year. It’s against my constitutional rights to have to listen to another religion evangelize in my ear.”—Joanne Golen
“Everyone talks about their rights. The rights of Christians have been stripped from them. Last week there were Muslims praying downstairs, in a public building. If Christians tried to do that, the A.C.L.U. would shut us down.”—Chuck Schultz
Call to Prayer in Michigan Causes Tension – New York Times
“Where are my rights? Where are the rights of all the people who have lived in this community all of their lives? I do not have a choice as to whether I hear this or not.”—Mary Urbanski Hamtramck prayer OK prompts outrage
There’s nothing in the Constitution that says you never have to listen to another religion evangelize to you (which the call to prayer doesn’t do anyway). If there was I would have invoked it against all the idiots who keep trying to convert me to Christianity a long time ago. Nor would the ACLU shut your Christian group down simply for making use of a public building as long as it wasn’t as a result of government support. And, no, you don’t have a choice as to whether you hear the call to prayer or not. Just like the Muslims don’t have a choice on hearing the Christian church bells chime on the hour, every hour, every day. You people need to get a friggin’ clue.
On Tuesday the Hamtramck city council unanimously approved the amendment to the noise ordinance giving an official blessing, if you’ll pardon the pun, for the broadcasts to begin next week. Needless to say the Catholic opponents are outraged and have vowed that this isn’t the end of the issue.
The Hamtramck City Council’s unanimous approval Tuesday night of a plan to allow the Muslim call to prayer to be broadcast on loudspeakers five times a day in Arabic has outraged many of the city’s Polish Catholic residents.
They said they’ll start a petition drive to bring the issue to a vote. Others have said they’ll file lawsuits in federal court. Some plan to move.
“I’d hate to see it go this route, but unfortunately, it’s going to go this route,” said resident Robert Zwolak.—
I must say, though, that the award for most undisguised bigotry combined with being totally clueless has to go to this woman:
Maria Radtke, a Polish immigrant who fled a Europe devastated by World War II, said Tuesday that it irks her that Muslims don’t seem to be trying to fit into American culture the way she did when she first came to the United States.
“When you come to this country . . . adjust to the customs and beliefs of this country. I respect their religion. I respect their faith. But you cannot wear this on your sleeve.
“Fifty-two years ago when I came to this country, every nationality lived in their own community, and really, it was peaceful. And now politicians made a melting pot where you can live anywhere you want. That made a disaster.”—Detroit Free Press
Can you believe that? In this day and age someone is actually complaining that in America you have the freedom to live anywhere you want. Damn those politicians and their promotion of diversity! Now she has to be exposed to cultures and beliefs that are different from her own! In the minds of these people this is the same as being told their beliefs are wrong and they seriously think they have some Constitutional right not to be told they are wrong. All the Muslims want is to be treated fairly and to enjoy the same privilege already granted to their Christian neighbors. Not every Christian in Hamtramck is opposed to this and many agree with their Muslim counterparts, but the amount of opposition is still impressive.
On this “National Day of Prayer” we’ll be told repeatedly that prayer is always a good thing and should be engaged in daily. That people of all faiths should come together and pray for the blessings from whatever concept of God(s) they may have to be bestowed upon our country, our communities and our families. We will hear of countless stories where the power of prayer has righted some wrong or cured some incurable disease or turned someone’s life around and we’ll be encouraged to make daily prayer a habit because it’s always a good thing. Yet here in Michigan we have a perfect example of just how a daily prayer can cause as much harm as good and can bring hidden prejudices and fears to the surface. It reveals just how poorly many Americans understand what their rights are and just how selfish they can be in allowing others to enjoy the same freedoms and privileges they claim for themselves. Not to mention how little they understand the teachings of their own religion.