Dearborn, Michigan is home to highest concentration of Arabs outside of the Middle East, as well as the greatest number of Islamic institutions in the Western world. These centers and organizations have been invaluable in serving the Muslim community and in keeping Islamic traditions alive and active. Muslims throughout the Americas and Europe have envied this rare and iconic treasure of cultural and religious flourish for generations. To them, it’s a legend, a Muslim’s dreamland. Dearborners may forget that sometimes, but it’s all very true.
Nevertheless, its isolation has indeed contributed to a batch of idiosyncrasies found only in Dearborn. It wouldn’t hurt to provide our visiting outsiders with some cautionary caveats in these regards. It’s nothing to be alarmed over, of course. But here are some things about Dearborn mosques that you, my fellow outsiders, should know.
Quran Chats I think by now they’re officially part of the program. I can’t recall a time in recent memory when Quran chats were missed. Now, in the Holy Quran, God isn’t crystal clear about a whole lot. But He really hit the nail on the head in Chapter 7 Verse 204: “And when the Quran is recited, listen to it, and be silent that you may receive mercy”. In other words…well, I don’t need any “other words”. It’s that self-explanatory! Yet lo and behold, every Quranic recitation is accompanied by a jittery dose of conversational commotion. People (most often a bunch of women near the back of the hall) seem to utilize this brief segment of the program to catch up on the latest gossip. And how dare the reciter say anything to challenge them!
Despicable, but expect it.
Charity Auctions This appalling trend shocked the community when it first appeared, but it has actually become quite commonplace as of late. Mosques will designate the “holiest” nights of the year to delay their program for up to an hour or more. Why? To auction off charity for the institution, of course! Speakers will literally say, “I will not go on with the program tonight until we’ve raised 100,000 dollars,” and they’ll start taking bids. This guy for ten thousand, that guy for five. This one for a grand and we’ll throw in a couple salawaat and a takbeer to make this all seem okay.
On really holy nights, remember to bring your checkbook. And while you’re at it enjoy the show, because these can get pretty entertaining. Once they sold an orange which appeared to have the name “Muhammad” naturally scribed into it…for around three thousand dollars!
Children’s Play Pen It’s not unusual to find little children running up and down the aisles during a sermon. It’s certainly wrong, rude, and outrageous. But not the least bit unusual. Whether it’s Hide and Seek, Frozen Tag, or Masbaha (Prayer beads) Football, kids are entirely oblivious to the masses of people who are trying to listen to the speaker. To them, you’re just a great hiding place.
And where are the parents? I’m no psychic, but I’d start looking where the Quran Chats congregation is seated if I were you. Just a guess.
The Dearborn “Hijab” In Dearborn, you will find the Islamic hijab, no doubt. It may come in different forms, but it’s widespread here. But you’ll also find what I can only refer to as the “Dearborn ‘Hijab’”. I call it that for one simple reason: by no stretch of the imagination is it “Islamic”.
A young woman “covered” in a Dearborn hijab is kind of like a pile of jewelry “locked up” in colored cellophane. I’ll leave it to you to riddle over that analogy, but to put it simply? Some ladies in this town have a quirky way of “concealing their beauty and ornaments”. Full makeup, skin-tight shirts, yoga pants, and the color coordination of a peacock is a pretty lame excuse for a hijab, you may say. But no worries, my shocked and offended outsiders; once they toss on that strip of cloth over the back half of their head, then they’ve fulfilled their obligation.
Eid Dicing This has become, no doubt, an Islamic crisis. And the worst thing about it is that the whole umma is in complete denial! But yes, even here in Holy Dearborn, the Eid Wars are alive and well. A family of four celebrates Eid on three different days. And with stunning irony, they spend those three days mocking each other and bashing each other’s religious sources. So, dear outsiders, if you’re in the mosque around Eid time and you overhear the kind of rancorous, shameful, spiteful dialogue that can ensue from such conversation, please don’t be alarmed. Be red as a tomato, if you must. But don’t be alarmed.