ICA considers banning Israeli military officers after objections raised

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The Islamic Center of America in Dearborn said it is looking into ensuring Israeli military officers will not be allowed back at the mosque after a recent visit caused an uproar.

An Israeli officer was part of a group almost 70 military officers from various countries who attended a breakfast at the ICA April 14, put on through the National Defense University’s nationwide tour.

“Our Board of Trustees and administration will take the necessary measures to ensure that no Israeli military personnel will be received at the ICA in the future, as we continue our interfaith outreach program,” the ICA posted on its Facebook page.

Members of the mosque let their voices be heard on social media and in person after they packed one of the ICA’s prayer rooms on May 4 and May 6.

On May 5 the ICA posted a statement on its Facebook page addressing the backlash.

“For over the last 10 years, the National Defense University, through the State Department, has requested to visit the Islamic Center of America to learn about Islam in the United States,” the statement read. “Consistent with our policy to engage with those seeking knowledge about our faith, we hosted their delegation. This function was part of an interfaith effort and its objective was strictly educational. We addressed the group as a whole … without distinction of nationality and/or political background.”

Mosque members held another meeting on May 12 where tensions between ICA representatives and the crowd grew intense.

Some of those in attendance called for cancellation of the entire gathering which has been hosted by the ICA for a decade to teach attendees about Islam in the United States and Dearborn.

A main concern by members was that Israeli military are responsible for killings and attacks against the Arab population in countries like Lebanon, Syria and Palestine.

While the U.S. embassy opened in Jerusalem May 14, protests continued to rage on the Gaza border in which 59 Palestinians were killed.

The ICA then posted another statement on Facebook stating it will understand the community’s concerns and all consider banning Israeli military personnel.

“Recently, the Islamic Center through its interfaith program, based upon a State Department request, received a delegation of 67 military officers from countries around the world,” the statement read. “Without the Board’s prior knowledge, regretfully, the delegation included one Israeli officer. The Center never had or will have any intentions of honoring such officers. We understand and support the concerns raised by members of our community to such a visit.”

According to the ICA, the board members will decide the future of Israeli military at the mosque on a later date.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)