Islamic centers are considered the only outlet and backbone of the Shia community in the Western countries where Muslims derive their strength and are spiritually nourished through holding various religious events during the year.
In order to know more about the Islamic centers in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest Shia Arab population in the USA, The official website of Imam Hussain interviewed Sayyed Hassan al-Qazwini, a well-known religious scholar and ex-imam of the largest and oldest Shia Islamic Center in America.
Q/ As you know, the Muslim communities' power in the country has a great impact on the decisions and laws enforced in the state; is there a role for the Dearborn Muslim communities in this matter?
Al-Qazwini: We have been working on increasing the political awareness among the Muslim community and emphasizing on the importance of political participation. It is currently a democratic system here in the United States that depends on elections and unfortunately some Muslims do not realize the significance of voting, as they consider their voice will not be heard. Nonetheless, past experiences have proven the complete opposite through the participation of the community in the elections, we were able to elect three Islamic judges, several members in the Dearborn Municipality including the President and even on a federal level, Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison.
In the last decade, there has been a rise in the political awareness among the Muslim community in the United States, using their voice in the elections and with guidance from active foundations that direct the community in voting for the best candidate and consequently affecting the decision taken by the local and federal governments.
Q/ How does the government deal with the increasing number of Muslim voters and their acquisition of positions in the government?
Al-Qazwini: As I mentioned, America's system is democratic and therefore welcomes all participations. In fact, the government encourages everyone including Muslims to vote as part of their rights to use their voices in pushing the Muslim influence. There are 350,000 Muslims in Dearborn, meaning 350,000 votes, which can have a great positive impact on the domestic policy.
Q/ Is there a special program to encourage the community to vote?
Al-Qazwini: Of course, there are political civil foundations that work on promoting the political maturity of the people of the community, through which they will know the works of the candidates and therefore electing the most suitable for their community. These foundations play a major role in enlightening the community's intellect in the fields of civil and electoral rights.
Q/ What are your future aspirations?
Al-Qazwini: Of our top future aspirations is the participation of the largest number of Muslims in the elections. If we take a look at the Jews, we witness them having a big role in the government despite the fact that they only make up 2% of the US population. 11-12% of the senate and house of reps are Jewish. This goes to say a lot about the importance of the role played by politics and the hard-fought efforts of the Jews in order to acquire a chair in the congress.
We Muslims have unfortunately lacked in this area for a great amount of time. One of the main reasons this has been happening is because of the unsophisticated minority that refuses to partake in the elections with the excuse that the US government is unlawful and cooperating with it is forbidden. We are now beginning to expand in this area and I see a big leap forward, God willing.
Q/ Do you wish for the Holy Shrine of Imam Hussein to have a role in the establishment of various projects in the United States?
Al-Qazwini: First of all, I would like to praise the role of the General Secretariat of the Holy Shrine of Imam Hussein in general and Karbala Satellite Channel in particular. Karbala Satellite Channel has played a major role in media disseminating the voice of the Ahlulbayt all over the world. Mostly every Muslim household here in the US watches this outstanding channel. However, we hope to see more programs for expatriates as they are facing many challenges. There is an urgent need for an English channel because many of our youth speak English more fluently than their mother language due to them growing up in an American society and studying it in schools. Our community is in an urgent need to a channel that will educate and direct our youth and children to the path of the Ahlulbayt and we believe Karbala Satellite Channel is the best channel for this to become a reality.
Interviewed by : Ali Tekmaji