Tensions in Dearborn, Michigan were eased on Friday after a planned protest at one of the largest Islamic centers in the country by a small group that included controversial Pastor Terry Jones was cancelled.
A group that was widely expected to protest in front of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan on Good Friday cancelled its plans after numerous appeals by other civic and religious organizations.
The Fraternal Order of the Dragon, as the 15-member group is known, claimed to have no affiliation with Pastor Terry Jones, who had announced his intention to join in the protest. Jones is the Florida pastor who burned a copy of the Koran, an event that led to widespread protests in Afghanistan.
“The protest has been canceled,” Frank Fiorello, the group’s president, told the Dearborn Press and Guide. “We decided to (have the meeting) instead of the protest. . . I never believed Dearborn was under Sharia law.”
Mr. Fiorello further explained that the group's protest was in response to a "pro-Sharia" demonstration in Washington DC that was orchestrated by Anjem Chaudary, an extremist Muslim cleric from England. The Daily Mail reported in late February that Mr. Chaudary intended to call on Muslims to "rise up and establish an Islamic state in America." However, Chaudary's demonstration was also cancelled.
“With Chaudary protesting for Sharia in Washington we felt that our best impact would be to come to the largest mosque in North America to do our protest. That was the only idea behind it, nothing more,” Fiorello said, according to the Dearborn Press and Guide.
But the Islamic Center of America saw the protest as something significantly more.
"The interfaith community will come together to affirm our unity as residents of southeast Michigan in supporting the inalienable freedom to practice religious beliefs in peace and without persecution," the Islamic Center of America posted on its website on Thursday. "To those who would draw lines of hate to divide us we will respond that it is actually our diversity that strengthens and unites us as Americans...In answer to those who would come to our community to promote religious bigotry through misinformation and fear our interfaith community will respond with the universal message embraced among all of our faith traditions; '…want for your neighbor what you would have for yourself.' The Islamic Center of America wishes our Interfaith Brothers and Sisters of the Christian and Jewish Community a most Peaceful Easter and Passover Season."
The Terry Jones affiliation likely did not help matters.
“We were never really affiliated with Terry Jones,” Fiorello said, as Dearborn Press and Guide reported. “He asked to come out in the beginning of March and we agreed not knowing who he was or anything he stood for really – like, ‘you want to protest with us, that’s fine.'”