In the last few weeks, intimidating acts have been aimed at Jewish and Muslim communities in Michigan. In Ann Arbor, a bomb threat forced the evacuation of a Hebrew Day School. In Dearborn, threats have been called into Muslim community centers and mosques.
David Shtulman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor, and Kassem Allie, executive administrator for the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, joined Stateside to discuss their responses to these acts.
Shtulman said that the Jewish community is becoming more and more concerned. Anti-Semitism has been on the rise over the last few years, he noted, first in Europe but now also in the United States. Although the Hebrew School’s evacuation procedure went “extremely smoothly,” and some younger students may have even considered it an “unexpected field trip,” anxiety remains.
For Shtulman, President Trump’s short statement condemning anti-Semitism is not a sufficient reaction. But he’s also concerned about the reaction from some who oppose the president.
“Instead of talking about resisting whoever is in power,” he said, “why don’t we talk about trying to work with and change the attitude of those who are in power?"
“Coming together for a cause is a much more productive manner of approaching something than resisting it at all costs,” he said.
Like Shtulman, Allie also characterized his community’s mood as “one of anxiety.” Muslim organizations like Allie’s have received a range of negative calls, including many from people who say that Sharia is incompatible with the Constitution.
Allie said that for most calls, he tries to respond with an open heart and “inform [callers] of what the reality is in regard to Sharia, Islam, and the Constitution.” He said he tells callers that Islam is “totally compatible” with civic law in the United States, and the religion is one of peace and diversity.
"We have, obviously, a faith that teaches us certain traditions, certain rules, and practices that we must abide by based on our traditional faith - not unlike the Jewish community, and not unlike the Catholic and Christian community," he says.
Some callers do seem to want to “intimidate and bully” Muslims. His organization alerts authorities when they are threatened. But many calls, Allie said, are from out of state, not from Dearborn or its neighbors.
Ultimately, Allie wants to respond to each call in its own context.
“We embrace civil rights and freedom of speech,” he said. “However, we will protect our own civil rights and our own freedom of speech and our own ability to practice our faith.”
Hear more from our interviews from David Shtulman and Kassem Allie above.