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Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims March in Dearborn

posted on: Feb 15, 2009

Thousands of Shi’ite Muslims trudged through snow-covered sidewalks in Dearborn Sunday afternoon in a procession to remember the death of a Muslim leader killed in 7th century Iraq.

The 2-mile procession featured colorful flags in honor of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Islam’s prophet, religious songs, and cries of “We support you, Oh Hussain.”

The worshippers started at the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center on Warren Ave., the main commercial strip of Dearborn, and then walked to nearby Hemlock Park. There, they recited poetry and tapped their chests in mourning rituals known as latmiya.

Dearborn Police Lt. Wayne Seccombe estimated the crowd was between 2,000 and 5,000.

“We are here as lovers of Imam Hussain, lovers of freedom, of justice, of democracy,” said Imam Husham Al-Husainy, the head of the Karbalaa center and the parade’s organizer. “Imam Hussain is still alive with us, even though he was martyred 1400 years ago. His spirit is still alive.”

The parade was held close to the 40th day after the death anniversary of Imam Hussain, who was killed in battle. Shi’ite Muslims, a minority among the broader Muslim community, remember Hussain every year during a holiday known as Ashura.

Forty days after the anniversary of Hussain’s death is another holy day called Arbaeen, around which a procession is often held. In Iraq, millions have taken part in such processions after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. Under Saddam Hussein’s rule, such public displays of Shi’ite religious belief were often banned.

In metro Detroit, the Arbaeen parades started in 2004 and have grown in size each year, attracting Shi’ite Muslims from across the Midwest and parts of Canada. The crowd was mostly Iraqi-American, with some draping Iraqi flags on their back. Imam Hussain was killed in the city of Karbalaa, Iraq.

“We don’t want to forget the message that Imam Hussain delivered 1400 years ago,” said Basel Taki, 46, of Akron, Ohio. “This message is for all human beings. We will never forget to be right, be fair, to do the right thing.”

Taki came to Dearborn for the parade with his wife, parents, and baby son, who was pushed in a stroller.

When the crowd reached Hemlock Park, they gathered before large paintings of Imam Hussain. Other posters depicted Shi’ite shrines in Iraq that have been attacked by radical Sunni Muslims in recent years. The marchers talked about how last week, a suicide bomber killed a number Shi’ite pilgrims in Iraq who were gathering for Arbaeen in Iraq.

Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press