Burton — Iman Meyer-Hoffman of Tyrone Township sits in prayer with other women, including two from the Fenton area. The Saturday night service at the Sufi mosque began around 8.p.m., with men and women sitting on separate floors, with richly detailed area rugs and wall art.
Tonight, the closest service to 9/11, this congregation adds a prayer for peace, understanding and for the dead.
The terrorist attacks that happened 12 years ago today changed several things about the world, like airport security and the national sense of safety — not to mention the subsequent wars touched off at least in part by the events.
For Muslims like Meyer-Hoffman, non-Muslims around her suddenly took an interest in their religion, as it is widely believed a radical Islamist group carried out the attacks.
Michigan is home to one of the largest populations of Muslims in the U.S., with The Islamic Center of America in Dearborn. The Fenton area is home to several families that attend the mosque in Burton.
“People became a little more aware that we’re part of the American fabric,” she said. “I think there was change, and some of it was really quite good.” She is Michigan Interfaith Director for the Islamic Supreme Council of America.
She wears a hijab, the head scarf associated with Muslim women as a part of their faith. The night of the attacks, Meyer-Hoffman was at a candlelight vigil for the victims and likely the only Muslim. A woman she didn’t know who was standing nearby gave her a hug, and thanked her for attending.
She said this mosque was the first permitted in Michigan after 9/11, and because of this, she’ll always feel a connection between that day, and her mosque in Burton. “We’re very tied to it, just for that feeling,” she said. “This mosque didn’t exist before 9/11.”
This particular mosque has around 35 local families, a little less than half of which hail from the Fenton area. Because it’s a Sufi mosque (as opposed to Shia or Sunni) they draw from as far as Saginaw and Windsor, Ont., as the only Sufi mosque in the state.
Though she has heard that the terrorist attacks have created negative feeling toward Muslims individually, she has never encountered vitriol for being a Muslim. “Americans, as a whole, are a kind and tolerant people,” she said. It also helps to worship in a diverse urban area.
And also, “people who go to church actually understand people who go to mosque better than those who don’t go to church,” she said. “All believe in God, doing it in their own way.”
Muslims believe that Muhammad is the Prophet of God — but also that Adam and Jesus were prophets as well.
Fenton has a strong Catholic following, with thousands being apart of the several local churches. In short, “people who worship, understand other people who worship,” she said.
When people seek to understand Islam through questions, they sometimes ask about her head scarf, or what Muslims believe. She can offer a short, or lengthy explanation.
Meyer-Hoffman has lived in Tyrone Township for more than a year, and said residents are just as nice in Fenton as they were in Grand Blanc where she previously lived.
“I don’t think Americans are surprised to see Muslims anymore,” she said. Some people before 9/11, had never heard of Islam. For the most part, she said this is a positive change, though some will never divorce their association of terroristists with the overwhelming majority of Muslims who subscribe to peace.
“There are people that attach so much negativity to the term that you can’t converse about it,” she said.
Rehma Maroof, 17, a senior at Fenton High School, is too young to remember the attacks, and grew up in the post 9/11 world. She’s a Muslim Indian, with Muslim parents who largely did not experience negativity, like more attention at airport security. She has however seen generalizations about Islam drawn. “Every religion condemns violence,” she said.
The media portrayal of Islam for the most part was fair, said Meyer-Hoffman. “I think we became a story that didn’t even exist before. I think Islam in this country became a story,” she said. Most of the time, media outlets separate Islam from the sliver groups that use terror, but some do not.
Meyer-Hoffman added that as Americans, they “learned how lucky we are to live here in this country, and practice our faith in this country.”