The board of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn voted this week to ban its longtime religious leader from performing any religious services and prayers for two months at the historic mosque.
In response, Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini instead today performed Friday prayers – the most popular gathering time for Muslims – in the City of Dearborn's civic center, the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center. Services inside the Islamic Center were held today by another imam.
In his sermon today, Qazwini said he was temporarily removed from the Islamic Center and now will conduct Friday prayers at the Dearborn civic center.
Hundreds packed the civic center on Friday, taking off their shoes before entering an auditorium for prayers. Many brought with them prayer rugs, as Al-Qazwini had requested.
"It's insulting to the community," Afthal Alshami of Dearborn, a supporter of Al-Qazwini, said after Friday prayers at the civic center about the board's latest move. "It's unacceptable."
A mosque should be "the voice of the people, not the voice of a few, " Alshami said.
The separate services today for the same congregation illustrated the divide at one of America's most noted mosques.
Two weeks ago, Imam Al-Qazwini said during Friday prayers he would resign from the Islamic Center if the board did not dissolve and reform. In letters, some board members have accused him of financial improprieties, charges he has strongly denied. Qazwini, of Iraqi descent, had said that anti-Iraqi bias from some Lebanese-American board members are driving some of the attacks against him.
The board did not dissolve, but Al-Qazwini said one week ago during Friday prayers he would stay at the mosque for now because he feels close to the community.
This week, though, the board voted to remove Al-Qazwini for two months, saying it would not allow him to perform Friday prayers or any other religious service at the nationally-known mosque, which he has led for 18 years.
Al-Qazwini, who started at the Islamic Center in 1997, has spoken with U.S. presidents, Pope Benedict and Michigan governors.