By Laura Fawaz, Contributing Reporter
Dearborn Heights, MIâ€“Saturday night at Hype Athletics Recreation Center wasnâ€™t just your average night of people playing basketball. It included a group of young Jewish and Muslim professions who choose to come together to shoot hoops.
The groups organizing the event, Michigan Muslim Community Council and the Sports League Organization, have had the event planned for months. Though with violence growing in the Middle East, the game is being played, but amid a new, but too familiar context.
Representing both religious communities, a group of about 15 men and one woman split into mixed teams for a basketball game. The initial goal of organizing this event was to host what would be the first of many that would bring different groups of young professionals together to focus on problems much closer to home: ways to improve Metro-Detroit.
Even as the offensive by Israel against the Palestinian people escalates in the Gaza strip, these American born Jews and Muslims are hoping to find understanding and connection, through sports. â€œWe here today to help the city of Detroit, but weâ€™re still remembering the innocent lives being taken in Gaza,â€ said attorney Tarek Baydoun of Dearborn, who is also one of the organizers from Michigan Muslim Community Council.
Baydoun also added that any attempt to connect the game to issues in the Middle East is misguided. â€œWe can agree to disagree on foreign policy but still live together in peace,â€ said the 28-year-old. â€œMuslims and Jews are doing very well as communities in southeast Michigan and this is an effort to bring them all together to work on issues that affect everyone.â€
In spite of this, the escalating crisis in Israel and the Gaza Strip is igniting passions between most American Jewish and Arab communities. On Friday night, a protest condemning Israelâ€™s airstrikes on Gaza was held near the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel in downtown Detroit. The Michigan office of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) calls Israelâ€™s actions a â€œslaughterâ€ of the people in Gaza. Local Jewish leaders, for their part, say Israel is defending itself against missiles fired against its civilians, including â€” for the first time â€” in Jerusalem.
Still, with full knowledge of the dire situation in the Middle East, these young professionals willingly came together to build bridges here in Metro-Detroit, by shooting hoops.
â€œWhat else is something that brings everyone together in an informal way where everyone is an equal?,â€ said Detroiter Justin Jacobs, who founded the sports league organization Come Play Detroit. â€œWe wanted to show that while we are all tied to our backgrounds, we all have our own interest and weâ€™re all passionate about Detroit.â€