A crowd of Iraqi-Americans cheered and cried outside a mosque as some Arab media reported that Saddam Hussein was executed.
The crowd of more than 150 had gathered in anticipation of Saddam's execution late Friday, praying for the death of the former Iraqi dictator as people honked car horns, sang and danced in celebration.
Chants of "Now there's peace, Saddam is dead" in English and Arabic rang into the night in this Detroit suburb. Imam Husham Al-Husainy, the director of the Karbalaa Islamic Educational Center, said members of the center prayed for Saddam's death. Outside, traffic slowed as people drove in circles around the mosque, honking horns and flashing peace signs.
"This is our celebration of the death of Saddam," Al-Husainy said while standing on top of a car following the news that Saddam had been hanged. "The gift of our New Year is the murder of Saddam Hussein.
The Detroit area contains one of the United States' largest concentrations of people with roots in the Middle East, including an Iraqi community of Chaldeans, who are Catholic, Arabs and Kurds. Many from Iraq fled their homeland during the rule of Saddam. In Dearborn, Dave Alwatan was among those who gathered at the Karbalaa center. He wore an Iraqi flag around his shoulders and grinned. He flashed a peace sign with a hand at everyone he passed. "Peace," he said, smiling and laughing. "Now there will be peace for my family."
Alwatan, 32, an Iraqi-American from Dearborn, added: "My dream has come true." Alwatan said Saddam's forces tortured and killed family members that were left behind when Alwatan left Iraq in 1991. Some local Arab-American leaders predicted that Saddam's execution will increase violence overseas and leave the Iraqi people unsettled.
Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News and chairman of several local Arab-American groups, said Saddam's death sentence is one more casualty in a war that has killed thousands, and won't solve the power struggle among Iraqi religious groups. "The execution might bring some amusement and accomplishment to the Bush administration, but it will not help the Iraqi people," Siblani said. "The problem we're facing in Iraq is going to multiply."
Joseph Kassab, executive director of the Chaldean Federation of America, based in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills, Michigan, said his humanitarian organization is against the taking of human life. But Kassab noted there are lessons to be learned. "His execution should become an occasion upon which the world must reflect and remember so we never again relinquish our destiny to tyrants like him," Kassab said.