Led by Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, one of the most revered thinkers in global Shiism, a program called I.M.A.M. deploys scholars and lecturers to help US Shiites integrate into US society. The Dearborn I.M.A.M. group studies sources like the US Federalist Papers, Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” and Joel Osteen’s books, as well as historical issues like slavery in the US. The program tells Shiites to vote, participate in the census, and hold public office without abandoning their faith.
“We call them Islamic values, but they are universal values,” says Bahar al-Uloom, lecturer for the Shiite student group in Dearborn. “If it’s a principle or act that would help all Americans, all I need to do is speak it in a language that is universal.”