Posted by on May 22, 2013 in Blog
By Lama Al-Arian
Summer 2013 Intern
The annual Arab International Festival, organized by the American Arab Chamber of Commerce every June in Dearborn, Michigan, has been canceled due to fears of community endangerment. For the past several years, radical Islamophobic Christian groups, including The Bible Believers and several others, have gathered to protest the open event held on West Warren Avenue.
Last year at the festival, protestors carried a pig's head mounted on a pole, called the prophet Muhammad a rapist and chanted inflammatory anti-Islamic rhetoric like “Islam is a religion of blood and murder,” and “Jesus Akbar.” Wayne Country sheriffs arrived on horseback in an attempt to keep the peace during the three-day festival. The Arab American and American Muslim communities were faced with a difficult challenge to remain patient through throughout the protests, which was clearly a targeted effort to spew hate speech. Several of the Christian groups later filed lawsuits against both the City and the festival organizers, claiming they were victims of police misconduct and assault.
While, for the most part, festival attendees ignored efforts to insight confrontation, some fights broke out, resulting in arrests on both sides. Although the case against the police was thrown out last week by District Court Judge Patrick Duggan, there is still a pending lawsuit against the festival organizers by a man who believes the electronic basketball game was too hard and therefore rigged.
The festival directors decided it would be best to move the event to a more controlled and ticketed location but found it difficult to organize with previous participating businesses and benders.
The festival is a popular attraction for people of diverse backgrounds, drawing over 200,000 visitors last year, so its cancelation was disappointing for many Michigan residents. WDET radio host Craig Fahle did a segment about the issue, interviewing festival director Fay Beydoun, who discussed the negative implications that relocating will have on local community businesses. Beydoun mentioned that although the festival is not a religious one, various religious groups including the local Christian churches are given space to set up tables and share information.
One hopes that the city remains supportive of the Arab International Festival that has been a Dearborn tradition for 18 years.