Arab International Festival in Dearborn is Canceled in Wake of Religious Tensions

Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press, May 17, 2013

After growing religious tensions between some Christian missionaries and local Muslims, the annual Arab International Festival in Dearborn has been canceled for this year, organizers said Friday.

The announcement left many disappointed that a small number of aggressive extremists could ruin what had become a tradition in the eastern section of Dearborn, which has a significant number of Arab Americans.

The city and organizers were facing increased insurance and liability costs because of the tensions and lawsuits over the festival. Last month, the City of Dearborn had proposed moving the festival to a park instead of the traditional location on Warren Avenue in order to decrease conflict.

But Fay Baydoun, director of the American-Arab Chamber of Commerce, said Friday that it would have been impossible to organize a successful event in time at the new location. {snip}

The decision to cancel the festival comes after four years of tensions at the event between some Christian missionaries and local Muslims. Their encounters resulted in heated arguments, scuffles, some bottle-throwing and several lawsuits. {snip}

Last year, one group of Christian missionaries brought a pig’s head and signs insulting Islam’s prophet, which drew a strong reaction from some children. Earlier this month, the City of Dearborn apologized and paid an undisclosed amount of money to a group of Christian missionaries arrested in 2010 at the festival for disturbing the peace. They were later acquitted.


Local Arab Americans were upset over the cancellation of the festival because the original intent of it was to highlight Arab-American businesses, which helped turn east Dearborn from a ghost town into a thriving commercial destination, said local leaders.


Over the years, the festival has attracted big donors, from Detroit automakers to the CIA.

There was concern that this year’s festival could become even more tense.

Quran-burning Pastor Terry Jones said he was planning to attend the first day along with the California man who brought the pig’s head last year. In 2011, Jones attempted to attend the festival, but was met by angry protesters who tried to block him as he walked. Police then asked him to not attend.


Some conservatives say the incidents at the festival happened because the city is under the influence of Shari’a, Islamic law, a claim O’Reilly has repeatedly dismissed as absurd.

Robert Muise, an Ann Arbor attorney who represents the California-based Bible Believers—the Christian group that brought a pig’s head and anti-Islam signs last year to the festival—said the cancellation of the festival was “disappointing.”

“However,” he added, “had the Christians’ rights been protected from the beginning, I doubt we would be at this point.”

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