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Organizers Cite Spiraling Insurance Costs Due to Tensions with Extremists in Arab American Fest Cancellation

Tensions between Christian extremists and Muslims have promoted cancellation again this year of the popular event that draws up to 300,000 people to Dearborn and celebrates the culture of 40,000 Arab-Americans living in the city.

Christian extremists protested previous installments of the Arab International Festival, which has been cancelled for the second consecutive year. (Patch file photo)
Christian extremists protested previous installments of the Arab International Festival, which has been cancelled for the second consecutive year. (Patch file photo)

For the second year in a row, the Arab International Festival, a Dearborn tradition since 1995, has been cancelled due to tensions between Muslims and a small group of extremist Christians.

Dearborn is home to about 40,000 Arab-Americans and the three-day festival in June is billed as the largest outdoor gathering of Arab-Americans in the United States. It celebrates Arab culture and also serves as a fundraiser for the sponsoring American Arab Chamber of Commerce.

It was cancelled last year and again this year because tensions with some Christian missionaries caused insurance costs to spike, the Detroit Free Press reports. Fay Baydoun, the chamber’s director, said last year that she hoped the one-year hiatus would allow organizers to bring back the festival “better and stronger.”

In 2012, a group called the Bible Believers protested at the festival and claimed they weren’t adequately protected from assaults after they waved signs with anti-Islam slogans and a pig’s head mounted on a pole.

Two years before that, a group of Christian missionaries attempted to videotape debates with Muslims and were arrested, which drew sharp criticism from conservative Christian groups across the country. The charges were later dropped, but the city had to pay a $300,000 settlement to some of the missionaries who attended and issue an apology on the city web site.

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly Jr. told the Free Press he supports the Arab International Festival and thinks it’s important to celebrate Arab culture, as well as support a major fundraiser for the chamber. Alternative fundraising events, including a musical event at a city facility, are being considered.

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Tony Lollio April 30, 2014 at 01:46 PM
If you are trying to convince me that Christian extremists are the problem with the world, I'm not buying it. I am disgusted by the likes of Terry Jones, and those Westboro nutjobs, but we have a First Amendment that gives them the right to assemble and speak their opinions. It's part of the same Constitution that makes Arab Americans the freest Arab population on planet.
Michael Ritenour April 30, 2014 at 06:11 PM
I believe that Christian extremists ARE a large part of the problem with the world, along with Muslim extremists, Hindu extremists, and extremists of any other religion. But while I, too, deplore and am disgusted by Jones, Westboro, Bible Believers, and the like, the causes of the insurance cost increase are (1) the District Judge in Dearborn overreacting and issuing patently unconstitutional orders, and (2) attendees at the festival, presumably largely muslim, likewise overreacting and causing a confrontation. I don't blame them for being incensed and insulted, but the best way for both the Court and the attendees to handle it would have been to ignore it and deprive the provocateurs the stage and publicity they craved. Instead, they received not only the publicity, but also $300,000 and the suspension of the Festival. "We have met the enemy, and they are us."
Pete Rogan April 30, 2014 at 10:19 PM
Total Global Racial Holy War goes on, I see, even on these pages. I wonder when the Final Crusade will begin to eradicate the Mud Races here first, and then across the planet. Six billion dead for somebody's idea of God.
Lee Jacobsen May 01, 2014 at 02:36 AM
If the Arab American Chamber wants to bow out of the liability of sponsoring the festival, why should that cancel anything? An official sponsor is not needed. There is no rule that prevents independent action by individuals to all have festival specials on an agreed upon date. Businesses can all pick a date for a festival, and have special deals on that day. Voila! a festival without a sponsor. Folk can attend and have a good time. Protesters can come , and be removed for disturbing the peace. The police will do their job, that is what they are paid to do. Liabilities are removed from a sponsor's neck. This happened with the Telegraph Cruise. Costs were billed to a bar that promoted the first cruise. The next year, all that was promoted was the date, and the cities picked up the tab, same thing will happen here. It really is in the business's court as to the next move. Time for someone to take the leadership role and name a date for some fun!
Cathedral May 01, 2014 at 09:05 AM
The problem is not religion, but rather the psychology of the extremist.....Extremists come in all shapes and colors....They believe in all dogmas, belief systems, religions, science, political sides........Whether Christian, Muslim, Democrat, Republican, Homoeopathic Medicine Believer, Physicist Atheist, Militia, etc.....They all share the same common core.....Black and white thinking......inflexible thinking, the need for cognitive absolutes, avoidance of emotional dysregulation and cognitive dissonance associated with uncertainty, the need to be a true believer which sublimates the feelings of inferiority, the power of emotional righteousness projected as superiority above all to feel empowered......FANATISM IS A PLAGUE

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