Michigan, USA – Chaldeans are outraged at the city of Dearborn and the Dearborn police department. “The police and city officials are cowards,” said a disgusted Yousif Salem. “They are afraid to defend the rights of this great country and their weakness shames every real American. I am an American citizen and my rights were stripped away because they are afraid. The Dearborn police and city are cowards. Arabs in Iraq and Iran are risking their lives for freedom and in Dearborn Michigan, American born wimps run and hide like cowards.”
Salem’s outrage comes on the heel of a court ruling prohibiting his friends from passing out Christian literature at the Dearborn Arab International festival. The 14th annual Dearborn Arab International Festival is expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors Friday through Sunday to the city that has the Detroit area's greatest concentration of Arab-Americans.
“We are upset with festival organizers. They have now tainted this once beautiful cultural festival as being un-American,” says Salem. “They are hurting Islamic Arabs as well as Christian Arabs by having the group thrown out. This is not good for Arab and American relations. There is only so much more Americans will take from these radicals in their own country.”
For half a decade the Arab Christian Perspectives (ACP) has had a presence at the Dearborn Arab International Festival without any problems or incidents. This year, however, for the first time, Dearborn police imposed on the ACP restrictions on where it could hand out leaflets at this free, open-to-the-public event.
Founder of ACP and Sudanese Arab Pastor George Saieg and his volunteers routinely visit Dearborn, Michigan, to minister to Muslims and Islamic converts. An estimated 30,000 of Dearborn's 98,000 residents are Muslims. Saieg’s website, http://www.ministrytomuslims.com/ details the groups effort and services to Muslims.
In lieu of the group’s freedom of expression, festival organizer Fay Beydoun said the Christian group was being offered a booth with other religious, nonprofit and political groups.
“Dearborn police told them that they were not allowed to leave the booth to pass out literature or approach anyone who did not approach them,” says Salem.
The Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Dearborn's policy and seeking a court order allowing the group to wander the festival grounds freely to pass out literature. U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds denied the Law Center’s motion on behalf of the Christian group. The Law Center reports that case will still go forward as the plaintiffs seek a permanent injunction for future events, but for this weekend’s event they will have to comply with the rules.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, says Dearborn police told the Christian Group there would be restrictions on where he could conduct their activities. "They said, 'We're not going to allow you to walk the streets with your group. You're going to have to be in one place. And people would have to approach you for your ability to pass out literature,'" he points out.
Thompson said after several failed attempts to convince officials to change their minds, Saieg and his group complied with the restrictions. Dearborn officials say anyone is free to have conversations — but not leaflet — on sidewalks within the festival's barricades.
"It appears to be a legitimate governmental interest for crowd control and safety," Edmunds said in denying the request. "The festival area is more akin to a fair than a normal city street."
William J. Becker Jr., a Los Angeles attorney who has represented a number of prominent critics of Islam says that the Dearborn officials action could be part of what he described as a broader Muslim legal attack on critics of Islam in our "Judeo-Christian nation” Becker says, "Muslims are using the courts in this country to stop our free speech rights."
Becker added that the case is similar to one he handled in Los Angeles, in which Jews for Jesus member Cyril Gordon won about $250,000 after being arrested for trespassing in 2006 outside an Israel Independence Day event in a park.
"This is a case where your right, my right and anybody's right to walk down the street and express their views is being disrupted by a police action," he said.
An official of the Council of American-Islamic Relations said Arabic Christian Perspective was asking for special treatment. "They should abide by the rules and purchase a booth like the other religious groups," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the group's Michigan chapter. "Christians can talk about Christianity and Muslims can promote Islam. This is the right we have as Americans."
Others see a more organized attack on American Rights by Muslim groups. ACT! for America (www.ActForAmerica.com), a Florida based group sent tens of thousands of e-mails warning Americans of a growing internal threat to freedoms. In the e-mail the group details, “In the past three months a Delray Beach Marriott abruptly and unilaterally canceled an event designed to educate people about the threat of radical Islam; the Loews Hotel in Nashville did the same thing; and now, after five years without problems, the ACP has its free speech rights denied.”
Salem says that in the city of Hamtramck, just east of Dearborn Americans showed Arabs how accepting they are by allowing the Muslim call to prayer be allowed. “Five times a day through loud speakers from Islamic Mosques, prayers to Allah are freely allowed and tolerated. But you let a Christian hand out literature to a Muslim and they threaten with riot.”
Salem is asking all his friend and family to call the city of Dearborn officials and ask them to resign. “The mayor and city council need to be resigned or recalled. All of them who allowed this to happen should be voted out. We need a new police chief too. We need government leaders who will defend our constitution. That is why I came to this country and that is the oath they took.”
Calls to the City of Dearborn by www.CHALDEAN.org regarding Salems effort and dissatisfaction to this incident went unanswered.
Readers wishing to learn more about the issue can call Dearborn city officials or ACP. Contact information for both organizations is listed below:
Dearborn City Mayor
Mayor John Oreilly, 313.943.2300, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dearborn City Council
President, Thomas P. Tafelski 313.943.2405
Nancy A. Hubbard, 313.943.2403
Doug Thomas, 313.943.2407
Suzanne Sareini, 313.943.2404, email@example.com
Mark Shooshanian, 313.943.2406,
Robert A. Abraham, 313.943.2408, firstname.lastname@example.org
George T. Darany, 313.943.2402, email@example.com
(714) 533-6659, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pastor George Said, email@example.com.