posted June 16, 2012 by Detroit Free Press
Tensions flared Friday evening at the annual Arab International Festival in Dearborn as members of some Christian missionary groups — including one called the Bible Believers — taunted Arab Americans with a pig’s head and signs that promoted hatred of Islam.
“You’re gonna burn in hell,” one missionary shouted at a group of young Arab-American boys listening to him speak on Warren Avenue, where the festival takes place.
The festival continues today in Dearborn, but the members of the Bible Believers won’t be there because they’ll be protesting a gay festival in Ohio, said Arab Festival organizers.
The three-day festival is the largest public gathering of Arab-Americans in the U.S.; it has drawn Christian missionaries for years, but in 2009, some become more aggressive, leading to arrests and legal feuds. Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the U.S., many of them Muslim, making it a magnet for some Christian missionaries.
The Bible Believers also protested at last year’s Arab Festival, holding up both anti-Muslim and anti-Catholic signs and causing one Arab-American Muslim girl to cry.
About a dozen with the group stood facing the festival on Friday with signs that made bigoted remarks about Islam and its prophet, Mohammed. One of the missionaries had a pig’s head mounted on a pole that he displayed in front of his group. Muslims don’t eat pigs because their faith teaches that the animal is unclean.
Some of the signs the missionaries held read: “Islam is a religion of blood and murder” and “Muhammad (Islam’s prophet) is a … liar, false prophet, murderer, child molesting pervert.”
Wayne County sheriffs tried to keep the peace; a few times, three officers on horseback rode by, trying to keep the young Arab Americans at a distance from the Christian missionaries.
At one point, some kids started throwing water bottles and pop cans at the missionaries. Others chanted “Allah-U-Akbar” (God is the greatest). One of the Christians shouted in response “Jesus Akbar.”
At another point, three girls wearing Islamic headscarves yelled back at the missionaries: “Read the Quran,” referring to Islam’s holy book.
A Christian missionary with another group told a group of Arab-American Muslim boys that they are ”transgressing against God.” One boy then spilled some water on the missionary.
Most of the confrontations were between elderly missionaries and Arab-American kids.
Earlier in the day, a group of Christian missionaries targeted the biggest mosque in Michigan, the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, standing right outside the mosque lawn to hand out fliers during Friday prayers.
In his Friday sermon, the imam of the mosque, Hassan Al-Qazwini, warned parents that some missionaries at the Arab Festival could target their children for conversion: ”Be careful. … They could be taken (spiritually) from us.”
Other missionaries at the festival were less confrontational, handing out fliers telling Muslims to convert and handing out free Christian books.
One wore a T-shirt that read ”I (heart symbol) Muslims” while handing out fliers that urged Muslims to ”accept the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Contact Niraj Warikoo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-223-4792.