Flaring tensions led to violence and an arrest in Michigan this weekend as members of Christian missionary groups turned up to protest at the largest public gathering of Arab-Americans in the U.S.
Christian protesters traveled across the country to Dearborn, Mich., where they taunted attendees and even held a severed pig’s head for three days at the annual Arab International Festival. The protests turned violent Sunday, and by the end of the day as many as 10 people facing disorderly conduct or assault charges, according to ABC News Detroit affiliate WXYZ.
“You’re going to burn in hell,” a missionary reportedly yelled at a group of Arab-American boys, while other protesters held anti-Muslim signs that made bigoted remarks about Islam and its prophet Mohammed, including “Islam is a religion of blood and murder” and “Muhammad (Islam’s prophet) is a … liar, false prophet, murderer, child molesting pervert.”
Young festival attendees later threw soda cans at the protesters and yelled, “Allah-U-Akbar” [God is the greatest], the Detroit Free Press reported.
Violence eventually broke out between festival goers and protesters, prompting Dearborn police to arrest a protest they claim incited the violence. Some protesters say that they were attacked first.
“And they [police] arrest one of our guys. I don’t know if they know what they’re doing,” protest organizer Ruben Israel said. “When we go back and report what happened, next year there could be a hundred of us out here.”
Kaseeem Allie with the Islamic Center of America said he thinks it’s unfortunate that a festival designed to bring people together saw such chaos.
“I think that our community has done a good job in not reacting in the way that they wanted, outside of a few minor incidents,” Allie told WXYZ. “This festival is designed for people to have fun, to celebrate and enjoy their background and cultures. And for someone to come in and make something negative out of it is very unfortunate.”
Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the country, compromising nearly 42 percent of the city’s population, according to the 2010 census. This has made the city a flashpoint for conflict amongst Christian grounds and Arab-Americans.