Arab International Festival in Dearborn is Canceled in Wake of Aggressive Christian Missionary Activities

Spencer’s allies, extremist Evangelicals like David Wood have used the tactic of intimidation and aggression for years now at the Dearborn Arab Festival.:

Arab International Festival in Dearborn is canceled in wake of religious tensions

By Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

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. Baydoun said she hopes that next year’s festival will “come back better and stronger.”

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. A federal judge in Detroit last week threw out one of those lawsuits.

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.

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly Jr. did not return a call seeking comment Friday, but in a news release from the chamber, he is quoted as saying of the festival: “We look forward to its continued success promoting business that help drive the city’s economy and that make the community a cultural destination for visitors.”

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.

“It’s unfortunate there are groups who are seeking to create problems and incite people in a community where people are trying to build bridges of diversity,” said Suehaila Amen, 34, of Dearborn. “This festival was about creating a family atmosphere during Father’s Day weekend. And yet, there are those who do not wish to see people enjoy their life.”

Many Arab Americans from across the country attend the festival, Amen said.

Dearborn resident Majed Moughni also said he was disappointed in the cancellation, but added that he understands the decision, given the high insurance and logistical costs for what became an increasingly tense event.

“It’s not worth the cost,” he said.

In an attempt to create a more peaceful atmosphere, O’Reilly moved the location of the festival to Ford Woods Park. His plan would have allowed the festival to be in an enclosed area and would have required an admission fee.

But Baydoun said: “With the move to a new location, Ford Woods Park, we needed more time to ensure we provide a quality event that the community has come to expect from us.”

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.

The decision to cancel the festival illustrates some tensions between its Arab-American organizers and Dearborn officials. O’Reilly has been pushing to move the festival for three years, but the Chamber of Commerce resisted because the purpose of the festival was to promote Arab-American businesses along Warren.

Earlier this year, the city indicated it would not be giving permits for the Warren Avenue location and asked the chamber to consider having the festival in the park.

Baydoun said her group respects free speech.

“We have no intention of preventing anyone from freedom of speech,” she said. “We just wanted a family-friendly environment.”

Since she was a teenager, Amen has looked forward to enjoying the festival. It was a time to reconnect with friends and family in a relaxed atmosphere of games and booths that celebrated diversity.

But now, “it’s gotten to the point where people don’t even want to take their children to the festival because they don’t want them to be exposed to these bigoted messages and hateful speech,” Amen said.

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.”

Contact Niraj Warikoo: nwarikoo@freepress.com or 313-223-4792

via. Loonwatch

Muslims Stoning Christians in Michigan? Not quite…

Sensational, misleading headlines are a favorite tactic in the looniverse, and the notion Arabs in Michigan are “stoning” Christians is bound to attract attention.

Drama aside, there were some young people hurling water bottles and pop cans at some  ”protesters” who were clearly their to provoke a reaction. Even some of the articles on the right wing site, The Blaze, leaned toward more honest reporting:

SCREAMING ANTI-ISLAM PROTESTERS TAUNT MUSLIMS WITH PIG’S HEAD: ‘YOU’RE GOING TO MELT IN THE FIRES OF HELL!’

If you‘re looking to spread God’s love, it’s probably not a good idea to show up to the Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan, with a pig‘s head on a stick and signs telling Muslims that they’re poised to burn in hell. Yet this is exactly what happened over the weekend when some Christians from an anti-Islam group showed up at the event and confronted Muslim adherents with some unwelcome messages.

One of the protesters yelled, “You’re going to burn in hell,” among other sentiments. The signs the individuals held were less-than-covert in their messaging as well. One read, “Islam is a religion of blood and murder” and another said “Muhammad is a…liar, false prophet, murder, child molesting pervert.” Clearly, those in attendance weren’t there to play nice.

Among the most tense moments during the Friday showdown occurred when some of the Arab Americans present at the conference began throwing water bottles and pop cans. Some of the attendees chanted “Allah-U-Akbar,” which translates to “God is the greatest.” The Christians responded with, “Jesus Akbar.” Most of the protesters who engaged in this debate were from an anti-Islam group called “Bible Believers.”

In the video, below, a man — purportedly part of the group — can be heard yelling, “You’re going to go straight to hell you little dirtbag, wicked heathen.” Then, he continued screaming at the the Arab attendees, claiming that they have “a religion of hate” and that God is going to “melt” them “one day in hell” (at another point he says, “You’re going to melt in the fires of hell forever!”).

Alan Noble sheds light on how the events were manipulated, and demonstrates once again that many stories that go viral in the looniverse can’t stand up to even rudimentary scrutiny. (H/T: CriticalDragon1177)

Muslims Stoning Christians in Michigan? Not quite…

by Alan Noble, Christ and Pop Culture

Earlier this year I wrote a excruciatingly detailed feature article describing how Wretched TV had deceptively edited footage of some Christian streetpreachers at the Arabfest in Dearborn Michigan in order to portray the Muslims in attendance as violent, bloodthirsty foreigners. I pointed out that the “Christian” preachers were led by Ruban Israel, a notorious street preacher (who was and is not supported by or connected to Wretched TV) who went to the festival specifically to agitate and incite the Muslims. If you look at unedited footage of the event, it’s clear that the “Christians” were inciting Muslims to hate, which, of course, never justifies violence, but it does explain why it happens.

I bring this up because it’s happened again. Ruben Israel returned this year to the Arab Festival and once again incited the festival goers to scream and yell and throw trash. Although Wretched TV did not report the story this year, it was picked up by The BlazeAmerican Vision, American ThinkerFrontPage Magazine, and other, smaller conservative websites.

Each of these reports has included and cited a YouTube video edited by The United West, a group “dedicated to defending and advancing Western Civilization against the kinetic and cultural onslaught of Shariah Islam.” Good journalism would demand that these sites check their source and consider possible biases, but, for whatever reason, these conservative news sites report on the event as if it the video was an accurate representation of what occurred. But it was not. Not at all. Here’s United West’s video:

I wish I had the time and energy to point out every deceptive edit in this video and all the manipulative ways in which this event was reported on, but I don’t. So here’s a short list, and if you’re interested in seeing more, watch the unedited, hour long YouTube video of the incident. Watch carefully. It looks a lot different if you’re paying attention.

1. The United West video (See here) and many of the reports on this incident either claim or insinuate that the police did nothing to stop the kids from throwing trash at Ruben and his friends.

However, in the unedited video, you can see the police interviene oncetwice (note the police dragging a kid off at this point–something none of the articles mention), thricefourse [sic] (note that this appears to be another arrest or citation? Again, never mentioned in any of the reports I listed), and I’m not going to bother looking for more examples.

Bottom line: the video lies/misrepresents the truth and each of these reports, either in ignorance (in which case they are examples of bad journalism) or knowingly repeats this lie or fails to challenge it (in the case of The Blaze).

2. Muslim adults repeatedly work to calm down and stop the kids from yelling and throwing trash. In fact, one, apparently, Muslim man stands in front of the Christians, protecting them from the angry crowd. Does this mean Islam is a religion of peace? Nope, it just means that this man (as well as many others in the video) wanted to prevent violence from happening. Does the fact that the “mob” of kids threw trash and possibly a piece of concrete mean that Islam is a religion of violence? Nope, it just means that some kids got offended and angry.

If we want to discuss whether or not Islam is inherently violent, we need to look for evidence elsewhere.

3. The video edits out the part where Ruben Israel explains to a police officer that they have a pig head on a pole because Muslims are “petrified” of pigs and so it “keeps them at bay.” No really. He says that. Can you understand now why a group of Arab kids might feel threatened by these predominately white, Christians coming to their cultural festival to shout at them that they are going to hell and that their religion is a lie? Get a bunch of kids together, mock their beliefs, try to ward them away with a pig head on a stick, yell at them, and no matter what religion they are, don’t be surprised if they start throwing trash. That doesn’t in any way justify their action, but it does explain it.

4. As you watch the video it is clear that the police helped protect the Christians when they could. Could they have done a better job? Perhaps. It’s not clear from the video how many people were in attendance (I believe it was around 100k) or how many officers were available to help out. But it is clear that those officers did in fact intervene and protect the Christians several times.

5. It is also clear that this group of Christians was almost entirely focused on angering these Muslims, forcing the police to protect them after they had incited violence, and complaining over and over again about their rights and how they were being persecuted. What on earth does this have to do with lovingly sharing the Gospel to lost people? How is a preoccupation with asserting your rights honoring to God?

6. In United West’s edited video (which has over 440,000 views in three days), they show a clip of an adult Muslim telling the kids to either jump the Christians or leave. What they cut out are the shots of this same man pushing kids away from the Christians, trying to disperse the crowdmultiple times. By cutting these shots out, United West has given the impression that this adult was egging the kids on to violence; when in actuality, he seems to have been calling their bluff and trying to get them to realize how foolish they had been acting….

Read the rest here >>

Dearborn Anti-Islam Conference Discriminates Against Muslim Women it Claims to Save

Omar Baddar and a host of other organizations responded to the hateful anti-Islam and anti-Arab conference put on by professional bigots Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. The founders of SIOA crassly titled the event, “Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference.” Seeking to manipulate and abuse the memory of a young Muslim girl who was murdered by her step-father.

Her murder had nothing to do with Islam, but the hate-mongerers insist on trying to smear Islam at any opportunity.

In the following video we get the facts. We see how discriminatory and racist to the core the anti-Islam brigades behind the “conference” really are! We also see how scared they are of confrontation and being challenged on their hateful bigotry:

Police Remove Muslim Women From Pam Geller’s ‘Human Rights Conference’

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer only preach to their minions, and anyone else is not accepted.

Police Remove Muslim Women From Pam Geller’s ‘Human Rights Conference’

By Eli Clifton on Apr 30, 2012 at 9:30 am, ThinkProgress

Yesterday in Dearborn, Michigan, noted anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer hosted a conference promising to advocate for “human rights” in one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States. Geller, writing on her blog on Sunday, warned, “We will meet fierce resistance by Islamic supremacists who will do anything, say anything to impose the sharia and whitewash the oppression, subjugation and slaughter of women under Islamic law.”

But surprisingly, Muslim women found themselves denied entry to the conference and, after patiently waiting in the corridor after being told to wait, were removed from the Hyatt Hotel by the Dearborn Police Department and Hyatt security.

Several of the young women commented that they shared a similar appearance with Jessica Mokdad, the young women who Geller and Spencer claim was murdered in an “honor killing” (a conclusion not shared by Mokdad’s family or Michigan prosecutors).

ThinkProgress attempted to attend the event and was turned away, and eventually removed from the Hyatt by the police, along with the young women. One of the women commented, “I tried emailing [Pamela Geller to register] and I literally couldn’t get any kind of response back.” That comment seems to contradict Geller’s claim that she wants to help Muslim women and that the conference was in defense of the human rights of Muslim women.

Another woman who tried to attend the conference told ThinkProgress:

Coming in, I was asking where the human rights conference is. [Hyatt Security and Dearborn Police] were like, ‘what are you talking about?’ I’m like, ‘the human rights conference on the second floor.’ They were like, ‘the anti-Islam conference?’ That’s what they’re calling it now.

And another woman expressed surprise that Geller, who has asked to hear from more Muslim voices on human rights issues, was denying Muslims access to her event. “I watched an interview with her […] and she said, ‘Where are the Muslims?’ Well, we’re here!” Watch it (police arrive to escort the women off the Hyatt premises at 3:58):

Pamela Geller emailed ThinkProgress, “They didn’t register. We’ve been announcing for weeks that only registered attendees would be admitted.”

Geller and Spencer play prominent roles in the Islamophobia “echo chamber,” as detailed in the Center for American Progress’s report “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.”

AAI Community Town Hall Shatters Anti-Muslim Narrative

The counter to the anti-Freedom voices:

AAI Community Town Hall Shatters Anti-Muslim Narrative

by Omar Baddar

Yesterday, more than a hundred people gathered at a town hall at the Doubletree Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan to stand in solidarity with the Arab American and American Muslim communities against Islamophobia. The town hall, organized by AAI and local community groups, was held in response to an anti-Muslim conference at the Hyatt in Dearborn, organized by Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, and other leading Islamophobes.

Islamophobes try to portray themselves as “the real Americans” defending America from the allegedly foreign presence of Muslims, but it was our community town hall that was attended by many elected officials, including Michigan Congressmen John Conyers, Jr. and Hansen Clarke. Elected officials’ presence at our event reiterated the integrality of the American Muslim community in the U.S. and the fringe nature of those who are pushing America to become otherwise.

The town hall opened with an educational panel that included Fear Inc. co-author Eli Clifton, writer Sarah Posner, and AAI President Jim Zogby. Clifton explained in detail the funding sources that finance the anti-Muslim network, while Posner discussed the influence of Islamophobia on American politics. Zogby shed light on the reasons behind the recent rise in Islamophobia, and gave a broader analysis of its implications on U.S. political culture. AAI Executive Director Maya Berry moderated the discussion.

The educational panel was followed by remarks from local community leaders. Noel Saleh of ACCESS talked about the long history of the Arab American and American Muslim communities as an essential part of the fabric of American society. Dawud Walid of CAIR noted how traditional racism played a significant role in the rise of Islamophobia, including the disputing of President Obama’s faith. Osama Siblani of the Arab American News gave a passionate talk about the inevitable defeat of Islamophobes in America because they are working against American values and against history. Others, including Imam Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America, Suehaila Amen of the Lebanese American Heritage Club, Imad Hamad of ADC-Michigan, Nabih Ayad of the Arab American Civil Rights League, and interfaith stalwarts Rev. Dan Buttry and Victor Begg also offered powerful remarks at the event.

Congressmen Conyers and Clarke offered passionate words of solidarity with the Arab and Muslim communities. Congressman Clarke noted that Islamophobia should not be a “Muslim issue,” but an American one that is combatted vigorously by all Americans. He also urged the community not to only criticize elected officials who engage in anti-Muslim pandering, but to press those who are silent to speak out against Islamophobia. The town hall concluded with a lively Q&A which left everyone in a positive spirit, ready to take on the challenges we face.

Because of our presence in Dearborn to challenge the anti-Muslim narrative, virtually all media coverage accurately described the other event as the anti-Muslim event and ours as the community response to bigotry. As long as our community stands up and speaks out against Islamophobia, and as long as public officials and the broader American community continue to stand with us, the bigots will never build momentum that can disrupt the diversity and tolerance that characterize our society.

After the conclusion of our event, my colleague Omar Tewfik and I tried to attend and cover the anti-Muslim conference, but were denied entry (quite the contrast from our open-to-all event). We’ll be sharing our story very soon, accompanied with video footage and interesting details.

“Jessica Mokdad” Conference: At War with Islam by Any Crooked Means

Jessica_Mokdad_Conference
The Panelists at the conference

When Malcolm X uttered the famous words“by any means necessary,” it was in the midst of the Jim Crow era. He was making it known that Blacks were not going to take the systematic violence and oppression directed against them in a subservient manner. On the other side was Bull Connor, George Wallace, the Ku Klux Klan and organized racism which sought to uphold Jim Crow “by any crooked means.”

In the “fine” tradition of the Jim Crow-era racists, Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and other leading anti-Muslim activists have declared war on Muslims by any and all crooked means. In doing so they project their own inadequacies and stealth motives onto Muslims and Islam. They create new definitions of theological concepts such as taqiya (dissimulation to protect oneself from violence and coercion), defining it as lying for the advancement of Islam. In fact, it is Spencer and Geller who are lying to aide their own cause and to line their own pocket books. They put on the mask of defenders of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, when it is they who are a part of the leading regressive force in the US undermining and challenging our liberties and freedoms.

This was on full display yesterday, April, 29 in Dearborn when they went ahead with an anti-Islam conference titled the “Jessica Mokdad Conference.” Jessica Mokdad was a young woman who was murdered by her step-father, a sick man who had been sexually abusing her.

Mokdad’s murder had nothing to do with Islam, but Geller spinned it into an honor killing.

Despite it not being an honor killing, despite the fact that Mokdad’s family requested her name be taken off the conference, (expressing how it pained them that Geller and co. could so thoughtlessly use Jessica’s memory to further hate of the religion she “loved”) the title was kept: “Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference.”

Geographic Racism

Dearborn, Michigan is home to one of the largest concentrations of Arabs and Muslims in the United States. For this reason it has earned the scorn and undying resentment of the fanatical anti-Muslim movement.

According to these racists Dearborn has ceased to be a part of America because of the “camel jockeys” and “towel heads” who have invaded. In their mind the city has become “Dearbornistan,” and Michigan an “Islamic Republic.”

Such racist notions zeroing in on certain geographic locations isn’t new, it is a similar kind of racism that paints the US’s Southern border as “Third World” and “backward” because of the large percentage of Latinos.

In their nostalgic-looking-back-at-the-50′s-White-bred world when so-called true Americana existed, when America was a Christian (or Judeo-Christian) nation lies the heart of the anti-Muslim movement’s present malaise.

Like most fundamentalists, they hearken to a mythic, purer past, while selling the fear of an impending Armageddon, after which America will no longer be America.

To fight to keep America “pure,” to recreate its glory, the crowd is given the message: “you are the soldiers,” “this is a war,” ”we are the soldiers. It’s up to us.” (via. USA Today reporter Niraj Warikoo):

Standing for Truth

Dearborn’s residents and Jessica Mokdad’s family decided not to protest the conference, instead they held a town hall titled, Rejecting Islamophobia. This is where the anti-Loons gathered, those opposed to bigotry and hate:

“We stand for America,” said Osama Siblani, publisher of the Dearborn-based Arab-American News, at a panel discussion held at a Detroit hotel. “And they (anti-Muslim activists) stand against America and against the American way of life.”

Siblani’s views were echoed by others who gathered for a conference organized by the Arab American Institute and supported by several other Arab-American groups to counter a conference held in Dearborn on Sunday by anti-Muslim activists called the “Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference on Honor Killings.”

Last year, Mokdad, 20, a Muslim was shot dead by her stepfather in Warren, Mich. Some anti-Islam activists said it was a honor killing because initial reports were that she was perceived as too independent, but Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Bill Cataldo said Friday it was not an honor killing. The family of Mokdad opposed the anti-Islam conference and didn’t want Mokdad’s name on it, Cataldo said.

On Sunday, Imam Hassan Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn — the biggest mosque in Michigan — said : “Honor killing has no religious roots in Islam.”

Sunday’s anti-Muslim conference features two of the most well-known anti-Islam activists in the United StatesPamela Geller and Robert Spencer.

Geller, who blogs against Islam, said: “Our goal is to raise awareness about the phenomenon of Islamic honor killing in order to help bring a stop to it. These girls have rights, too, they’re human beings, and yet they’re completely forgotten in our politically correct culture.”

Qazwini said he believes Geller is motivated by money. He said she wants to make “Islam look like a monster to raise funds.”

Sunday’s anti-Muslim conference in Dearborn is the latest effort by anti-Islam activists to target Dearborn, which has the highest percentage of Arab-Americans in the U.S., according to Census figures. Earlier this month, Quran-burning pastor Terry Jones held a demonstration outside Qazwini’s mosque.

In addition, some Christian missionaries have increasingly targeted Muslims at the annual Arab festival in Dearborn; last year, some yelled at festival goers as they walked by.

James Zogby, who heads the Arab American Institute, said of Sunday’s anti-Muslim conference: “These people are bigots … they are sick.”

The Arab-American conference featured talks by U.S. House Reps. John Conyers and Hansen Clarke, both Democrats from Detroit. Daniel Kirchbaum, executive director of Michigan’s Department of Civil Rights, also spoke at the event, saying that many in Michigan want to make sure “Muslims are treated fairly and equally.”

Try as they may, to spit on the memory of Jessica Mokdad in the name of human rights, the anti-Muslim bigots will not be successful–as long as those who are vigilant speak out against their hatred, fear-mongering, false dichotomies, generalizations, misattributions and lies.

Please read Omar Baddar’s account of the “Reject Islamophobia” event: AAI Community Town Hall Shatters Anti-Muslim Narrative.

Dearborn: Muslims and Members of Other Faiths Successfully Counter Anti-Muslim Conference

MSNBC describes it as “dueling in Dearborn.” I think the real story is the rejection of Islamophobia, and the anti-Islam outsiders who arrived only to agitate:

Dueling in Dearborn over murder of a 20-year-old woman

By Kari Huus, msnbc.com

In Dearborn Mich., a Detroit suburb known for its concentration of Muslim Americans, anti-Islam leaders from around the country are gathering to discuss how to rescue women from that faith. The “Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference on Honor Killings” on Sunday is named for a local Muslim woman murdered one year ago.

But Muslims, civil rights groups and other religious leaders say the conference is merely another event put on by well-known bigots to attack the minority religion. Their response was to schedule a town hall meeting just a few miles away on Sunday called “Rejecting Islamophobia: A Community Stand Against Hate.”

The honor killing conference, organized by Pamela Geller, who became nationally famous for her vocal opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque, aka Park 51 in Manhattan, is based on the premise that Mokdad, 20 years old when she died in April 2011, was the victim of an honor killing justified by Islam.

Mokdad’s family maintains that the killing was a tragedy that has nothing to do with their Islamic beliefs, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press.

“It’s not a case based on honor,” Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Bill Cataldo, chief of homicide, told the Free Press on Friday.

In court, prosecutors have said the motive for Mokdad’s killing was that her stepfather, Rahim Alfetlawi had “been sexually abusing her,” Cataldo said, according to the report. They argue that when she threatened to go public about the abuse he killed her.

Cataldo said the family strongly objects to the conference using Mokdad’s killing, which they say was a tragedy that had nothing to do with their faith.

Geller insists this was an honor killing carried out by a devout Muslim because his stepdaughter was not following Islam, and that the family is covering it up. She alleges that law enforcers systematically cover up honor killings here and elsewhere under “stealth enforcement” of Islamic shariah law.

On her web site, Geller says: “Despite pressure from the media and members of Jessica’s family who want to cover up the honor killing aspect of her murder, we are not going to change the name of the conference. Unlike those closest to her, we are going to honor Jessica’s memory and stand up against the brutal practice that took her life.”

The Dearborn conference will feature speeches by Geller and Robert Spencer — author of the blog “Jihad Watch” — as well as several like-minded legal and religious figures. They have also invited a young man who says he was Mokdad’s friend to offer “firsthand testimony” that she was a victim of honor killing.

Stop the Islamization of America, which Geller and Spencer founded, has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit civil rights watchdog.

“Pamela Geller is the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead,” according to a profile published by SPLC on its web site. ”She’s relentlessly shrill and coarse in her broad-brush denunciations of Islam and makes preposterous claims.”

The Arab American Institute, a decades-old community organization in the Detroit area, discouraged Muslims and their supporters from protesting at the site of Geller’s conference.  But they organized a competing event, said AAI president Jim Zogby, because Geller and Spencer have become too prominent to ignore.

“Geller and Spencer have thousands of followers, and are given airtime to spew their hate on major American news networks, as if they are respected analysts with just another viewpoint,” Zogby said on the AAI announcement for the “Rejecting Islamophobia” town hall in Detroit.

Although many Americans have never encountered a Muslim in person, about 43 percent questioned in a recent Gallup Poll said they felt at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims.

“This group, we cannot ignore. This is the time for our community to take a stand, along with all those who value America’s commitment to diversity and freedom of religion, against the politics of division and bigotry promoted by the Islamophobes.”

A variety of community, interfaith and religious leaders and Michigan public on their agenda, for a “community conversation about how to respond to these continued attacks,” said Zogby.

One participant who was just on his way to the town hall was Dawud Walid, who heads the Michigan office of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a civil rights advocacy group for Muslims.

“I think firstly we have to better expose who these anti-Muslim bigots are as well as their funders,” said Walid. “We believe that the Islamophobia that permeates our country is being pushed by a well-organized, highly-funded network.”

He says that while Dearborn and Detroit have become a focus for the activities of Geller and others of like mind, the problem is bigger.

“Islamophobia is a national illness,” he said.

Rejecting Islamophobia: Town hall counters ‘Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference’ in Dearborn

Jessica_Mokdad
Jessica Mokdad “loved Islam” according to her parents.

Striking back and rejecting Islamophobia:

Rejecting Islamophobia: Town hall counters ‘Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference’ in Dearborn

Dearborn, home to one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Arab Americans, once again will become a focal point for debate over the practice and persecution of Islam in the west.

Pamela Geller, conservative activist and co-founder of Stop Islamization of America, is scheduled to host the “Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference” from the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dearborn on Sunday at 5 p.m.

The event is named after a 20-year-old woman fatally shot by her stepfather last year in Warren. Initial reports suggested Rahim Alfetlawi shot Mokdad because he believed she had strayed from Islam, but prosecutors have since said that religion did not play a role.

Despite opposition from family members who say Mokdad’s murder has nothing to do with Islam, Geller has refused to rename the conference, suggesting an attempt to cover up what she continues to call an “honor killing.”

“Unlike those closest to her, we are going to honor Jessica’s memory and stand up against the brutal practice that took her life,” Geller said in a statement announcing the conference.

Local leaders say the conference is misleading and argue that Dearborn has become a convenient target for anti-Muslim groups, pointing to recent protests led by activist Pastor Terry Jones.

To counter Geller’s conference, The Arab American Institute and partners have scheduled a competing town hall on Sunday titled “Rejecting Islamophobia: A Community Stand Against Hate.” It is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel in Dearborn.

“This is clearly not the first time our community in Michigan has had to deal with a hate group,” AAI President Jim Zogby said in a statement. “Despite repeated efforts to target Arab Americans and American Muslims, the community has remained resilient and poised, sometimes choosing to ignore the fervor.

“This group we cannot ignore and this is the time to stand up and make our voices loud and clear in opposition to the politics of division and bigotry.”