Events surrounding the recent Arab-American Festival in Dearborn highlight the continued need for community leaders and members to proactively challenge bigotry through dialogue instead of angry confrontation.
From Terry Jones' cohorts at Dearborn City Hall referring to counterprotestors as "scum" and "gang-bangers" to aggressive Christian evangelists calling Arab-American women "whores," these people from outside of Michigan brought an atmosphere of hostility and hatred that is counter to everyday life in Dearborn. These critics who outwardly showed animosity toward Islam even expanded their scope to include African Americans, Catholics and immigrants in general.
Equally appalling was the behavior of members of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) outside Dearborn City Hall, who shouted obscenities that could be heard by children in close proximity and their pushing and blocking Terry Jones from simply walking down the sidewalk toward the festival.
Although, as Americans, we are free to criticize other religions and people, we should also use our 1st Amendment rights to cultivate civility in our society, rather than intolerance. Inciting enmity between fellow Americans is disdainful, and meeting such enmity with physical confrontation is equally abhorrent.
I hope that Terry Jones, his cohorts and the members of BAMN understand that their messages of bigotry and provocation are not welcome in our community.
Executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations — Michigan (CAIR-MI), Southfield