June 19, 2012
How Not To Evangelize Muslims: Stick A Pig's Head On A Pole
(Updated) After fallout at last year's event, organizers cancel nation's largest Arab festival for one-year hiatus.
Update (May 21): This year's Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan, has now been cancelled in order to allow event organizers "to better prepare for the new venue," reports The Macomb Country Advisor and Source.
According to Religion Clause, "This year the Festival was to be moved to a local park that police would be able to better control—particularly in light of anti-Muslim proselytizers that were planning to attend."
Update (May 14): A federal judge has dismissed a First Amendment lawsuit filed by members of the Bible Believers, who say "their rights were violated when they denounced Islam at last year’s Arab International Festival in Dearborn and were pelted with debris." The group plans to appeal its case to the 6th Circuit District Court.
Update (May 7): The city of Dearborn, Michigan, has agreed to apologize to Christian missionaries who were arrested during the annual Arab International Festival in 2010. The three missionaries, members of the Acts 17 Apologetics group who were making an interview video with festival attendees, filed suit against the city saying they had not violated peace.
As part of the settlement, Dearborn must post an apology to the missionaries on its website for three years. Part of the apology specifies that the missionaries "were not guilty of the criminal offense of breach of peace."
Update (May 1, 2013): The Detroit Free Press reports that the three-day, annual Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan, will now be held in an area where organizers can restrict access to paid entrants.
The move follows four years of tensions between festival attendees and Christian missionaries attempting to evangelize—and not always in the most culturally appropriate ways, as CT reported in 2010.
The nation's largest Arab American festival has long drawn self-professed Christian missionaries to Dearborn, Michigan. But this past weekend, a small group of Christian protestors provoked fights by using novel evangelism techniques, including holding a severed pig's head aloft on a pole.
Arab Christian leaders in Dearborn criticize such efforts by outside groups, including a high-profile 2010 incident involving Acts 17 Apologetics, as ill-informed and counter-productive. One reason: The majority of Arab Americans are Christians not Muslims.
However, courts have affirmed the legality of these street evangelism efforts.