Anti-Islam protests force cancellation of Michigan Arab fest
Pastor Terry Jones promised to demonstrate in Dearborn, Mich., this weekend
The 2013 Arab International Festival, scheduled for this weekend in Dearborn, Mich., has been cancelled.
For years, anti-Muslim organizations have demonstrated at the event, even though it isn't a celebration of Islam. The festival isn't a religious event because not all Arabs are Muslim. Instead, it's a cultural celebration.
This year, Pastor Terry Jones, the man widely known for burning the Qur'an, promised to attend. Repent Amarillo, a group likened to the Westboro Baptist Church, and representatives of the Bible Believers, were also to be on hand, according to the anti-Islam group Stand Up America Now.
Organizers of the Arab festival and the City of Dearborn decided in April to relocate the event. The idea was to move the festival from an open street to a park that could be secured and where admission could be charged.
But organizers said that, in the end, there wasn't enough time to get things ready.
"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," Fay Beydoun, director of the Arab International Festival, said in a media release.
The festival is 18 years old and draws thousands to Dearborn.
Windsor businessman Antoine Greige, who is Lebanese, likes to go. He said he can't understand why anyone would have a problem with the festival.
"People usually get along fine. There are all kinds of people there, not only Arabic or Lebanese," Greige said. "There's all kinds of people, American and Canadians."
According to the Detroit Free Press, Christian missionaries have attended the festival in the past. But the paper said things turned ugly last year when members of the Bible Believers mounted a pig’s head on a pole and brought signs that denigrated Islam.
"It's a shame that a cultural thing got cancelled because people's views about religion or politics," Greige said. "I don't go for that. It's really disappointing that we see that."
The event is expected to be held next year.
"The future direction of the Arab International Festival is still the same," Beydoun said. "This break will allow us to focus on improving the festival and further highlight the American-Arab Culture, which is celebrated year in and year out with this wonderful event."