Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July--Let's Celebrate Our Freedom.....

....such as "freedom of religion" and "freedom of speech." UNLESS you are a Christian and live in Michigan!

Here's a video of this year's Arab Fest, sponsored by the city of Dearborn, Michigan. Last time I checked, "Dearborn" was not a religious entity, and "Arab" was not a religion.

In fact, millions of Arabs are non-Muslim, and most Muslims are non-Arab.

Not to mention that over 60% of American Arabs are Christian.  (Like Danny Thomas...that's why he named his children's hospital "St. Jude's" and not "Ayatollah's.")

Last year, there were four arrests when Christans tried to "infiltrate" the festival. They were later acquitted. The police viewed the Christians as troublemakers, but if you watch the video, they're really just reading scripture and inviting discussion.

They do have the right to do this at what is purportedly a NON-religious, city sponsored event, like street preachers everywhere. It would also be okay for an imam to quote from the Qur'an at Taste of Chicago. (I'm guessing this wouldn't be anywhere near the rib steamers. Mmmm.)

I also don't think the hypothetical imam would raise many eyebrows--certainly he wouldn't be screamed at, insulted, threatened, or have stuff stolen out of his backpack (in true sharia tradition, those thieves really should have their hands lopped off). And this was all while being surrounded and observed by the police!

It's understandable that the cops hate seeing Christian preachers come into a venue like this, because they know how easy it is to incite violence among crowds of Muslims (freedom of assemby: another liberty we have). But this is like shooting the messenger: the problem is not that Muslims will be offended, because Muslims will ALWAYS be offended by the existence of non-Muslims--the problem is that the crowds that are whipped into a frenzy (because someone dares hold a different belief) are not held accountable. We shrug our shoulders and say, "We shouldn't provoke them!" which is great advice. How about telling that to a battered wife? It makes as much sense.

The larger issue of course is the very existence of ArabFest. This is going on all over the country, and not just as city fesitivals but also in schools as part of multi-cultural fairs and assemblies.

Last week a lot of people in the Chicago area attended Polish Fest, but that was more about pierogi and beer and not at all about religion, unless you count the people who ate way too much pierogi and walked around moaning, "Jesus Christ, my stomach hurts!"

So--we have these fun street parties that feature ethnic food and music, where little stands sell souvenirs imported from the Old Country, where you can actually hear people speaking in their native tongue...but then along comes a group with an agenda and they change the entire event into a rally for their political aspirations, in this case, to promote Islamic law over American culture.

If you listen to the people taunting this preacher, they are clearly telling him that NON-MUSLIMS do not belong at Arab Fest. This is really bad, because a)ethnic fests are supposed to celebrate a culture and invite outsiders to celebrate it too, and b)non-Muslim Arabs are not welcome to participate in their own fest.

Dearborn isn't the only city to experience this with Muslims. Chicago's Arab celebrations have been muted over the past two years, I think deliberately, because they were going this way as well. Dearborn happens to have a large and vocal Muslim population, and they're also at the center of a lot of initiatives to broaden sharia's application so that residents can have legal recourse more in line with Saudi Arabia, at least on domestic issues.

It does NOT have to be this way. We can keep ArabFests all over the country, just like we have Festa Italiana and German Fest and Fiesta Mexico and all the rest, as long as we keep the sponsorship of those events secular, with the understanding that members of all faiths can come and talk about religion if they wish without fear of arrest or harassment.

The city of Dearborn and the Dearborn police in particular should make this clear. Bad enough that the attendees view this as a Muslim party--the city of Dearborn reinforces that impression by implementing a punitive and stifling environment for anyone not on board. (In other words, they are practricing sharia.)

Especially on Independence Day, we should keep in mind that this country is built on principles of inclusiveness and tolerance.

And that means politically-charged Muslims who want to monopolize ArabFest need to be a little more inclusive and tolerant, too.