Dearborn, Michigan, Islam and the Gospel of John – Overreaction from both sides

Welcome (back) to the Bible Monkey who brings to us this video,

First, there is such a thing as freedom of religion in this country, and speech, and the right to assembly peacefully. Three men on a side-walk outside of a public festival does not infringe upon none of those sacred (American sacred) freedoms. The reaction by the police officers of Dearborn, Michigan (you can contact them here) overreacted, seriously overreacted. Honestly, how many police officers does it take to stop three men armed with a tract?

Yes, attention needs to be called to the situation, but not by stating that the police are enforcing Sharia Law. This is fear mongering. What needs to be examined is whether or not all Christians groups are expelled and treated in such a manner? Not so much:

A Christian pastor is free to distribute literature on the streets at the Arab-American festival this weekend in Dearborn, a federal court has ruled.

A three-judge panel on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency motion that allows Pastor George Saieg, a Christian minister from California, to hand out literature aimed at converting Muslims on the perimeter of the three-day festival that starts tonight.

The court’s ruling on Thursday overturns, for now, a June 7th decision by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman that supported the city of Dearborn’s policy, which maintained that Saieg and anyone else must only hand out literature around their booths because of crowd control concerns. The festival is one of the largest Arab-American gatherings in the U.S. and organizers have safety concerns. And so such rules are needed and apply to every one, organizers said. There are other Christian groups that hand out literature from booths at the festival, as do other religious and ethnic groups, they note.

It looks like that the Thomas More Law Center is going to represent those arrested:

In what some have described as police enforcement of Sharia law at the annual Dearborn Arab International Festival, last Friday night Dearborn Police Officers arrested four Christian missionaries and illegally confiscated their video cameras which were recording the events surrounding their arrests. The Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, today announced it is representing all of the Christian missionaries.

Arrested on charges of Breach of the Peace are: Negeen Mayel, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, Paul Rezkalla, and David Wood. Mayel, an eighteen year old female, whose parents emigrated from Afghanistan and a recent convert from Islam to Christianity, was also charged with failure to obey a police officer’s orders. She was approximately 100 feet away and videotaping a discussion with some Muslims when her camera was seized.

I find it rather odd that those who seek religious freedom are turning to a group which is named after the man who helped to murder William Tyndale because he wanted the bible to be read in English and tried to stop the spread of the Reformation into England. In other words, Thomas More was against religious freedom, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech.

So, what do we have here? A group which might have been allowed to distribute Christian material within the proper bounds – which is customary for large gatherings, man-handled by a large number of police officers, arrested on a silly charge and now claiming that the Dearborn Police Department is enforcing Sharia Law.

What do you think?

Check out Christian’s post on this as well.

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

13 thoughts on “Dearborn, Michigan, Islam and the Gospel of John – Overreaction from both sides”

  1. Having grown up in that area, I can attest the palpable tension between ethnic/religious/racial groups in the Detroit metro area. So, on one hand I can see the concern about harassment as being valid. I'm not sure I see the 1st Amendment claims as clearly, since the rule was applied to all groups, not just religious and not just Christian groups.

    Perhaps the thing that bothers me the most is that this guy was offered a booth, for free, as a compromise, and it wasn't enough for him. According to a commenter on my blog, he refused the table because he's involved in a court case from last year when a table wasn't offered.

    I don't get it, really. He wasn't given a table last year, sued, and was offered one this year and refused. Seems like he was intentionally goading officials to do something.

    Did all parties overreact? Absolutely…without a doubt.

    I am curious, tho, how many of these evangelical groups would welcome, and allow, Muslims at their church festivals. I can tell you that in Detroit, the odds of that happening would be somewhere between slim and none.

    Perhaps if we stopped looking to create discord once in a while, the world would be a substantially better, and nicer, place.

  2. Amen and amen, Christian. I think that the fact that groups were allowed in and designated areas – which is common on most festivals – proves that they overreacted.

  3. “Yes, attention needs to be called to the situation, but not by stating that the police are enforcing Sharia Law. This is fear mongering. “

    In all humility and with due respect. If you had any knowledge of Qur'anic ideology and Sharia you would not make such an uninformed statement. Please get educated before you raise an opinion.

  4. Muslims are welcome at church conventions. Christians love public debate, especially with Muslims. I have personally been involved in such debates.

  5. “I am curious, tho, how many of these evangelical groups would welcome, and allow, Muslims at their church festivals.”

    Afaik it's an Arab festival, not a muslim festival!

  6. “I am curious, tho, how many of these evangelical groups would welcome, and allow, Muslims at their church festivals.”

    Afaik it's an Arab festival, not a muslim festival!

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