Mayor slams op-ed as ‘bigoted’ and ‘Islamophobic,’ calls for increased police patrols in city
( Michigan Advance ) – Reaction to a Wall Street Journal opinion piece about Dearborn intensified through the weekend, as President Joe Biden and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined the chorus of condemnation.
The WSJ op-ed, “Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital,” alleged thousands of residents in the predominantly Muslim city, including “imams and politicians” are siding with “Hamas against Israel and Iran against the U.S.”
The op-ed was written by Steven Salinsky, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a group critics say often produces selective or inaccurate translations to negatively portray Muslims and Arabs.
By Saturday morning, Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, a former House member, took to social media to lambast the piece.
“It’s 2024 and the @WSJ still pushes out this type of garbage. Reckless. Bigoted. Islamophobic,” said Hammoud, who called Dearborn “one of the greatest American cities in our nation,” noting that not only was it the home of the Ford Motor Co., but the fastest-growing city in Michigan, as well as among the most diverse.
But within about two hours, he came back to X to note the negative impact the WSJ piece was having.
“Effective immediately – Dearborn police will ramp up its presence across all places of worship and major infrastructure points,” said Hammoud. “This is a direct result of the inflammatory @WSJ opinion piece that has led to an alarming increase in bigoted and Islamophobic rhetoric online targeting the city of Dearborn. Stay vigilant.”
Requests for comment on the nature of those threats were sent by the Michigan Advance to both Dearborn Police and Michigan State Police, but have yet to be returned.
CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid said the group welcomes “the proactive approach taken by Mayor Hammoud to protect the Muslim community from potential attack based on the false claims in this inaccurate and inflammatory commentary.” The Washington, D.C.-based CAIR reports that the groups received 3,578 complaints during the last three months of 2023 — a 178% increase compared to a similar period in 2022.
Almost exactly 24 hours after Hammoud’s post, Biden also posted to social media his criticism of the WSJ op-ed.
“Americans know that blaming a group of people based on the words of a small few is wrong,” said Biden. “That’s exactly what can lead to Islamophobia and anti-Arab hate, and it shouldn’t happen to the residents of Dearborn – or any American town. We must continue to condemn hate in all forms.”
State Rep. Alabas Farhat (D-Dearborn) said he’ll be introducing a resolution in the House on Tuesday condemning “vile rhetoric.”
“Glad to see the President condemning the hateful bigoted piece published by @WSJ,” he wrote. “Let’s not forget that dehumanizing words and policies lead to the rise in hate crimes we’re seeing.”
Whitmer also issued a post on Sunday.
“Dearborn is a vibrant community full of Michiganders who contribute day in and day out to our state. Islamophobia and all forms of hate have no place in Michigan, or anywhere. Period,” she said.
Residents in Dearborn have organized and held multiple protests of the war against Hamas by Israel, jointly condemning the administration, and Biden specifically, for not embracing a cease-fire in Gaza, where more than 27,000 Palestinians have died since the Oct. 7 surprise attack by Hamas that killed as many as 1,400 Israelis, most of them civilians.
Most recently, groups held a rally last Wednesday at Fordson High School in Dearborn, protesting the ongoing Israeli military action. It took place on the eve of Biden’s campaign visit to Michigan — which also drew protesters, as the Advance previously reported — and about a week after several Arab American leaders, including Hammoud, declined to meet with Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez.
While Biden administration officials have affirmed Israel’s right to respond to the attack, they have increasingly demanded more attention to minimizing civilian casualties.
“Israel must do more to stop violence against civilians in the West Bank and hold accountable those responsible for it,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last Thursday on sanctions levied by Biden against four Israeli settlers in the West Bank, part of an effort to curb civilian casualties in the region as the Israel-Hamas war continues. Negotiations on a ceasefire continued Sunday.
Critics of the WSJ op-ed said that protesting against American foreign policy, and even an American president, should not be used to indict an entire community, especially on ethnic or religious lines.
“Bigotry. Hatred. Anti-Arab and Anti-Muslim. If the headline was about any other minority — with the worst stereotype of that group — it would have never gotten through the editors at the WSJ,” said U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), who is Jewish.
Fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor), who lived in Dearborn for nearly 40 years, called it “another example of hate directed at a community that is already hurting, resulting in fear, vitriol, and threats of violence.”
Dingell said her “neighborhood and friends were supportive, caring, and dedicated, and concluded by stating that “We cannot let hatred of any kind, Islamophobia, antisemitism, destroy people. We must stand up to hate everywhere and anywhere we see it.”