Arab festival in Michigan canceled in wake of religious tensions


DEARBORN, Mich. — After growing religious tensions, the annual Arab International Festival has been canceled for the first time in its 18-year history, organizers said Friday.

“We’re very sad that we had to postpone it,” Fay Baydoun, director of the American-Arab Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the festival. “But we’re looking at this as a positive to come back better and stronger the next year.”

The decision to cancel this year’s festival comes after four years of tensions at the event between some Christian missionaries and local Muslims. Their encounters resulted in heated arguments, scuffles, some bottle-throwing, and several lawsuits.

Last year, one group of Christian missionaries brought a pig’s head and signs insulting Islam’s prophet, which drew a strong reaction from some children. Earlier this month, the city of Dearborn apologized and paid an undisclosed amount of money to a group of Christian missionaries arrested at the festival for disturbing the peace who were later acquitted.

Dearborn resident Majed Moughni said he was disappointed in the cancellation, but added that he understands given the high insurance and logistical costs for what became an increasingly tense event.

“It’s not worth the cost,” said Moughni. “It became too costly.”