Arab Fest cancelled again; future in discussion

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — For the second straight year the Arab International Festival will not be taking place.

An official announcement has not been issued by the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event, but AACC Executive Director and director of the AIF Fay Beydoun said the 2014 festival has been postponed and that the organization is currently considering how to have the event moving forward.

The AIF, held in June, had been a staple on Warren Avenue between Schaefer and Wyoming for the last eight years prior to last year’s cancellation, which came just weeks before the event was set to begin.

Last spring, the city asked the AACC to move the festival from the open-street setting of Warren to the more enclosed Ford Woods Park after four years of religious tension at the event.

A few weeks later the AACC announced that it was postponing the festival, which would allow organizers to “explore all opportunities for the upcoming year” and to “ensure we provide a quality event that the community has come to expect from us.”

In 2009, a Christian missionary was removed from the festival for distributing religious leaflets. The following year four Christian missionaries were arrested at the festival. They were cleared of all charges after their trial.

At the 2012 AIF a group called the Bible Believers attended the event carrying a pig’s head on a pike and signs calling the prophet Mohammed a “pedophile.” A confrontation between them and festival attendees who threw objects at them became a viral video on the Internet.

All of these cases resulted in litigation against either the city or the AACC or both.

Controversial Pastor Terry Jones from the group Stand Up America said he
was planning on attending the 2013 AIF and that he was going to bring other Stand Up members as well as Pastor Warren Sapp, Ruben Israel of Bible Believers, David Grisham of Repent Amarillo and Rabbi Nachum Shifren of the California Security Council.

After the event was cancelled the individuals did not come to the city.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)

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