By Derek Fawaz, CBS 62 and CW50 Intern
The Arab American community in Dearborn has brought a rich culture to the Metro Detroit area. When people who are not familiar with Arab American or Muslim American culture come to the city, they experience the community’s warmth and friendliness and are leaving with a changed outlook. Instead of relying on misconceptions, visitors are observing the Arabs and Muslims as non-violent groups.
“What helps is that Dearborn has people of many cultures and ethnicities who have shown their support,” said Osama Siblani, Publisher of The Arab American News. “Visitors who come to Dearborn with these beliefs and are unfamiliar with the Arab American or Muslim people end up seeing the community as a very welcoming and beautiful one. They are beginning to defend the image more.”
Because of the culture’s variety of businesses, non-residents are drawn to what the community has to offer. In both West and East Dearborn there are a large selection of Middle Eastern restaurants, hookah lounges, and the Arab American National Museum. All of these places are ingrained in the Middle Eastern social life. The same hospitality that the Arab American people express in their social life stretches into their businesses, which is one of the reasons that makes them successful.
“Arab Americans have a favor to please their customers. People who are shopping in our stores, whether it’s eating a sandwich in our restaurants, or smoking a Hookah at the bars are observing the care that is given to them. They’re beginning to share their views and can see that a lot of what the media is portraying about Arabs and Muslims is untrue, that they’re a generous people with families trying to make a living,” said Siblani.
The Arab International Festival, which is one of the largest annual outdoor gatherings in Michigan, is expected to come back to Dearborn this June. In the past couple of years it was canceled due to interference from Christian Missionaries. According to Siblani it is their goal to restart the festival in order to bring more positive awareness about the Arab American Community to the public.
“The festival has always been a fun opportunity for non-Arab American, or non- Muslim people to come and experience the Middle Eastern culture for what it truly is. We hold many activities for people and families to participate in. Because of the situation with the missionary groups we had to close it down. In the past we had 200,000 visitors come and attend the festival. It gave people a chance to observe the open nature of the community,” said Siblani.
Even though residents and visitors of Dearborn are growing to understand the people, Siblani still feels more work could be done to fix the prejudice some groups have towards the Arab American community.
“Both the Arab and Muslim communities need to expand their interests beyond Dearborn. The political leaders need to work on helping them create the awareness they deserve,” said Siblani.
Derek Fawaz is a writer and aspiring filmmaker from Dearborn, Mich. with a passion for research. Derek is an intern at CBS 62 and CW50, a graduate of the University of Michigan Ann Arbor with a degree in Screen Arts & Cultures. He is also a Communications student at the University of Michigan Dearborn.