Detroit NAACP president condemns WSJ article calling Dearborn ‘America’s Jihad Capital’

Dearborn, home to the largest per capita Muslim community in the nation is currently facing a sad reality: suggested Islamophobic hate being thrown right at their front door as a Wall Street Journal opinion piece surfaced the internet and hit the masses with a provocative headline calling out the city of Dearborn; “Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital.”  

Much like many others, Rev. Wendell Anthony, President of the Detroit NAACP, did not steer away from expressing profound disappointment in response to the recent WSJ publication. Drawing from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words, “nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity,” Rev. Anthony pinpointed the article as a prime illustration of such ignorance, particularly regarding the realities of life in Dearborn. He criticized the piece for not only spreading misinformation but also engaging in the deliberate propagation of disinformation, highlighting its role in perpetuating a grossly inaccurate and harmful portrayal of the community. 

“In the recent article entitled, ‘Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital,’ published by the Wall Street Journal on February 3, written by Steven Stalinsky, herein lies a key example of the ignorance of the facts of life in the city of Dearborn. Further, its stupidity is reflected when one operates with a conscientiousness devoid of the reality concerning the very subject which they attempt to define. It is not only misinformation. It is also disinformation. It is an example of a mistaken characterization, and it is intentional in its malicious dissemination. Our nation needs more unity than disunity. We need more collective understanding than individual confusion. Our nation is plagued by islamophobia, white supremacism, antisemitism, racism, genderism, and ageism. There are just too many isms going around. What the Wall Street Journal ought to be calling for is a collectivism for positive thought and a clear advocacy for the commonalities that diverse communities all share.” 

Rev. Anthony emphasized the detrimental impact of the article’s “stupidity,” which he described as an attack on his neighbor, “I live in Detroit which is a neighbor of Dearborn. While historically we have not always agreed on every issue, today we find a common ground in which we stand together that this bogus journalistic diatribe serves no one but those who would keep us divided, diffused, and confused.” He lamented the article’s contribution to the already rampant issues of Islamophobia, white supremacism, antisemitism, racism, genderism, and ageism plaguing the nation. Stressing the need for greater unity and collective understanding over disunity and confusion, he called for media outlets like the Wall Street Journal to foster a spirit of collectivism that emphasizes the shared values among diverse communities, rather than amplifying divisive rhetoric. 

The piece in question insinuated that the inhabitants of the city, including its religious and political figures, were supporters of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and other extremist ideologies. This assertion sparked significant backlash, including from Dearborn’s Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, numerous U.S. legislators, and advocacy groups such as the NAACP, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee. President Joe Biden, while not naming the Wall Street Journal or the article’s author directly, stated on the X platform (formerly known as Twitter), “It’s wrong to hold a group of people responsible for the actions of a few.” He further emphasized, “This is how Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment are fueled, and it’s something the people of Dearborn – or any American community – should not endure.” 

Though many locals have shown concerns that President Biden released a statement pertaining to the article ahead of Governor Whitmer, she did not back down from saying her piece. Monday Gov. Whitmer shared, “I thought that opinion article was incredibly cruel and ignorant and a total misrepresentation of an important city full of a lot of beautiful people who are Michiganders and our neighbors and our extended family. So that’s why I responded. I recognize that there are a lot of people hurting because of the war that is raging in Israel and Gaza, people with Jewish relatives that are hurting, people with Palestinian or Muslim relatives that are hurting. And that’s why my job as Governor has been to try and keep the heat down here at home, make sure people are safe, whether they worship in a mosque, a synagogue, a church, or anywhere else for that matter. And so, I thought that opinion article was really abhorrent.” 

In addition to the irrefutable disappointment expressed by Anthony, following the publication the city of Dearborn is significantly boosting its law enforcement measures. Dearborn’s Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, in a matter-of-fact response on Friday, tweeted that Dearborn’s police force is intensifying its vigilance around vital places of worship and essential infrastructure facilities. This strategic enhancement in security measures is being attributed directly to the repercussions of the WSJ’s controversial article, citing that Dearborn is “America’s Jihad Capital.” Hammoud, voicing his concerns on the X platform, underscored that the article’s release last Friday has ignited a wave of intensified discriminatory and Islamophobic online rhetoric targeting the diverse and culturally rich community of Dearborn, prompting immediate and robust protective actions from the city’s administration. “An alarming increase in bigoted and Islamophobic rhetoric online targeting the city of Dearborn,” was detailed in the tweet.  

Dearborn is distinguished by its substantial Arab American population, constituting approximately 54% according to census data, making it one of the cities with the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States. 

Mayor Hammoud passionately criticized the article, authored by Steven Stalinsky, the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, as “Reckless. Bigoted. Islamophobic.” 

Rev. Anthony depicted the city of Dearborn as a place of celebrated culture and history, “We just celebrated the exhibit of the life of Nelson Mandela here in the city of Dearborn. It brought together people of all races, stations, and places to this city. We are looking forward to the placement of the Sullivan Jackson House at the Henry Ford Museum, again in Dearborn, a place where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and then President Lyndon Baines Johnson spoke often on the telephone, discussing voting rights and civil rights, leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” Rev. Anthony dismantles the opinion piece that mentioned negative condensations towards the city of Dearborn. “There is nothing hateful about coming to this city to eat good food prepared in a middle eastern tradition or coming to review diverse entertainment while relaxing with a fine cigar. Perhaps Mr. Stalinsky has never had such an experience.” 

The backdrop to this controversy includes recent conflicts in the Middle East, with an outbreak of hostilities on October 7 when Hamas launched attacks against Israel, resulting in 1,200 fatalities. The subsequent Israeli offensive against Hamas-controlled Gaza has led to over 27,000 deaths, as reported by Gaza’s health ministry, and has left nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants displaced, with the territory on the brink of starvation due to the dense population and the severe impact of the conflict. 

Directly, Rev. Anthony suggested to Stalinsky and anyone who agrees, “The Detroit Branch NAACP suggests you take a different look, make a different analysis, and come back not with a story of war and hate, but a story reflecting a cultural energy and a community sensitivity of a people who possess dignity, respect, and remain focused on more peace and not clamoring for more war.” 

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