Christian Activists Decry ‘Sharia Law’ at Arab Event

     (CN) – A Michigan sheriff’s department let a “hostile mob” of Muslims enforce “sharia law” during an Arab Festival, a Christian group claims in federal court.
     “The Muslims at the Arab Festival were enforcing sharia, which is Islamic law,” the complaint states. “Under sharia, blasphemy is severely punished. And in line with the Islamic legal dictates of sharia, the Christian Gospel is treated as criminally offensive speech and violence ‘for the sake of Allah’ is reinforced by arresting or removing the Christians. In short, sharia is being enforced by a hostile mob, and defendants are aiding and abetting its enforcement by permitting the Muslims to silence the Christians’ message through violence.”
     Bible Believers, a group of travelling evangelists, says the outburst has been brewing for years, ever since the city Dearborn, “in cooperation with the American Arab Chamber of Commerce (‘AACC’), the sponsor of the Arab Festival, decided to institute and enforce a drastic, and ultimately unconstitutional, restriction on the right of Christians to effectively evangelize at the Arab Festival by restricting their right to distribute literature.”
     “Pursuant to this literature distribution restriction, the Christians were no longer permitted to distribute their religious literature on the public sidewalks adjacent to Warren Avenue,” the complaint states. “Moreover, the Dearborn Police Department, in cooperation with the AACC, created an outer perimeter, which had the purpose and effect of keeping the Christians and their religious literature several blocks away, thereby preventing the Christians from effectively evangelizing Muslims at the Arab Festival.”
     In 2010, Dearborn police officers allegedly arrested four Christian missionaries who were peacefully preaching to Muslims at the festival, according to the complaint. Last year, the 6th Circuit upheld an injunction against Dearborn’s leafleting restriction.
     The activists say Deputy Chief Mike Jafaar, who is a Muslim, paraded a Christian at the 2011 protest, solely to parade him past cheering Muslims and appease the crowd.
     Jaafar also allegedly encouraged fellow officers, including Deput Chief Dennis Richardson, to silence Christians.
     “In a 2012 televised segment of ‘All American Muslim,’ defendants Jaafar and Richardson were on camera discussing the 2011 Arab Festival,” according to the complaint. “During this conversation, defendants Jaafar and Richardson discussed plaintiffs’ signs and banners, describing plaintiffs’ message as ‘offensive,’ or words to that effect.”
     Despite the building tension, Bible Believers returned to Dearborn this past June for the 2012 festival “not to be deterred, intimidated or deprived of their fundamental constitutional rights,” according to the complaint.
     The reaction this year was allegedly unprecedented.
     “The angry Muslims threw bottles, rocks, and other debris at the Christians,” Bible Believers says. “The Muslims were shouting and blowing horns to harass the Christians. Some of the Muslims spat at the Christians. Several Christians, including plaintiff Israel, were bruised and bloodied by the attacks. The Muslims also shouted profanities at the Christians and mocked the Christians’ faith.
     “When confronted by the violent and angry Muslims, the Christians would simply hold up their hands to avoid being falsely accused of acting aggressively toward their Muslim attackers.”
     Ruben Israel, a member of Bible Believers, says that Wayne County sheriff’s deputies refused to protect Christians from the attacks and instead threatened to arrest them for disorderly conduct.
     “With blood dripping from his forehead as a result of the Muslim attacks, plaintiff Israel pleaded with defendant [Dennis] Richardson to assign just two Wayne County deputies to stand with the Christians during their speech activity, noting that when uniform officers are present, the Muslims stop their criminal assault,” the complaint states. “Defendant Richardson refused.
     “During this conversation, defendant Richardson criticized plaintiffs for their speech, motioning toward the Christians at one point and stating, ‘Look at your people here. Look it, look it. This is crazy,’ or words to that effect.”
     The group says Jafaar intentionally turned a blind eye toward the physical assault and arrested a Christian missionary to appease the crowd.
     “Defendant Jaafar sympathizes with the Muslim mob, and he opposes the messages conveyed by plaintiffs,” the complaint states. “As a result, defendant Jaafar refused to provide any police protection for plaintiffs, thereby allowing the angry mob to silence plaintiffs’ message based on its content and viewpoint.”
     Dearborn, with one of the nation’s largest Muslim communities, has held the Arab Festival for the past 17 years. Before 2009, Bible Believers says Christians were allowed to peacefully distribute literature and discuss their faith on the public sidewalks adjacent to the festival without incident.
     Bible Believers claims that it wants to keep attending the Arab Festival to pass out literature and to evangelize. Failure by the county to protect Christians constitutes a violation of their rights to free speech, religion and equal protection, the group says.
     In adiditon to an award of nominal damages, the court should prohibit Wayne from enforcing the “heckler’s veto policy,” according to the complaint.
     Bible Believers is represented by Robert Muise of the American Freedom Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.
     Wayne County, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, Richardson and Jafaar are named as defendants.

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