Two Democratic state senators have slammed an op-ed piece that called a Detroit suburb “America’s jihad capital” as “racist and Islamophobic” in a resolution submitted Tuesday.
The proposal, introduced by state Rep. Alabas Farhat and House Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash, asks on The Wall Street Journal to withdraw the article, which was published on Friday, and apologize publicly to the City of Dearborn. Officials stated they bolstered police presence in the city after the op-ed was published.
“It was a pathetic excuse for an editorial piece,” said Farhat, who represents Dearborn. “It fanned the flames of hatred and division in our country during a time when hate crimes are on the rise. It makes it so that it’s normal to question how patriotic your neighbor is.”
The resolution was referred to committee in the state House, which is split evenly between Democratic and Republican representatives, with 54 members each. Farhat blamed Republicans for the resolution not being voted on, and said that only two Democrats signed on because of the rush to turn it in on time. He added that “there’s broad support in our caucus” for the resolution.
The Israel-Hamas battle has heightened tensions in Dearborn, which has a sizable Arab American community, with some calling for a truce and protesting the Biden administration’s approach to the conflict. President Joe Biden’s visit to the state this week was met with demonstrations and cries of “Hey, Biden, what do you say?” We will not vote on Election Day.
According to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled enclave, more over 27,000 Palestinians, predominantly women and youngsters, have been murdered in Gaza since the conflict began on October 7 with Hamas’ onslaught on Israel. In the October raid, Hamas murdered around 1,200 individuals and abducted over 250 others, the majority of whom were civilians.
The opinion piece exacerbated anger and concerns within the community. Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud tweeted that city police increased security at places of worship after the op-ed column “led to an alarming increase in bigoted and Islamophobic rhetoric online” targeting the city.
Dearborn High School was put on a temporary soft lockdown on Tuesday after a shell casing was found inside the building, according to police. The lockdown was lifted Tuesday afternoon and police said on social media that there were no threats to the school or community.
The op-ed’s author is Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, a
Washington-based think tank founded by Israeli analysts.
Stalinsky pushed back on the criticism Tuesday in a phone call with The Associated Press, and stood by his piece.
“It’s a political stunt,” he said of the resolution.
“I don’t think any of the leaders read the full article. They used a couple sentences from the beginning but don’t get into the facts that I cite lower down. Everyone is attacking the headline and no one is reading the full article,” Stalinsky said.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told reporters Monday that the article was “cruel and ignorant.” Biden said on the social media platform X that “blaming a group of people based on the words of a small few is wrong,” while also referencing Dearborn.
The Wall Street Journal did not respond Tuesday to an email seeking comment.
Michigan lawmakers have struggled to come to a consensus on how to react to the Israel-Hamas war and its effects in Dearborn, which also has a large Jewish population.
In October, a pro-Israel resolution in the state House that was introduced with bipartisan support was never passed because of objections from several Democrats. Aiyash, the Democratic floor leader in the chamber, strongly opposed the resolution at the time, saying, “If we’re going to condemn terror, we must condemn the terror and the violence that the Palestinian people have endured for decades.”