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US city of Dearborn increases police presence after 'inflammatory' Wall Street Journal column

Article calling Dearborn 'America's jihad capital' comes amid an uptick in attacks against Arab and Muslim communities in the US
Hundreds of residents of Dearborn, Michigan gather outside of the Dearborn police department on 15 May 2021 to protest the actions of the Israeli army in Gaza.
Hundreds of residents of Dearborn, Michigan, gather outside of the Dearborn police department to protest the actions of the Israeli army in Gaza, on 15 May 2021 (Seth Herald/AFP)

Local police presence has ramped up across the city of Dearborn, Michigan, this week, following a widely criticised column in the Wall Street Journal referring to the city as "America's Jihad Capital".

The mayor of the city, Abdullah Hammoud, condemned the piece, calling it “bigoted” and “Islamophobic” in a social media post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Hammoud then announced that the local police would increase their presence at places of worship and other major population areas, citing the potential incitement that could come as a result of the WSJ piece.

"Effective immediately – Dearborn police will ramp up its presence across all places of worship and major infrastructure points," Hammoud posted on X on Saturday afternoon, a day after the piece was published.

"This is a direct result of the inflammatory @WSJ opinion piece that has led to an alarming increase in bigoted and Islamophobic rhetoric online targeting the city of Dearborn."

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Steven Stalinsky, author of the opinion piece, defended the piece in an interview with the Associated Press.

“Nothing in my article was written to instigate any sort of hate,” Stalinsky said. “This is a moment for counterterrorism officials to be concerned.”

The incident comes amid a major uptick in attacks against Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims in the United States since Israel's war in Gaza began on 7 October after the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel.

On 16 October, six-year-old Wadea al-Fayoume was fatally stabbed 26 times by Joseph Czuba, who also stabbed and injured his mother Hanaan Shahin. Czuba was their landlord, and attacked the family following American media reports that a "global day of jihad" was set to take place that week.

The killing was deemed a hate crime, and many community advocates, including Fayoume's uncle, have laid the blame for the killing on media outlets that led American audiences to believe Muslims and Arabs were going to participate in a day of violence.

Then, in late November, three Palestinian university students were shot and injured while walking down the street. They were all wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh and speaking a mix of Arabic and English.

The shooting, which the three students believe was a hate crime, left one of them - Hisham Awartani - paralysed from the chest down.

And just this past week, a 23-year-old Muslim man was stabbed in the chest after leaving a pro-Palestinian rally in Austin, Texas.

The Council of American-Islamic Relations condemned the stabbing, saying it was only the latest in a long line of anti-Muslim attacks over the past few months.

"This apparent act of hate in Austin appears to be the latest incident of hate motivated by the rise in anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia," Cair's national deputy director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said in a statement.

'Our concerns were ignored'

In what appeared to be a response to the opinion piece, although it did not name the newspaper, US President Joe Biden responded saying: "We must continue to condemn hate in all forms."

"That’s exactly what can lead to Islamophobia and anti-Arab hate, and it shouldn’t happen to the residents of Dearborn – or any American town," Biden said.

However, the president's comments were condemned by many who saw the message as too little, too late, saying that his words hold even less weight amid Biden's continued support for Israel's military assault on Gaza.

"From the White House on down, for months government spokespersons repeated Israeli propaganda and talking points. Even after many of us pushed back, our concerns were ignored," Abed Ayoub, director of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), said on X.

"When top government officials dehumanize an entire community, when you keep Palestinian and Arab voices out of the room, when you fail for weeks to even recognize the suffering of our community at the onset of the genocide, what did you think was going to happen?"

The president also prefaced his statement by saying that "Americans know that blaming a group of people based on the words of a small few is wrong".

The apparent admission that there are some members of Dearborn using language inciting violence draws comparison to former President George Bush's rhetoric towards the Muslim American community after the 9/11 attacks.

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