Cancellation of Arab American Film Festival a Troubling Sign
This is where we are today, as a country and a society.
You can’t even hold an Arab American film festival in Dearborn, Michigan, a center of the Arab American community in this country.
The festival was supposed to run this month, but last month the Arab American Chamber of Commerce pulled the plug on it.
What a shame! Young filmmakers from across the US and the world would have come together in unity. The cancellation shows that we have yet to overcome the fear of the Muslim, the Arab.
The reason this year’s edition has been cancelled is the result of lawsuits brought by conservative Christian groups, which claimed that the city had violated their rights when it arrested some of their members who refused to disperse at previous film festivals. Christian missionaries often confronted Arab and Muslim American filmgoers. Last year, one Christian fundamentalist group even brought a pig’s head mounted on a pole and paraded it in front of the film festival.
The cancellation of the film festival shows that even largely apolitical activities by Arabs – mind you, many of the Arab-Americans in this country are Christian – are now viewed as suspect.
A film festival aimed at promoting Arab filmmakers, directors, actors and actresses as well as promoting Arab culture in the United States has been cancelled due to a fear of violence.
While Arab-American business people in Dearborn I spoke with talked about the need to end any reaction to the insults and blatant attacks on the sacred, they also wanted answers as to why the Christian and Jewish groups that use inflammatory language and yet are not punished.
“If an Arab activists walked in front of a Jewish synagogue with anti-Jewish symbolism and was then attacked, I have no doubt that the activist would be the one charged with inciting violence,” said Ahmed, a restaurant owner near Dearborn.
For him, it is this double standard that Arab-Americans have to live with daily. Arabs can speak English, go to sporting events and be “American,” he said, “but when we say anything that is uniquely Arab, our cultural heritage, we become suspect, terrorists, and people to be feared.”
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