Dearborn, home to one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Arab Americans, once again will become a focal point for debate over the practice and persecution of Islam in the west.
Pamela Geller, conservative activist and co-founder of Stop Islamization of America, is scheduled to host the “Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference” from the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dearborn on Sunday at 5 p.m.
The event is named after a 20-year-old woman fatally shot by her stepfather last year in Warren. Initial reports suggested Rahim Alfetlawi shot Mokdad because he believed she had strayed from Islam, but prosecutors have since said that religion did not play a role.
Despite opposition from family members who say Mokdad’s murder has nothing to do with Islam, Geller has refused to rename the conference, suggesting an attempt to cover up what she continues to call an “honor killing.”
“Unlike those closest to her, we are going to honor Jessica’s memory and stand up against the brutal practice that took her life,” Geller said in a statement announcing the conference.
Local leaders say the conference is misleading and argue that Dearborn has become a convenient target for anti-Muslim groups, pointing to recent protests led by activist Pastor Terry Jones.
To counter Geller’s conference, The Arab American Institute and partners have scheduled a competing town hall on Sunday titled “Rejecting Islamophobia: A Community Stand Against Hate.” It is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel in Dearborn.
“This is clearly not the first time our community in Michigan has had to deal with a hate group,” AAI President Jim Zogby said in a statement. “Despite repeated efforts to target Arab Americans and American Muslims, the community has remained resilient and poised, sometimes choosing to ignore the fervor.
“This group we cannot ignore and this is the time to stand up and make our voices loud and clear in opposition to the politics of division and bigotry.”
See also “Rejecting Islamophobia: A community stand against hate”, Arab American Institute press release, 25 April 2012
And Sheila Musaji, “Geller & Spencer’s human rights conference another anti-Muslim hate fest”, The American Muslim, 26 April 2012