Dearborn mayor blasts WSJ op-ed calling city ‘Jihad Capital’

The mayor of Dearborn ramped up security measures this weekend after The Wall Street Journal published an opinion article referring to the Michigan city as “America’s Jihad Capital” — a headline that drew sharp criticism from Muslim advocacy groups and elected officials.

The op-ed, published Friday afternoon, suggested that Dearborn’s residents — including Muslim faith leaders and politicians — support Hamas and the Iran-backed group Hezbollah. Dearborn is home to about 1110,000 people, with a sizable population of Muslims and Arab Americans.

The article was “extremely inflammatory and, upon it being published, we received many calls from faith leaders across the community who no longer felt safe,” Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said in an interview Sunday with MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin.

Hammoud, who was elected Dearborn’s first Arab American mayor in 2021, confirmed that he increased the city’s police presence at houses of worship and other major public places after what he described on the social media platform X as an “alarming increase in bigoted and Islamophobic rhetoric online targeting the city of Dearborn.”

“Stay vigilant,” Hammoud wrote.

The opinion article was written by Steven Stalinsky, the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a nonprofit monitoring group based in Washington. The Wall Street Journal and MEMRI did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday morning.

The article drew fierce outcry from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee and lawmakers. In a statement Saturday, the Michigan chapter of CAIR said it welcomed the boosted security precautions and denounced the “inflammatory anti-Muslim commentary.”

Michigan Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, both Democrats, denounced the Journal op-ed in posts on X. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said on X that the newspaper “should immediately apologize to the residents of Dearborn and to Muslims everywhere.”

Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, the Democratic majority whip, wrote on X that the headline was “not only irresponsible, it’s downright dangerous.”

“Michigan is a diverse, beautiful place where hate, bigotry, racism and demonization have no place,” McMorrow added.

President Joe Biden, while not referring directly to the Journal op-ed or the article’s author, said on X that it was “wrong” to blame “a group of people based on the words of a small few.”

“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 wrote. “We must continue to condemn hate in all forms.”

Biden has faced criticism from anti-war and pro-Palestinian activists nationwide over his administration’s support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli military’s operations in Gaza. When the president visited Michigan last week, for example, protesters waved Palestinian flags and chanted, “Genocide Joe has got to go.”

Hammoud on Sunday night replied directly to Biden’s post on X, writing in part: “I’m glad President Biden @POTUS recognizes the severity and danger of the @WSJ article. It’s equally important that his administration recognize the rhetoric and decision making that created the climate for it to be written in the first place.”

CAIR, the leading Muslim civil rights group in the U.S., reported in late January that it received some 3,578 complaints of anti-Muslim or anti-Palestinian bias incidents in the last three months of 2023, following the Oct. 7 terrorist attack in Israel and Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip. The organization said that figure represents a 178% increase in incoming complaints compared to a similar period in 2022.

Muslims across the U.S. have expressed deep fear and anxiety in recent months, particularly in light of a series of high-profile violent incidents, including the fatal stabbing of a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, in Chicago in October and the shooting of three Palestinian college students in Vermont over Thanksgiving weekend.

More than 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’ shock attack in Israel on Oct. 7.  Israel’s subsequent military offensive in Gaza has killed more than 27,000 people, according to Palestinian health authorities. The war in Gaza has displaced nearly all of the Palestinian enclave’s population of 2.3 million people and created a humanitarian crisis.

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