A video of provocative evangelicals being violently attacked by an enraged crowd at the 2012 Dearborn Arab Festival has gone viral, getting about 750,000 hits in one week. The story isn’t just about how the police stood or how the media misreported it. It’s also about a dangerous long-term trend that Europe has woken up to and is beginning in the U.S.
The United West edited down the original video to about 23 minutes and released it to the world. A group called Official Street Preachers went to the festival to preach the gospel. They carried around a model of a pig’s head on a pole and carried signs telling Muslims that they were destined to go to hell. Their website is very hell-centric, even preaching that “potheads are hellbound.”
I, as a Christian, do not approve of their tactics but that’s not the point. The point is the violent, frightening reaction to it. Belief in a free society requires a willingness to be offended. If someone offends you, you might tell them off but you continue on with your life, accepting it as free speech. Few handle the dispute with violence and if they do, they should be punished according to the law.
The evangelicals weren’t just yelled at. They were met with venomous hatred that is unsettling to view by a large crowd, not an unruly few. They were violently attacked with crates, stones, eggs and whatever else could be easily thrown. The group’s leader, Ruben Israel, was bleeding from the forehead. Remember, it’s not like the group went to an event run by Islamists like Hizb ut-Tahrir and are using the inevitable chaos as a representation of Muslims. This was a large, public event, attended by Arabs of all kinds.
Most disturbingly, small children and young teenagers were among the most aggressive. The adults stood by as they cursed, threw things and threatened. When some openly made calls for violence, with one shouting, “Let’s beat the s— out of them,” not a single person is seen in the video appealing for calm.
Click here to read the rest of my Family Security Matters/Institute on Religion and Democracy article.