The video “American Muslims Stone Christians in Dearborn, MI” from this year’s Dearborn Arab Festival has gone viral. The group at the center of the incident, Official Street Preachers, is led by Ruben Israel. I sat down for a candid conversation and interview with the man behind this video and got an inside exclusive look at what really happened, including a frightening vehicular attack that wasn’t captured on video.
The 2012 Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan ran this year from June 15 – 18 over the Father’s Day Weekend. Like every other year, incidents that occur there become YouTube sensations, but nothing like what happened this time around.
We have seen this before, and I have written and spoken on the Arab Festival for the last three years. At the 2010 festival, four Christians from the Acts 17 Apologetics group were arrested and charged with “breach of the peace.” Their cameras were confiscated, all for attempting to hand out Christian literature.
In September 2010, a jury acquitted all four Christians. Following the acquittal, Acts 17 filed a 96-page civil rights lawsuit against the city, its mayor, John B. O’Reilly, its chief of police, Ronald Haddad, 17 city police officers, and two executives from the American Arab Chamber of Commerce.
In January of this year, a Detroit judge awarded $103,401.96 to Acts 17 for attorney’s fees, and in February, a U.S. district court judge in Detroit, Michigan denied a request by the city of Dearborn to dismiss the civil rights suit.
In June 2010 when I wrote about the arrests, I focused on “Sharia in America” — people being arrested in an overwhelmingly Muslim community for nothing more than exercising their First Amendment right of free speech. But this year went far beyond people being arrested. This year they were stoned:
This group wasn’t just stoned, however. The Christians had bottles, cans, eggs, milk crates, stools, rocks and pieces of concrete thrown at them, all while the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department stood by, watched it occur, and did nothing.
Police waited an hour after the barrage of the group — until they were bleeding and injured — and then told the Christians that if they didn’t leave, they would be arrested.
Ruben Israel is one of the founders of Bible Believers and heads a group of Evangelical Christians known as the Official Street Preachers. He has been going to events with his group for over 30 years with his megaphone and signs preaching the gospel.
The video of his group being stoned in Dearborn has had over a million views in just 4 days when combing all the various websites it has been posted on. To say the incident has created some controversy would be an understatement.
Even a female reporter from ABC 7 WXYZ Detroit was hit with a water bottle while reporting live from the event.
Some are saying that he and his group are like the Westboro Baptist Church. Others are saying he “antagonized the Muslims into a rage” and that the reaction and stoning “was to be expected because they knew they were in an overwhelming Muslim area.”
The argument that I have continuously heard is that the video of the stoning is only 23 minutes long, and that it was edited so that it’s difficult to see what really happened. That is only somewhat true.
Yes, there is a “raw” video that is one hour and six minutes long (it can be seen here); it records from the moment the group arrived until after they left the festival. The video that United West posted was edited down to 23 minutes, but I have seen the full hour and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that Ruben and his group did in the long version that wasn’t in the short version.
The United West only edited it down to show the stoning parts as well as to remove large pieces that otherwise would be boring.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Ruben and get the truth about what really took place that day and the story of what happened two days later, which wasn’t on video, but can be backed up by police documents.
I didn’t pull any punches on this interview and from the start I hit Ruben with hard-hitting questions:
Gadi Adelman: “What do you think of those that compare you and your group to the Westboro Baptist Church?”
Ruben Israel: “I don’t like Westboro Church. I don’t like them protesting soldiers funerals. I don’t like people burning the American flag, but it’s under the [right] of free speech; but I don’t go beat somebody up because they burn the American flag.”
GA: “Was there any point at all during any time at the Arab festival that you or your group did anything that was physically violent to these people?”
RI: We never pushed anybody, hit anybody, shoved anybody. The only thing we do, and you can see this in the video, is if anyone comes up to us we raise our hands, palms up, and this is because [if] we go to court [then] the attorney doesn’t freeze frame everything and blame us for pushing. Our palms are shown with empty hands and we do that primarily most of the day when we are confronted by people that look like they may get physical with us.
That was not our intent and to be very blunt, if our intention was to fight the Muslims as they have been accusing us, our arsenal would not have been to show up in Dearborn with a megaphone and signs.
GA: Could the banners that you carry be used as weapons?
RI: They are vinyl banners. They are legal and we have been flying them for over thirty years and not had any issues. It’s a good thing that they are vinyl so they could be cleaned very easily with all the stuff we were pelted with.
GA: What was your plan for that day, why did you go to the Arab festival?
RI: Actually what we were going to do, we had our attorney send a letter to the Sheriff and the attorney of Dearborn, a letter that we were coming. They knew who we were based upon last year and we were going to show up with our signs. The megaphone was only going to be used to compete with noise. If the noise level was high, we would use the megaphone.
We were going to do some preaching and the preaching would provoke some good conversation and conversation is what’s good, and the crowd is gathered around us, and that’s the purpose for the large signs because they display exactly who we are and what we believe.
That’s all we were going to do. We wanted to hang around there for a few hours, pack up and leave. We weren’t going to stay there until the end of the event; we didn’t want to be there at night because we knew that when you preach to Muslims there is a reputation that things can happen to you and that is why we asked the police to stand around us.
GA: You mentioned last year — had you been there last year as well?
RI: Yes we were, and the first day that we showed up the police put us in a “free speech” area with barricades. They had mounted police, uniformed and undercover. They brought in the Dearborn Police, police from Detroit and there was a helicopter overhead. It was almost as if we were a threat to the city. The second day we showed up they said, ‘No more, we’re not giving you barricades, you’re on your own,’ and then a fight broke out. They came at us punching.
GA: So you were attacked last year as well?
RI: Yes, that was last year and that is why this year I went there with a pig head. To the Muslims a pig or the blood from a pig is like a crucifix to a vampire. I knew the sheriff was not going to assist us because they had not responded to our letters from our attorneys, so I figured we would be on our own, and since the sheriffs weren’t going to be around us, I brought the next best thing and that’s a pig head on a stick.
In the video you can see that around the pig head we didn’t get pelted as much as where there was no pig head. I got a lot of heat for taking one pig head; I think in reality we should have brought 15 pig heads, that would have maybe soothed them a little bit more from throwing debris at us.
GA: You said that last year a fight broke out — what did the police do last year?
RI: They rushed in after the fight was over and they took one of our guys to jail. All they did was parade him by the angry Muslims, which showed them that they took care of it. They put the guy in a squad car, took him to jail and once they got to the sheriff’s station they just let him go. It was just a show. They just wanted to let the Muslims know ‘we got one of them’, and we have video footage of the sheriff’s department cheering the crowd on when we were getting thrown out of the event last year.
This is a police officer in uniform cheering the crowd on as they throw us out. Now, let me explain something. We preach to a lot of venues. We go to Mardi Gras, spring break, the Academy Awards, baseball games, plus we preach to a lot of religious people as well. Such as Salt Lake City, when the Pope comes to America, we have signs for him and we follow him in the city that he is in; some of the Evangelicals that are on TV that are nothing more than money hungry devils, we preach to them too.
Nobody gets violent except the Muslims. Yet they are under the umbrella of the ‘Religion of Peace.’ They are nothing more than people just waiting to attack us and because the sheriff’s department did nothing to those little kids throwing debris at us, all that did was fuel fire for these kids because they feel invincible. They throw things at us for an hour and a half, they got away with it, they screamed and hollered and we got kicked out of the event. They just fueled a monster that one day is going to strap a bomb on themselves and blow themselves up for their god and this sheriff’s department actually fueled that monster. ”
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