For years, there’s been an absolutely stupid rumor that the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, birthplace of Henry Ford, is now under extreme Muslim Sharia law.
Sharron Angle, a bizarrely ignorant Tea Party candidate, claimed this was so when she was running for the U.S. Senate in Nevada five years ago.
Two weeks ago, Jerry Boykin, an anti-Muslim former U.S. army general, did it again. Boykin, now the executive vice president of something called the Family Research Council, went on a talk show to claim that radical Muslims were so firmly in control in Dearborn that Detroit police only enter the town in emergencies.
Well, part of that is true. Detroit cops don’t go there because Dearborn is a separate city and has its own police. But Dearborn’s mayor is named Jack O’Reilly, and the city is no more under Sharia law than Roswell is under space alien law.
I don’t know if Mayor O’Reilly gets sick of explaining all this. But I know that a delightful young man named Brian Stone came up with a great way to try to laugh this nonsense away.
Stone, a 28-year-old Dearborn native, Navy veteran, and college student, has been posting pictures of himself holding a sign saying “Dearborn Sharia Law!” in front of some decidedly un-sharia landmarks in his city.
They include a strip club, a Roman Catholic school, city hall and a Honeybaked Ham store.
“We would have done more, but my friend Adam, who took the pictures, said we needed to have a beer. He’d be up for invading the moon if there was beer,”
Behind the theater-of-the-absurd humor, Stone has a serious message: “Muslims are Americans. They are just like everybody else,” he told me.
“They don’t deserve to be treated differently.” Actually, he feels he has a personal stake in this. “I’m about as diverse as it gets for a white guy,” he told me. “I’m gay, I’m Buddhist and I’ve served in the military.”
Stone had the guts to come out in high school. That meant a lot of severe harassment, including being beaten up. One day, it dawned on him that “even though school had been hell, I’d never heard a word against me from a Muslim.”
In fact, a friend named Mohammed told him “somebody tries to mess with you, you tell me.”
Gradually, Stone realized that his Muslim friends “were trying to defend their community of Americans from the same people that wanted to keep me from having equal rights.”
Today, he said “Dearborn is the only place in the world where I feel like everybody is really welcomed home.”
He feels that for both Muslims and gay Americans,
“it is a place where people really value them for what they are.”
Stone, who graduates from the U of M Dearborn this spring, wants to dedicate himself to making things better. “You can imagine how upsetting it is to hear people making generalizations about the Arabic community, Muslims, and my home town.”
Someday, he may try to run for office. But for now, he feels that laughter is the best medicine. After all, it’s the one weapon with which fundamentalists of any kind are unable to cope.
Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. You can read his essays online at michiganradio.org. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.