LANSING, Mich. (AP) — An op-ed piece that dubbed a Detroit suburb “America’s jihad capital" is being condemned by two Democratic state lawmakers, who described it as “racist and Islamophobic" in a resolution presented Tuesday.
Introduced by state Rep. Alabas Farhat and House Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash, the measure calls on The Wall Street Journal to retract the piece, which was published Friday, and issue a public apology to the City of Dearborn. Officials said they increased police presence in the city after the op-ed appeared.
“It was a pathetic excuse for an editorial piece," said Farhat, who represents Dearborn. “It fanned the flames of hatred and division in our country during a time when hate crimes are on the rise. It makes it so that it’s normal to question how patriotic your neighbor is.”
The resolution was referred to committee in the state House, which is split evenly between Democratic and Republican representatives, with 54 members each. Farhat blamed Republicans for the resolution not being voted on, and said that only two Democrats signed on because of the rush to turn it in on time. He added that “there’s broad support in our caucus" for the resolution.
The Israel-Hamas war has heightened tensions in Dearborn, which has a large Arab American population, some of which has called for a cease-fire and protested the Biden administration's response to the war. President Joe Biden's visit to the state last week was met with protests and chants of, “Hey Biden, what do you say? We won’t vote on Election Day."
More than 27,000 Palestinians, mostly women and minors, have been killed in Gaza since the war began following Hamas' attack on Israel on Oct. 7, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. Hamas killed more than 1,200 people and kidnapped about 250 more, mostly civilians, in the October attack.
State and city governments across the nation have approved pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian resolutions that have no legal authority but reflect the pressure on local officials to speak up on the conflict.
The opinion piece exacerbated anger and concerns within the community. Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud tweeted that city police increased security at places of worship after the op-ed column “led to an alarming increase in bigoted and Islamophobic rhetoric online" targeting the city.
Dearborn High School was put on a temporary soft lockdown on Tuesday after a shell casing was found inside the building, according to police. The lockdown was lifted Tuesday afternoon and police said on social media that there were no threats to the school or community.
The op-ed's author is Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington-based think tank founded by Israeli analysts.
Stalinsky pushed back on the criticism Tuesday in a phone call with The Associated Press, and stood by his piece.
“It’s a political stunt,” he said of the resolution.
“I don’t think any of the leaders read the full article. They used a couple sentences from the beginning but don’t get into the facts that I cite lower down. Everyone is attacking the headline and no one is reading the full article,” Stalinsky said.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told reporters Monday that the article was “cruel and ignorant." Biden said on the social media platform X that “blaming a group of people based on the words of a small few is wrong,” while also referencing Dearborn.
The Wall Street Journal did not respond Tuesday to an email seeking comment.
Michigan lawmakers have struggled to come to a consensus on how to react to the Israel-Hamas war and its effects in Dearborn, which also has a large Jewish population.
In October, a pro-Israel resolution in the state House that was introduced with bipartisan support was never passed because of objections from several Democrats. Aiyash, the Democratic floor leader in the chamber, strongly opposed the resolution at the time, saying, "If we’re going to condemn terror, we must condemn the terror and the violence that the Palestinian people have endured for decades.”