A crime wave has hit the Arab American community with sudden force, leaving us to wonder where it came from and how we can stop it.
The recent shootings that resulted in the tragic deaths of local two Arab Americans have emplaced a dark cloud over the heads of everyone in the community. The first occurrence, a senseless shooting at a local laundromat that left one man dead and another critically wounded, left the community reeling. The second incident occurred just days later, as an alleged disagreement between owners of competing gas stations resulted in the death of yet another member of the Arab American community. Both men were respected businessmen, husbands and fathers. Then the looming presence of a serial rapist who has been targeting women in the Dearborn/Dearborn Heights area for the past several weeks has added to the tension, as being home alone during the day became no longer safe. A recent case involving a young Arab girl who ran away from home led to FBI agents joining the local police to search for her. The girl was eventually tracked down in Canada, where she had fled with her boyfriend. A threatening phone call to Fordson High School this week resulted in a shutdown, leaving hundreds of students outside in the cold for two hours as authorities searched lockers for a gun. Where are we as a community headed? Suddenly, we are faced with the threat of imminent violence whether we are at work, home, or school. Although this violence has always existed at some level, it seems that the Arab American community has been forced to deal with these incidents at an alarmingly high rate. So what’s next? Where do we, as a community, go from here? A recent study found that Detroit has surpassed St. Louis to become the most dangerous city in the country, according to a private research group’s analysis of FBI crime statistics. This finding, coupled with the fact that Michigan’s rapidly declining economy shows no sign of improving, creates an atmosphere that is daunting to say the least. The challenge we face is to figure out how to change the direction of this frightening course and work to secure the safety of our community. The key to the challenge is to avoid assigning blame and to focus on how we can join together to put an end to this rising violence. The Metro Detroit area, home to the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the country, has always been full of life, pride and rich culture. It is up to us as a community to preserve this image for generations to come. While there is no single solution to the problems in our area, it is clear that maintaining a strong community, a place where people can turn to for support and guidance, is an ideal place to start. The responsibility lies with all of us: parents, children, educators and community leaders must work together in solidarity to strengthen our community and cultivate our rich heritage.
Parents talking openly with their children, young adults participating in the activities of the numerous groups and organizations in the local community, and the development of strong relationships between individuals, are all factors that can contribute greatly to this effort. While we cannot control the actions of others, we can take an active role in helping each other, and in turn, helping to sustain a strong community. By building and maintaining a strong foundation, we will be doing our part to ensure the safety of our children, ourselves, and the future generations of Arab Americans.