We should recognize a plain truth: Dearborn is unique in America because of our residents. We are beneficiaries of the ancient wisdom and culture of the Middle East. My question is, why don’t we advertise it?
While some in Dearborn are focused on limiting the number of Hookah bars, regulating signage in Arabic and controlling the way people use their homes, it’s always been amazing to me that more people don’t want to promote these facets of our beautiful city. I recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post mocking those who talk about Dearborn being under “Sharia Law”, but I’d like to take that a step further: we shouldn’t just deny we’re under Sharia Law, we should also swell with pride in Dearborn’s Arabic community.
The fact is, most people in the United States will never get the chance to travel to the Middle East and, even if they could, might be concerned about their security due to all of the troubles there. Many people in the United States may want to visit a beautiful mosque, to eat Arabic food, or to learn more about Arabic culture, language and heritage.
Yet, while we capitalize on tourism based on Henry Ford and our manufacturing legacy, we’ve failed to capitalize on the other unique aspect of Dearborn’s history: the history of Arab American migration and the enchanting cultures which have made Dearborn home. Nobody seems to want to advertise these things, but why not?
Fox News and other media outlets are always strumming the harp about how Dearborn is the center of Islam and Arabic culture in the United States. Instead of trying to run away from it, we should advertise it proudly. Instead of trying to deny the conservatives’ message and talk about how Dearborn is still mostly European in heritage, we should talk about how lucky we are to have Arabic culture here and tell people to come and see for themselves.
This wouldn’t just be good for tourism, it would be great for tourism. Open-minded Americans would flock to Dearborn if we gave them the opportunity to know more about it. However, advertising Dearborn as an Arabic cultural destination fulfills another purpose: it would help persuade outsiders that Arabic culture, language and Islam isn’t a threat. Rather, Dearborn’s rich cultural heritage is an opportunity for other Americans to learn, experience and challenge their assumptions.
This isn’t without precedent, either. Many groups in America that used to be outside the mainstream have created cities that are now cultural destinations. San Francisco’s gay community, Miami’s Cuban community and Dallas’ reputation as cowboy heaven have all turned their cities into cultural tourism destinations. Dearborn should do the same.
If there’s one thing Dearborn isn’t known for, it’s missing a good business opportunity or lacking in innovation. Let’s stop being insecure about Arabic culture and advertise it with pride.
Leave a Reply