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. ”
GA: It amazed me that in the video when the police were talking to you they said, "Somebody could get hurt" and then added, "you are already bleeding." You were already bleeding from the head and he said, "For the safety of the crowd you have to leave."
RI: You are right. The officers come up and tell us that we were going to get hurt, so basically he knew what was going on. The problem was, these sheriffs walked away from a crime scene. They purposely walked away from a crime scene. What you don’t see on the video is the other fellow in charge, he’s the sheriff, he is a Muslim, he is a known Muslim, and he allowed his faith to dictate the rules of the land. He hated us from last year and just wanted us to leave and didn’t have much to do with us.
GA: Were there occasions while you were being pelted that you could see police and they didn’t do anything?
RI: All we saw was they came by, looked a bit and then they all walked away. At one point we actually tried to follow them and you can hear the items hitting the vinyl banners. We were walking behind the police and they were just walking away from us, and they purposely walked away.
Somebody made the call within that sheriff’s department to leave us alone, let the crowd have their way. We know that the sheriff’s department had people filming us and I think they were hoping that we were going to fight back. We’re labeled "bullies," we’re labeled "provocative" and we did none of the above. We just went there with some signs and conceded to everything the police wanted.
GA: Did the police at any time help you?
RI: No. The only time they came up to me was to tell me to go and when I asked for officers to be around us, they said, "That’s not going to happen" and they walked away. They made it very clear they were not going to be involved.
GA: At the end of the edited video it shows you getting pulled over. What happened there?
RI: What we did for our own safety -- and I talked to the Dearborn Police -- once you leave the festival you now are in the jurisdiction of the Dearborn Police, not the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department. I told the Dearborn officer, we are coming in a white van down this alley and we have no license plate. Once we go up a block, we will put the plate back on. Its only for security purposes. He said, "Hey, no problem, I understand." Well, the Dearborn Police understand, but the Wayne County Sheriff did not.
So the sheriff’s department cut in front of us and had several cars behind us, and it’s almost like they wanted to find something with us, and they cited the driver for not having a plate. They cited him for no plate even though he put the plate back on in front of them and the sheriff’s department confiscated his driver’s license and said, "When you get this all taken care of then we’ll send you your driver’s license.”
GA: When the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department pulled you over there were at least 14 officers there, but they couldn’t spare 2 for your safety while you were at the festival?
RI: Actually there were more. By the time we left more police had shown up, mounted police, police on bikes, police on foot, there were a lot. It was almost as if there was an "officer down" put out on the radio with the amount that had shown up. It was unique.
Like you said, at the festival they couldn’t spare 2 officers, but when we left they got 14 there easy. They knew we were coming. They had plenty of notice and yet they said that they weren’t prepared.
I don’t know where they were, but you couldn’t miss the noise of the angry crowd, the banging, the thumping. Let me tell you, some of the bottles that missed us were hitting windows and buildings and there were other people that were being pelted and being hit in the face as well, and there was a lot of noise happening, and for the police not to hear it something is terribly wrong.
GA: Now give me the exclusive; what happened on Sunday?
RI: We were at the Arab fest on Friday. On Sunday we went to the mosque in Dearborn.
GA: Were you on mosque property or out on the side walk?
RI: What mosque doesn’t have a sidewalk, but we stood by the street where the side walk would be. Of course the Dearborn Police showed up instantly. We were able to use our megaphone. We were able to fly our banners and there was no problem. The officers said everything was fine and we’re doing good. There were 2 squad cars and they flanked us just to make sure we were safe. Some of the Muslims came out and were screaming at us and we yelled back and forth and we did not go on their property, and according to police it was fine.
Unfortunately, one of the Muslims got in his SUV, drove up over the hill, accelerated and came right at us where we were standing. This guy came directly at us and we had to jump out of the way and he came screaming by us. Both of the police cars stopped him, pulled him out and cuffed him and he showed no remorse. The police actually have it on video because both police cars had there dash cameras on, so it’s not like it’s my word against his.
Then mosque security came out and said that they knew this guy and that we provoked him and the Dearborn Police officer yelled at the security guard and told him if he didn’t back off he would also be arrested for hindering a police investigation.
GA: Did the guy in the SUV pull over or was he forced to?
RI: They had to block him in. Once he was on the street they were headed his way and he was blocked in. They threw him against the car, cuffed him, frisked him, checked his car and again. It’s not like we can make this up. He is now officially charged with 9 counts of attempted murder.
GA: This never hit the news, not even in Dearborn?
RI: No, of course not, but if I had attempted to run down a Muslim that would be the head news on CNN, CBS, NBC, but when a Muslim wants to take out 9 Christians. We were the visiting team. This guy may walk; he has the potential to walk. At the very best they may take away his library card for a few weeks, but he’s out on bail. He’s out on high-dollar bail and from what I was told by the detective in charge, he does have a high-dollar attorney, so he’s not going to go down easy. He’s going to fight this thing.
GA: Did you have the pig head with you at the mosque as well?
RI: No we didn’t, because we didn’t know what to expect out there. But, my recommendation for anybody visiting Dearborn, Michigan is to bring your passport and a pig's head.
GA: So the day you almost got run down, seriously injured, maimed or killed you didn’t even have the pig head with you?
RI: That’s right.
GA: That’s huge. That says something right there, because I know a lot of people who would have said, "A pig head in front of a mosque," but you didn’t even have it with you that day. When is this supposed to go to court?
RI: We are supposed to go back to Dearborn on August 2 to get all the witnesses and everything in order, meet with the prosecutor and get everything on record. You get a city that’s turned over by this religion and you’ve turned a monster into a giant and that’s what Dearborn is. When they rule a city you see a different side of this religion. It’s not a religion of peace. They would have killed us had it not been for all the cameras we had, so all they could do was just stone us.
GA: The video cameras are for your protection.
RI: That’s right; our legal counsel has told us on free speech matters to video tape. Video cameras don’t lie. Video cameras are not biased. Video cameras are not going to persuade anybody, they just simply show you exactly what happened. Police use video cameras to protect their own rear end. People will lie even when in court, but the video camera is not going to lie.
GA: Any closing thoughts?
RI: The Dearborn Police department was excellent compared to the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department.
Another point Ruben observed was:
"With all the cameras that were there, between the news, the police and the cell phones of the citizens, if we had done one thing, anything, if I had even scratched my butt, you know that would be all over the news and YouTube."
Say what you want about Ruben Israel, his group or his tactics. You may not agree with the things he said at the festival, but it was nothing that I haven’t said on my radio show or in my articles.
The so-called “antagonizing” that Ruben engaged in consisted of statements like “Islam is a lie,” “The Prophet Mohammed was a pedophile,” and “Your religion is a religion of hate.” Bad things to say to a crowd of Muslims, perhaps, but all arguably true statements and statements that citizens of this country have a right to say.
I can only put this into my own perspective and I keep coming back to Skokie, Illinois in 1976. The Nazi party as part of the Nationalist Socialist party wanted to have a march in Skokie. Skokie had a population at the time of 69,000 people of whom 40,000 were Jewish. After a two-year battle for the Nazi’s First Amendment rights to speak and to assemble involving the ACLU, the Illinois Supreme Court and the United States Court of appeals, they were permitted to march through Marquette Park, Illinois and called off the Skokie march. On June 20, 1978 a handful of Nazis showed up for the demonstration. Far outnumbered by opponents, they completed their march, and left under police protection.
The bottom line is this: the police were there to protect the Nazis and made sure they were escorted out of the area safely.
Nothing that Ruben and his group, the Bible Believers, did gave anyone the right to throw things or physically attack them. Last time I checked this is still the United States of America and what Ruben and his group did is still under the rubric of freedom of speech -- and what the Muslims did was assault with intent to do bodily harm.
If Ruben and his group said and did the same things at a church, no one would have said it was wrong. Why all of a sudden does that change because they were in an area that has a large Muslim population? It doesn’t. The law is the law and our rights are still our rights. Currently, Dearborn is only 46% Muslim and by the way, they were at the Arab International Festival not a Muslim Festival. As I have explained before, 80 percent of Arabic-speaking people in the U.S. are not Muslim.
This video may be the best thing to happen for people in this country to finally wake up and see the truth about the real nature of Islam.
Gadi Adelman is a freelance writer and lecturer on the history of terrorism and counterterrorism. He grew up in Israel, studying terrorism and Islam for 35 years after surviving a terrorist bomb in Jerusalem in which 7 children were killed. Since returning to the U. S., Gadi teaches and lectures to law enforcement agencies as well as high schools and colleges. He can be heard every Thursday night at 8PM est. on his own radio show “America Akbar” on Blog Talk Radio. He can be reached through his website gadiadelman.com.
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