The ethnic Arab enclave of Dearborn, Michigan has gotten some new attention in the past couple of weeks. It seems that a new city ordinance is set to crack down on the common Dearborn Arab-American practice of summertime garage lounging. Apparently, Arab Dearbornites use their garages mostly for socializing during the summer, setting them up as patios complete with furniture, waterpipes, sliding glass doors, and even tiled floors. The ordinance against this use of private property cites as justification undue street congestion, as a result of cars expelled from their garages, and safety and tax violations incurred by treating storage spaces as habitable spaces. Understandably, the Arab community in Dearborn considers this an invasion of privacy.
This community has had some issues in the recent past. Last year, the popular Arab International Festival, held in Dearborn for the past 18 years, was crashed in a rather heinous fashion. Christian proselytizers interrupted the revelers with bigoted taunts and brandishing a pig's head on a spike, provoking a backlash (and leading some to claim that Christians were "stoned" by Dearborn Muslims, obviously eliding some key items from the narrative, while also ignorantly asserting that all Arabs are Muslims). Sadly, this year's event has been cancelled so that a more controlled, gated event can be organized. Many of the Christian zealots from that incident were arrested for breaching the peace but were acquitted, and incredibly, the Dearborn municipality was ordered to display a public apology on its website for three years.
While not directly connected, these events give a bit of context to the current city motion being proposed. The violation claims against Dearborn's Arab community certainly do seem invasive and specious. The complaint that too much road space is being taken up seems valid enough, but it is a bit much to get tough on garage regulation just because of that. The complaints of safety also seem overly touchy. Waterpipes are not dangerous — at least, not dangerous enough to lead the cops to shut down shisha bars full of them in every American city. Grills can be moved outside. One city regulator, upon inspection of one of the homes in question, was reported to say, "I don't know why I'm here."
Members of the Dearborn Arab community who were ordered to halt construction of the luxury garage-patios have tried to explain themselves to city authorities. A decision on the ordinance should come through shortly. Hopefully, this curious and unfortunate initiative that over-polices one embattled section of the American population will be struck down.