By Samira Maatouk
Unis Middle School
I was a little excited when I went to City Hall on April 29 to watch Rev. Terry Jones give a speech about Arabs. Jones is a preacher from Florida who made national news by talking about burning the Qu’ran. I think he wanted to get attention and make Arab Americans mad.
I had seen newspaper stories about him. I wanted to go to the protest because I thought it would be an interesting story.
Originally Jones, 62, wanted to burn a Qu’ran in front of a mosque. But the city of Dearborn said that he was not allowed to hold a rally in front of the mosque because it is private property. So he decided to rally in front of City Hall. Some Arab Americans decided to protest Jones’ appearance.
My Mom took me because she also wanted to see what happened. “I felt like I had to go to the protest to support the cause because I didn’t feel like what he was doing was right,” my Mom, Theresa Maatouk, said. “I felt like he was trying to cause problems between religions.”
When my Mom and I got to City Hall, there were lots of other people from Dearborn, mostly Arab Americans, waiting to hear him talk. There also were reporters with cameras. Police were everywhere, too. I saw some on the roof of the bank across from City Hall. My Mom thought they were snipers, ready to shoot people if things got out of control.
Jones was already talking when we arrived. He was comparing himself to Martin Luther King Jr. He was trying to make a point about the Qu’ran, even though he’s never read it. He thinks that it teaches us to do things that are bad. The Qu’ran doesn’t teach us to do bad things.
I’ve never read the Quran, either. But my Mom and Dad have taught me about it.
Jones had a microphone. He had these two people on the sides of him. One was holding a sign that said Obama was the worst president ever. Another had a sign that said, “Ban Sharia law in the USA.”
I don’t think Obama is the worst president ever. He’s a good one.
I don’t really know what Sharia law is. I’m Muslim, but in my family the kids don’t talk about Sharia law. My Mom and Dad probably talk about it. I don’t know.
The Arabic people watching Jones had there shoes in the air, getting ready to throw them. In Arabic culture, shoes are considered dirty. Throwing a shoe at someone is like insulting that person. Terry Jones left the City Hall steps and walked onto the lawn, approaching the protesters across the street. He wanted us to pledge allegiance to the flag with him.
The protesters were screaming in Arabic and English. I wasn’t screaming. I was just watching. When someone knocked over a wooden police barrier blocking the protesters, everyone was running over to Terry Jones’ side of the street. They were throwing shoes at him, plus drinks, food — anything that they could find they threw at him.
Then the SWAT team, they came to protect him. When the protesters crossed the street, I stayed by the bank. My Mom said it would be dangerous to run out.
Then I was kind of scared. Someone might have had a gun. If they had shot somebody, the person could have died and I didn’t want to see that.
I didn’t see what happened to Jones, but people thought he had left so they started going home. My Mom and I left, too. Later, we saw stories about the protest on TV.
I asked my Mom about Sharia law. She said, “It’s the rules that Muslims live by. It’s like the Bible’s Ten Commandments.”
When I asked my Mom what she thought about Jones and his impact, she said, “I think he’s pushing us together. He’s not getting what he wanted. He wanted to push us apart and have all the religions against each other. I’m proud to live in a place where we can all get along.”
I think Jones just came to Dearborn to get attention. He knew that he would get attention because he was talking about Arabic people. And Arabic people, they don’t like people talking about them, especially when they’re saying things that aren’t true. We don’t like that.
My friends and I, we didn’t talk too much about Jones and the protest. We mostly talk about what happened in school, and things that we do like track, basketball, swimming. My sister is a cheerleader.
It’s fun being Arab American because you can speak two languages. People think we’re terrorists because of 9/11 but we’re not.
Jones is talking about coming back to Dearborn for the Arabic Festival this summer.