DEARBORN, Michigan – Friday afternoon at the 19th District Court, four Christian missionaries affiliated with the Acts 17 apologetics group where acquitted of inciting a crowd at the local Arab Festival. The jury found them not guilty of the charges of “breach of peace”. Nabeel Qureshi of Virginia, Negeen Mayel of California and Paul Rezkalla and David Wood, both of New York, were acquitted (found not guilty) of breach of peace, according to reports from 19th District Court officials after the verdict. However, Mayel was found guilty of failure to obey a police officer’s order.
State Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) had the following statement regarding the verdicts: “Today in Dearborn, the jury got it mostly right in finding Paul, David, Negeen and Nabeel innocent of breach of the peace. The city of Dearborn, the Dearborn Police and especially the Dearborn Mayor owe them a huge apology immediately.”
“However the guilty decision for Negeen Mayel’s charge of failure to obey a police officer is extremely disturbing to me. I met with the ACLU here in Michigan recently to make sure we had good laws protecting citizens’ right to video police officers and their activity and they said we have the model for other states. But based on today’s decision, it seems that police in Michigan can get cameras turned off before doing questionable things (like making an arrest that was just found to be bogus by the jury). And how did the police have the right to tell Negeen Mayel to turn off her video camera and how can he touch her….for what reason? The video she took made it clear the police stepped way out of bounds.”
“Now – for all this charade, the city of Dearborn needs to be dealt with firmly….unless they plan to try to secede from the union and have their own laws. This is the United States of America and we here in the USA have something called Freedom of Speech. Dearborn – get used to it!”
It’s reported that Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly said: “It’s really about a hatred of Muslims… That is what the whole heart of this is… Their idea is that there is no place for Muslims in America. They fail to understand the Constitution.”
Several of the Christian missionaries come from Muslim and Middle-Eastern backgrounds, say they love Muslims, and only want to have a peaceful dialog (or friendly debate) about teachings found in the Qur’an. Joe Carey (of California) told Dearborn area community members: ”Seems the mayor is engaging in his own form of bigotry while using the term in a pejorative sense against my friends… No Mr. Mayor. They never have said they hate Muslims; quite the contrary. They love Muslims and want the best for them. They disagree with Islam, but this is not bigotry. Disagreeing with the tenets of Islam is quite different from being intolerant of Islam, and different yet from hatred of Muslims. The mayor apparently cannot separate the three distinct notions.”
Dearborn attorney Majed Moughni (who took an interest in the free speech rights of the missionaries) said “these charges should never have been brought.” According to Moughni: ”Freedom of speech is important. Everyone should be free to come to Dearborn to express themselves… the statement by Mayor O’Reilly is a dis-service to all Muslims and to the citizens of Dearborn. Let’s leave it to Newt Gingrich to fan the flames of hatred. We don’t need it to come from our Mayor.”
Dearborn resident Kamal Makki had a different understanding on the statements from the mayor : “Jack O’Reilly said Friday night that he respects the decision, but the missionaries were anti-Muslim bigots pulling a publicity stunt to gain attention on YouTube in order to raise money… O’Reilly said people of diverse religious beliefs get along fine in Dearborn… I think you misinterpreted the whole thing, O’Reilly said nothing wrong.”
See the following links for related stories, photos, and videos:
- Trial of Acts 17 Apologists Begins – Dearborn Free Press report after the arraignment on July 12.
- Debate About Free Speech in Dearborn Continues – Dearborn Free Press editorial dated July 25.
- Free Speech Rally at Dearborn City Hall in Support of Acts 17 – Flickr Photo stream dated July 26.
- Amazing Grace Amid Profound Controversy – Dearborn Free Press editorial dated August 31.
- Praise God for the Bittersweet Victory in Dearborn – Report from Acts 17 blog dated September 24.
- Attorney: Acquitted Christian missionaries plan to sue Dearborn over arrests at Arab festival. - MLive.com article dated Monday, September 27 (Includes embedded MP3 recording from WJR radio interview of Attorney Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center by Frank Beckman on WJR-AM 760.)