A school-board meeting in Dearborn, Mich. was shut down earlier this week by hundreds of protesters opposing the circulation of LGBTQ books across the city’s public-school system.
Viral videos recorded by a Detroit Free Press reporter circulated on Twitter showing pandemonium breaking out at the meeting Monday night. Many of the protesters carried signs in English and Arabic: “Keep Your Dirty Books in the Closet,” “Stop Grooming Our Kids,” and “Homosexuality Big Sin,” some read.
Tensions boiled over when Roxanne McDonald, chair of the school board, limited attendee speaking time to three minutes. The proceedings were then halted due to fears that the growing crowd violated the fire code. Shouts of “Vote them out!” broke out.
On Monday, a Dearborn Public Schools board meeting in Michigan was shut down as hundreds of Muslims protested the use of LGBTQ books. They held up signs in Arabic & English referencing they are in the majority & that homosexuality is sin.pic.twitter.com/0L5aFWqpNT
— Andy Ngô 🏳️🌈 (@MrAndyNgo) October 13, 2022
Dearborn and neighboring Dearborn Heights are overwhelmingly Muslim communities just outside of Detroit. The town elected its first Arab-American mayor in 2021 on the back of the community’s support. Rashida Tlaib’s congressional district, Michigan’s 13th, abuts the area, too.
One of the community’s prominent religious leaders, Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini urged followers to attend the school-board meeting during his Friday sermon. “Some of those books are completely inappropriate for our children to read,” Al-Qazwini said. “Some of those books promote pornography. Some of them promote homosexuality. We don’t need this.”
“What happened tonight at the school board meeting in Dearborn is very embarrassing and is totally rejected,” Osama Siblani, publisher of the Dearborn-based Arab American News and a longtime community leader, wrote in a Facebook post.
Among the book titles temporarily restricted include All Boys Aren’t Blue, The Lovely Bones, Flamer, Push, as well as Red, White & Royal Blue. Many, though not all of the books, deal with sexuality, gender, and sexual violence. Another one under review, This Book is Gay, prompted backlash because of “the explicit nature of the book alone, and not the LGBTQ+ themes,” The Arab American News reported.
The Dearborn incident is reminiscent of similar British Muslim protests against same-sex education. Weeks of protests wracked Birmingham when local schools sought to teach “LBGT-inclusive content” to young students. At one point, LGBT campaigners and their children were pelted with eggs by protesters, and about half the school’s students were voluntarily withdrawn from classes by parents.