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"Take on Hate" campaign targets anti-Arab prejudice in Detroit

Earlier this month there was the annual anti-Islam rally in Dearborn (although more cops than actual protestors showed up.) 

A few days before that, police investigated the burning of several Qurans outside a local Mosque. 

And in February, an Arab-American man won more than $1 million dollars in a lawsuit over the religious and racial harassment he said he suffered at work. 

So, not a great year if you want to believe that Arab-American prejudice is something the metro Detroit community has just progressed beyond, what with having one of the largest Arab communities in the nation.

It's because of both the population and the prejudice that "Take on Hate" is rolling out its national campaign here on Monday.

So far the campaign itself is a little vague.

According to the website:

"TAKE ON HATE aims to achieve meaningful social change not only through public education, media and coalition building, but also by providing a platform for Arab Americans to speak up and inspire real policy change that challenges institutional discrimination and protects the rights of our communities.

That will include:

"...strategic partnerships, earned and paid media, grassroots events and meetings with policymakers."

Nadia Tonova is the director of the National Network of Arab American Communities, which is heading the campaign.

She says in Michigan, you could see everything from billboards and ads, to heritage and cultural events like movie screenings and community dinners, to teacher training guides sent out to classrooms in communities where Arab-American families are moving.

"So we're looking to target very specific communities which might have changing demographics, where Arabs and Muslims may be new to the community. And start right there with the children, who can pass that on to everyone in their home."

"Like Macomb County, for example," she says. "We have a great opportunity to get training guides for teachers about how to talk about Arabs and Muslims and who we are.

"So that the kid are learning about their new classmates and parents are learning about their new neighbors."

But "Take on Hate" will also carry a big stick on the political scene, says Tonova. 

"This campaign allows for the opportunity call out hate when we see it. So for example, if we have a situation where a political candidate has said something egregious about Arabs or Muslim Americans, this campaign is going to stand up and push back and call it out.

"And I think it's so important for our community to have that infrastructure, because right now, especially on the national level,  we have seen a number of times when ... different people have said some really terrible things about our community, and there is ... no one really able to have the grassroots support to stand up against that and say that it's wrong."

Tonovoa says the campaign is hoping to raise $4.5 million over the next three years. 


Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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