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28 Dec, 2009 07:20

Dearborn: US Muslim capital

When the American car-maker Henry Ford opened his plant in Dearborn, Michigan, his legacy was more than an industrial one – he contributed to the formation of one of United States’ largest Middle Eastern communities.

In this modest town of just about a hundred thousand people, Middle Eastern cuisine is by no means foreign. About a third of the population there is of Middle Eastern origin.

Among with Muslims – Lebanese, Palestinians, Jordanians Yemeni people and Iraqis – there are many Arab Christians. Muslims make up approximately 60% of the population while the remaining 40% are Christians. In the current political climate it has led to problems, with Muslims complaining of surveillance in mosques and social prejudice.

The city is divided into two parts: west Dearborn, where the white Caucasian, more affluent part of the community lives; and east Dearborn with the population of predominantly Arab descent.

The houses look remarkably different in the western part than in the east, as well as the house of faith. In Dearborn there is purportedly the largest mosque on the entire continent.

It all started with $5-a-day jobs to mass-produce the Ford Model T, luring the Lebanese, as it was very good pay in the early 1900s. They settled in the area, while other Middle Eastern immigrants followed suit. Most people living there now are three or four generations deep.

Indeed, Middle Eastern migrants continue to head west, like Raeed Albayati, who settled in the city in 1993 after fleeing from the Gulf War.

Many in the community believe home is where you make it – whether you are from the US Midwest or the Middle East.