Dearborn, Michigan launches on The Guardian

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In the last 12 months the city of Dearborn, Michigan, has been thrown into conflict. At its heart, the conflict is about fear, ideology and identity politics – and what it means to be an American. Dearborn, home to the largest mosque in North America, is a place of apparent contradictions: simultaneously a sleepy, affluent suburb and yet also the subject of rumours about Isis terror cells and sharia law.

This film takes us into the lives of five very different citizens who are caught in the crossfire, from Muslims to Christians, citizen militias and university graduates. For all, their American identity is paramount. As they grapple with questions of religion, race and class, do these separate communities have more in common than they realise?


Dearborn, home to the largest mosque in North America, is a place of apparent contradictions: simultaneously a sleepy, affluent suburb and yet also the subject of rumours about Isis terror cells and sharia law.

This film takes us into the lives of five very different citizens who are caught in the crossfire, from Muslims to Christians, citizen militias and university graduates. For all, their American identity is paramount. As they grapple with questions of religion, race and class, do these separate communities have more in common than they realise?

Once famous for being the birthplace of Henry Ford and the American dream, Dearborn is home to the largest proportion of Arab Americans in the United States. This Muslim community has bought into the traditional American way of life: new cars line suburban drives; gun ownership is high; and the Stars and Stripes flutter on well-manicured lawns. Yet since Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign, Dearborn has been under the spotlight. A fear of Isis fuels suspicions about the city’s Muslims.

This documentary project began in the days after Trump announced his bid for the White House. In January, an executive order suspended travel to the United States from specific Muslim-majority countries, which Trump claimed was necessary to ‘keep the nation safe’.

This film documents a year in the life of five very different citizens of Dearborn who have found themselves caught in the crossfire of this paradigm shift in American politics. Each has been branded an extremist, and each provides a unique perspective on modern-day America, as they live, work and pass through the city, where 40% of the residents speak Arabic and the largest ethnicity living in poverty is white.

From the white Christian that views the whole of Islam as a problem, to the Michigan Militia, who fear their Muslim neighbours are a Trojan horse intending to take over the country. From the neighbours who have suffered during Detroit’s economic decline and who yearn for a return to the communities of their youth, to the Arab Americans both young and old who find themselves classified as the enemy.

This film is a portrait of a city with entrenched communities that have more in common than they might realise - a sense of belonging to Dearborn that they are desperate to defend. The film reveals both sides of the unfolding conflict and shows how fear and hostility have grown as Trump’s White House has shaped political discourse. In the process, we open up America’s newest culture war and examine how the nation defines itself today.

Watch the film here: gu.com/dearborn