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There's no sharia law in Dearborn — only 'Shawarma Law'

posted on: Mar 18, 2017

Ann Zaniewski
Detroit Free Press

Zahra Ayoub wants to shout it from the rooftops — the city of Dearborn is not under sharia law.

Rather, she likes to joke that it’s under Shawarma Law, a reference to the delicious marinated, roasted meat pita that’s popular in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Now, she’s organizing Shawarma Law dinners around her hometown. The next one is coming up at 4 p.m. Saturday at the La Pita restaurant on Michigan Avenue.

“Dearborn is a beautiful city where you can do a lot of things,” she said. “I want to spread the word that there’s no reason to fear coming to Dearborn.”

Ayoub, 42, first held up a sign joking that Dearborn was under shawarma law a few years ago during a visit by controversial anti-Muslim pastor Terry Jones to Dearborn.

In 2013, the National Report website published a satirical article that said the city had enacted sharia law, or Islamic religious law. The city swiftly debunked the article, but some people took it seriously and still believe Islamic law rules Dearborn.

“Dearborn, Michigan, yes, we’re Muslim here,” Ayoub said. “But I’ve been living in the city for 25 years. I have never seen somebody get stoned to death. … I have never seen a woman get beat up for not being covered.

“I love going to heavy metal concerts. I love going to baseball games.  I don’t drink or smoke, but there are bars in Dearborn. There are churches in Dearborn. There is no sharia law.”

Ayoub saw a YouTube video circulating on social media earlier this year that again perpetuated the false sharia law rumor. In response, she wrote a posting on the Forward Action Michigan Facebook page, saying she is proud to live in Dearborn. She also repeated the “shawarma law” joke.

The post garnered more than 1,000 likes and 800 comments.

Someone suggested she make T-shirts. Another person volunteered to make them. The shirts say, “I follow shawarma law,” over the image of a shawarma pita.  Ayoub said they sell for $25, with proceeds going to the ACLU of Michigan.

The first shawarma law dinner in February drew 35 people, mostly women, to Al Ameer restaurant.

“When a vegetarian asked about vegetarian options, she was told there would be a Falafal Amendment,” Ayoub said in an e-mail.

She said she hopes the dinners become a monthly event.