Lovingly referred to as “Little Lebanon” by many of its residents due to the city’s highly concentrated Lebanese population, Dearborn, Michigan was home to a rather bizarre arrest this past Saturday when Katherine Murphy, a Dearborn native of Irish descent, was grabbing a shawarma (a wrap filled with meat and vegetables) for lunch with her coworker at a popular local establishment. Two police officers approached her, claiming complaints had been made by several passerby about the way she was eating and the clothes she wore.
“I was just minding my business, eating my lunch, and all of the sudden I was being treated like a criminal, of the worst kind! A perverted criminal!” Said Katherine, who says she was wearing slacks and a button down blouse at the time of her arrest. “I just can’t believe this is happening to me. I mean – how can this be right? I have to find a lawyer, and go through a whole process. For what? For not covering my hair?”
In a bizarre situation like this, one can see how prevalent the Arab influence is in the city, especially in East Dearborn, where many of the local shops have signs written in both English and Arabic. With most businesses catering to the Arab population, it becomes more clear why Murphy stuck out like a sore thumb.
The officers arrested Murphy, citing complaints they claimed to have received about ‘a woman who was eating a shawarma in a provocative manner while exposing herself to the public.’ Murphy, who was rightfully outraged, was very vocal in her opposition of what she says was a ‘pathetic abuse of power.’
“All of the women around me were wearing hijabs, but I wasn’t. I’m not Muslim. I respect that their culture, but I don’t think I should have partake to just because I want to eat lunch. And not wearing one certainly doesn’t mean I was exposing myself!”
Modesty is a virtue valued in the Muslim community. Many women choose to cover their bodies, baring minimal to no skin, sometimes showing only the eyes, feet and hands. They rarely expose more than this to anyone beyond close relatives, to prevent a man they may marry from seeing what they look like. A hijab is a traditional scarf women wear to cover their hair, and sometimes face.
Abdullah Mouawad, Murphy’s coworker, takes her side on this issue.
“I don’t think she was eating provocatively on purpose, Katherine’s just a very attractive woman and she can’t help that a shawarma is so phallic in nature.” says Mouawad. “Police corruption of power is out of control in this city. They told her that her hair should be covered and there were plenty of places where she could buy a hijab to do so. I feel really bad because we had never been to that restaurant and it was my suggestion. I don’t even know how to help her now.”
Murphy was arrested and charged with Misdemeanor Indecent Exposure and was release on $2,000 bail while she awaits trial.
“I don’t believe I did anything wrong, but I’m still really nervous. I could be put on the sex offenders list!” Murphy said, although, she hasn’t let this ordeal curb her appetite for exotic cuisine. “I’ve had two shawarma’s since, but now I just have my husband pick up carry-out.”
The two officers who arrested Murphy and their superiors refused comment for this article.