The Tabboun: Top American Arab newsmakers of 2013
By Ray Hanania
Americans Arabs who led the news this past year did so in many different circumstances including in achievement and in controversy.
Here’s a run-down of some of the top newsmakers for 2013.
The most influential American Arab in politics is, without a doubt, U.S. Rep. Darrel Issa. Issa is a master politician and public servant representing California’s 49th District since 2001. An Army veteran, Congressman Issa is Republican originally from Cleveland, Ohio. Last year, Issa sponsored 37 bills ranging from offering healthcare to Americans to amending the immigration act to bring the most qualified immigrants to America’s shores. His website is www.issa.house.gov.
Sam Rasoul in Virginia announced his bid for election to the Virginia House of delegates (state legislature). Rasoul previously ran unsuccessfully for Congress, but everyone remembers thatAbraham Lincoln lost his election bids before winning. Lincoln lost his first bid for the legislature only to win in a few years later. Then he ran for Congress and lost, and then came back to win. He lost his bid for the U.S. Senate twice before he was then elected President of the United States. But Sam Rasoul won, and declared victory on his Facebook page. It’s a big win for American Arabs. Rasoul’s win means the partisan breakdown of the Virginia House will remain 67 Republicans and 33 Democrats. Republicans control every other seat in Southwest Virginia.
In Oklahoma City, Council member Dr. Ed Shadid launched his election for the office of Mayor and has been embroiled in a tough political battle that has focused on his divorce from his wife. The Oklahoman Newspaper, which has been criticized for anti-Arab biases, drove a high profile election campaign to force Shadid’s divorce papers to be unsealed, hoping to disclose embarrassing information on Shadid that might help the two-term incumbent Oklahoma City Mayor Mike Cornett win a third term. The election is March 4.
In Detroit’s suburbs, State Rep. Rashida Tlaib is seeking to move to the Michigan State Senate in March, but her accusations of sexual harassment made against Imad Hamad, ADC Michigan’s former Midwest Executive Director, have divided the community. Although American Arabs only make up a small portion of the district’s population, Tlaib is relying on American Arab support for fundraising. Imad has denied the accusations, which Tlaib asserts occurred more than 15 years ago.
ADC (The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee) continues to be the target of political opportunists and haters. A small group of extremists based in Detroit and Washington D.C. have stepped up their campaign to destroy ADC, which they have criticized for not doing enough in the area of international politics. ADC’s highly regarded Board Chairman Dr. Safa Rifka has refused to bend to the fanatics and has pushed to keep the organization focused on its real mandate, to fight legitimate discrimination against American Arabs. Part of the change involved the dismissal of Warren David, who is related to one of the ADC critics, as National President.
IN ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Hollywood actor Sayed Badreya is pushing new films after completing the award winning movie short in Chicago in 2012 called “Chicago Mirage,” and appearing in a cameo role in the hit comedy “The Three Stooges” in 2011. Badreya has appeared in several movie blockbusters including “The Insider,” “Three Kings,” “Independence Day,” and “Iron Man.” He also appeared in Sacha Baron Cohen’s controversial satire “The Dictator.”
One of the new faces in American Arab comedy include Ramzy Sweis, whose 39 comic Youtube videos have generated more than 1 million total views. The Jordanian American standup comedian has been on a roll since entering comedy in 2010 and is currently working on his first full length film. Break a leg. Kill the audience. Slay them. Don’t bomb on stage. (Comedy is so violent!)
Veteran American Arab journalist Helen Thomas died on July 20, 2013, ending a career of groundbreaking achievements in journalism and for women. Thomas was a member of the White House Press Corp covering every president from John F. Kennedy thru Barack Obama, until she was chased out of her career by pro-Israel extremists who twisted her criticism of Israel into false allegations of “anti-Semitism.” The prior year, Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Anthony Shadid had died in February 2012 while covering the Syria uprising against tyrant Bashar al-Assad.
Yahala Voice Radio launched their radio and national online presence on the Internet in 2012 at YahalaVoice.com.
Detroit Radio Hostess Laila alHusini celebrated 10 years as an accomplished journalist in Greater Detroit on Radio Baladi and US CHAAM Media. Her morning show on WNZK AM Radio Monday through Friday is a staple of the American Arab community in Michigan. www.uschaammedia.com
Political columnist and cable TV media advisor Ali Younesis someone you must keep up with. Younes’ Op-Ed insights are seen in major television and media. The award winning columnist and political media analyst is the Middle East Political Editor for the Arab Daily News online newspaper (www.TheArabDailyNews.com).
Farouk Shami, who ran unsuccessfully for Texas Governor in 2010, published his novel “American by Choice” and has hosted the annual Miss Universe Beauty Pageants. Shami has appeared on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice as a business owner of Farouk Systems which produces the popular hair care product CHI.
Authors Joseph Geha, Anthony Shadid, Hala Alyan and Karen Leggett Abouraya (with co-author Susan L. Roth) all received Book Awards from The Arab American National Museum.
Detroit Attorney Joumana Kayrouz continues to lead the field of personal injury and auto accident legal services, dominating the market with her high profile ubiquitous billboard and buses advertising campaign promoting her popular “1-800-YourRights” slogan and YourRights.com website. Kayrouz is a major philanthropist who has donated to charities including making major contributions to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. www.YoursRights.com.
The American Task Force on Palestine is one of the few American Arab organizations that plays a major role in influencing public perceptions and politics. The Not-for-Profit organization offers professional insight into the Middle East peace process. Two instrumental leaders at the ATFP who play a key role in the organizations success are its president Ziad Asali and Hussein Ibish, one of the community’s most brilliant writers and analysts. Ibish offers some of the most reasoned and accurate political perspectives on the fast-changing Middle East political and social landscape and is must read for anyone who has an interest in that region. Their website iswww.americantaskforce.org. The ATFP is the leading American Arab organization in the country.
Other influential and important American Arab organizations in the United States includeADC, The Ramallah Federation, NAAP the national Arab American Professionals, theArab American Association of Engineers & Architects, ALSAC Children’s Research Hospital Association, and The Midwest Federation of Syrian and Lebanese Clubs of American.
Leading the profession of sports is Brandon Saad, Left Wing player for the Chicago Black Hawks. Saad’s performance last year helped the Black Hawks win the Stanley Cup. Of Syrian-Lebanese American heritage, Saad is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began his career in 2010.
NUMBER ONE CHALLENGE
Forcing the U.S. Census to treat American Arabs as equals continues to be the number one challenge of the past 60 years. Although the U.S. Census is starting to respond to the needs of American Arabs, the community has been left out of the Census which identifies more than 25 different ethnic and national groups on its form by specific identity, while Arabs are not listed and must write themselves in on the “Other” category line.
Being listed and identified in the Census almost guarantees hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds and grants to communities identified by the Census. Excluding American Arabs results in the loss of these funds. If the Census is going to continue to identify ethnic and national groups then they must include Arabs as an official category.
# # #
The Tabboun: ADC Chairman Safa Rifka to address Michigan Banquet
MICHIGAN ADC NATIONAL GALA: ADC National Board Chairman Safa Rifka will be the keynote speaker at the 34thADC Michigan Annual Benefit Gala, held under the title “ADC Empowering the Margins.” The event will be held on Friday, December 13, 2013 at the Greenfield Manor, located at 4770 Greenfield Rd, Dearborn, Michigan. Emcees of the Evening include Ms. Nadera Nassif & Ms. Jida Kilai. The National Anthem will be sung by artist Ms. Yasmin Suri. ADC Gala Committee Remarks will be offered by Dr.Ned Fawaz, Host Committee Chairman. The ADC National Remarks will be offered by ADC’s new National PresidentSamer Khalaf, who replaced Warren David. There will be a tribute to the late American Arab journalist Helen Thomas, followed by Rifka’s comments. Rifka is a master speaker. It will be interesting to hear him address the controversy that has shaken up Michigan’s ADC Chapter during the past year and the controversy that saw the ouster of longtime Michigan Director Imad Hamad.
The controversy involving unproven allegations of sexual harassment against Imad Hamad has been exploited by political extremists and fanatics including by groups like Ikhras, the anti-Arab hate site, and others. Rifka is expected to defend ADC which remains one of the most important American Arab organizations. Despite the personal attacks from the extremists, Rifka has stood firm and ADC has continued to battle bigotry and discrimination.
ARABS GOT TALENT SURPRISE
Jennifer Grout shocked many int he Arab World after it was clear she couldn’t understand Arabic. But her singing quickly won over the judges, although in the final episode of the popular Middle East TV show, she only came in 3rd place, despite the exaggerated speculation from the mainstream American news media. The most interesting aspect of the story is that more was written about Grout by the mainstream American news media than about American Arabs in the United States. … Do a search on Google for American Arabs and the top stories are Jennifer Grout and the “Ugly Arab” mascot of the Coachella Valley High school outside of Los Angeles. A sad state of affairs for American Arabs.
MISCELLANEOUS NEWS ABOUT AMERICAN ARABS
In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a visiting lecturer who discussed the struggles of being an Arab-American in a post-9/11 world was met with student support during his talk Thursday at MTSU. Moustafa Bayoumi, an author and professor of English at the Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, discussed his book, “How Does It Fell To Be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America,” during a lecture that lasted for two hours in the State Farm Room of the Business and Aerospace Building at Middle Tennessee State University. Click here to read the story in the Daily News Journal. … the new online social media siteChatArabs.com is interesting but it has some kinks to work out. I tried registering but the English side of the system doesn’t work as well as the Arabic side of the system. Hopefully, they will sort it out. Read story. …