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 that Abraham 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 Younes is 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 is www.americantaskforce.org. The ATFP is the leading American Arab organization in the country.
Other influential and important American Arab organizations in the United States include ADC, The Ramallah Federation, NAAP the national Arab American Professionals, the Arab American Association of Engineers & Architects, ALSAC Children’sResearch 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.
Ray Hanania is the Managing Writer of the Arab Daily News online news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions.In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also writes for Al Jazeera English. Hanania has written for the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.