White House expands outreach to American Arabs and Muslims
By Ray Hanania
The White House has launched a new outreach initiative targeting American Arabs and Muslims hoping to nudge the normally low-profile mainstream American Arabs to a higher level of social engagement and involvement.
The outreach is being headed by Rumana Ahmed of the White Office of Public Engagement. In their first newsletter email to the public, Ms. Ahmed presented an overview of services and programs American Arabs should engage, although the language often fails to distinguish between “Arab” and “Muslim,” a common challenge facing American Arabs.
Nonetheless, the outreach is unique and welcome.
The head of the office and Director of Public Engagement, Valerie Jarrett, has a deep understanding of Middle Eastern issues and the American Arab and Muslim community. Jarrett is a longtime former aide to Chicago Mayor’s Harold Washington and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. She was hired as a senior advisor to President Barack Obama. Jarrett was born in Iran and her husband is William Jarrett, the son of veteran African American journalist and columnist Vernon Jarrett who embraced social activism in the 1970s and 1980s leading to Washington’s election.
Rumana Ahmed is an executive assistant to Jarrett.
Here is the latest newsletter sent out by the office targeting American Arabs and Muslims:
March 7-9 will be National Muslim American Enrollment Weekend! We are working with various organizations and community leaders across the U.S. to make sure members in their community learn more about health care enrollment and the upcoming March 31st deadline. We are calling on you as community leaders to also take part in this national effort of “Muslim American Enrollment Weekend” on March 7- 9th to make it a success or plan an event before March 31st!
Since October 1, more than 4 million people have enrolled. No one is invincible to injuries or sickness and no one should be denied coverage for their gender or for preexisting conditions, which is why it is so important that every American gets covered.
We are asking that you make sure members of the people at least understand how they are affected by the health care law, and know their options and how to enroll. You can do this simply by committing to organizing an enrollment event before March 31st.
Muslim health organizations are working with others to centralize all commitments and plans for events around Muslim American Enrollment Weekend (March 7-9) and before March 31st. For more information on how to take part in this national effort, plan an event and materials you need please email FN-WHO-Arab&MuslimOutreach@who.eop.gov.
Thank you for your leadership and all of your efforts in your communities.
Raising the Minimum Wage through Executive Order
In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama affirmed that this would be “a year of action” to help ensure opportunity for all Americans.
He announced his intention to move forward using his own authority and raise the minimum wage for workers on new and replacement federal service, construction, or concessions contracts to $10.10 an hour. As the President said, “If you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.” On February 12, the President signed an Executive Order making this vision a reality.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the importance of raising the federal minimum wage for all workers, during an event in the in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 12, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Farm Bill Improves Access to Halal and Kosher Foods
The recently enacted Farm Bill improves access to kosher and halal foods through the Emergency Food Assistance Program. The bill also refocuses the Commodity Supplemental Food Program to better target assistance to seniors and improves access to tribal, kosher and halal foods through the Food Distribution on an Indian Reservation, National School Lunch and the Emergency Food Assistance Programs.
Community Leader Engagement
In the State of the Union address on January 28th, the President laid out his plan for domestic and foreign policy issues, including immigration reform, health care, and conflicts in the Middle East. Ever since, the Office of Public Engagement has been working with other departments, agencies, and leaders in the Muslim and Arab communities to address many of the issues the President has highlighted.
Earlier this month, the Office of Public Engagement hosted community leaders, innovators, scholars, health professionals and entrepreneurs from the Iranian-American community to discuss domestic policies and initiatives. They heard from and shared their thoughts with White House staffers on immigration reform, healthcare, civic engagement, and the role that the Iranian-American community can play in shaping policy. Representatives from the State Department also joined White House staff to speak on human rights concerns in Iran and on U.S.-Iran foreign policy.
The Office of Public Engagement gathered Arab, Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Christian and Muslim American youth leaders from across the country at the White House this month to share the work of their organizations. These young leaders discussed the importance of their roles in this process and ways to organize in support of the current negotiations process and a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel.
Youth Leaders discuss the work of their organizations and ideas for collaboration with State and White House staff. (PHOTO BY: Office of Public Engagement)
Also earlier this year, Secretary Kerry joined a luncheon with Christian, Muslim and Jewish faith leaders at Georgetown university, coordinated by the Office of Public Engagement, State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, and the new Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives. Imam Yahya Hendi, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Rabbi Sharon Brous came together to give opening prayers on the shared responsibility of people of all faiths in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
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, Hanania 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. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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