More and more, American Arabs are becoming positive icons in our society despite the constant barrage of hate and the demonization of Arabs by the biased mainstream American news media. A recent list of TIME Magazine’s Top 100 includes several Arabs showing that the negativism promoted by the media against Arabs is in decline and is reversing, in a large part because of the major role many American Arabs are playing in American society and around the world
By Ray Hanania
American Arab pediatric doctor Mona Hanna-Attisha, who won the hearts and minds of the country with her campaign to expose the poison threat that water in Flint, Michigan posed for families there, is named as the 20th most popular person in the world according to a new survey conducted by one of the nation’s largest magazines.
The annual survey by TIME Magazine of its more than 3.2 million paid subscribers and online readers, shows that the director of Pediatrics at the Hurley Medical Center ranks 20th in the list of the magazine’s Top 100 people. The survey is used by TIME Magazine to finalize their annual Top 100 list of influential and admired people.
Topping the list at Number 1 is Democratic Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Dr. Hanna-Attisha is in a distinguished crowd in the top 20 that also includes President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai, entertainers Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, The Pope, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, singer Adele, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, actress Jennifer Lawrence, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Dr. Hanna-Attisha beat out TV comedians and hosts Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, former first Lady and now candidate for President Hillary Clinton, and singer Rihanna.
But other Arabs also made the list past the 100 mark, which sometimes include individuals of significant controversy as well as popularity.
The only other Arab on the list of the Top 100 is Jordan’s King Abdulla (92). But several others continued in the voting ranking past the 100 mark among the list of 125 released by Time Magazine on Thursday (April 14, 2016).
They include Palestinian hip-hop artist DJ Khaled (102), Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad (108), the leader of Daesh/ISIS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (who may or may not be alive) (115), and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman (117).
Granted, the list reflects popularity but it is significant that several Arabs are among the top 125 who polled with numbers significant enough to be counted by TIME Magazine, which has published several articles that have riled the extremist government of the State of Israel.
Too many media exclude Arabs from being counted or only spotlight Arabs when the stories involve negative news, violence and racist images. That is the hallmark of the biased anti-Arab mainstream American news media. The biased anti-Arab mainstream media is constantly bashing Arabs and denigrating them that it is shocking to see that despite the ongoing and intense hate campaign by the media – and believe me it is a hate campaign for many of the journalists and editors – Arabs still surfaced in our society as being admired.
That means several things. First, it means that the biased anti-Arab mainstream news media is not as influential as it has been in the past when anything considered “pro-Arab” was unofficially but effectively banned from inclusion in the news pages, with the exception of negative, stereotypical racist coverage.
And it means that the pro-Arab voice is growing in this country far faster than the media can control it.
Let me restate a fundamental premise. The mainstream American news media thrives on fueling the hatred of Arabs and excluding positive images of Arabs from their coverage. They focus intently on portraying only negative images to create a skewered and imbalanced image of Arabs that feeds into the American public’s hysteria and ignorance about the truth of the Middle East.
It has a lot to do with Israel. Because if Israel were not in the equation, Arabs would be lumped in with the rest of the victims of hateful racism and discrimination in this country. But instead, Arabs are given a special place in this American system of demonization.
The successful record producer DJ Khaled is a good example of the growth and power of the pro-Palestinian movement in the United States, a movement that is still in its infancy and has a huge potential to grow even more.
A Palestinian, DJ Khaled’s message is one of justice for Palestinians, a phrase that doesn’t exist in the mainstream news media’s vernacular.
Dr. Hanna-Attisha is also an example of how an American Arab has embraced a major populist movement to becomes the symbol of the fight against corruption in America, which is a far greater issue for average Americans than is the issue of Israel’s brutality and oppression against Arabs in occupied Palestine.
It was her efforts that forced the government to recognize and acknowledge that water in the Michigan city was poisoned with lead, even after the government had assured everyone that the water was “safe.”
It wasn’t safe at all. Dr. Hanna-Attisha, who has two young children, didn’t give up. Today, everyone in the country recognizes the Flint water lead poisoning issue and how lead poisoning continues to be a problem in other localities including in Chicago, the 3rd largest city in the country.
Dr. Hanna-Attisha is a role model today for many Americans, and she is an American Arab who is proud of her ethnic heritage.
That kind of exposure can have a huge impact in changing the false stereotypes and images that have been pounded into the everyday psyche of the American people.
And the TIME 100 survey shows it is having an impact in bringing about change.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.)