US Arab Radio celebrates its 11th Year as one of the only daily radio program addressing American Arab and Muslim issues. The need to expand and support our American Arab and Muslim media is critical to our community’s effectiveness in this country. Only a few media — the Arab American News and US Arab Radio, both in Detroit — have risen to the level of true professionalism, although many continue to struggle. Here’s a look at one of them
By Ray Hanania
Although the American Arab and Muslim community continues to grow, its media continues to remain stagnant, facing weak support from the community and making it difficult to publish on a regular basis.
There are about 100 ethnic newspapers, with only one, The Arab American News, publishing on a weekly basis in Detroit. The remainder publish twice each month of monthly. And, there are only five radio programs, and only one that broadcasts daily, U.S. Arab Radio, also based in Detroit.
The ability to promote a community’s activities and share information while serving as a networking foundation for community discussion is critical to an ethnic community’s empowerment.
Without a strong media, an ethnic community will remain weak and disengaged not only from itself, but also from the mainstream community in which is struggles.
American Arabs and Muslims do not get the support and share of resources they deserve from mainstream American governments and public service organizations, and one reason is that the impact of their media is almost negligible.
US Arab Radio was founded in 2005 by Laila Alhusini, a Syrian immigrant and mother of two young adults who are studying and engaged in the medicine and pharmacy professions.
“I immigrated to the United States from Syria in 2001 with my children hoping to start a new life and work in the field of journalism,” Alhusini explains.
“I practiced journalism at my home country but our freedom of speech is limited as you know in these Middle Eastern countries when compared to the U.S. But, I was surprised to find that the Arab American media in the United States was not as established as I hoped it to be.”
Alhusini said that the absence of a strong Arab media in America made “the challenges and hardships” she faced as a new immigrant with limited English made it that much tougher to overcome.
“I faced to acclimate to a new society as a new immigrant without much help. I had language barriers being that I had an English degree but I haven’t practiced communicating in English as my first language so I had to make some serious choices. I chose to put my kid’s futures first and put my higher education aside in order to dedicate my time and efforts to support them so they can succeed,” Alhusini said.
“But I also challenged myself career wise by establishing a radio program named “U.S. Arab Radio” with the dream of connecting Arab Americans with their home countries and building bridges between our countries. I started with a one hour radio program every Thursday addressing our community.”
Alhusini said that the first shows slowly gained an audience and encouragement.
“We began the show with “Fairouz” a well known and celebrated Arab Singer in the Middle East whose morning tunes are loved by all Arabs. After the show, I got 10 phone calls surprised that there is an Arab American morning program playing Fairouz’s tunes and they were very excreted about the program,” she said.
The program has since grown to broadcast every morning Monday through Friday, a critical requirement to be considered a professional news media in America. The show is broadcast on WNZK AM 690 radio in Detroit from 8 am until 9 am (Detroit, EST). But Alhusini quickly expanded the radio show into syndication offering a simulcast live broadcast in Washington D.C. on AM 700 radio and in New York City on WPAT AM 930 radio.
“What makes U.S. Arab Radio such a unique experience is the spirit of teamwork. Our team members who often times volunteered their time because they believed in the Dream. We wanted this program to be a building block for our future generations so that they can build upon and advance this experience,” Alhusini said.
“Our program has received national recognition from sources like BBC world, Voice of America, Radio Sawa, Al-Hurra, the State Department, Peo research Institute who chose us the best radio program in the states in remaining strong on air and continuing to communicate with our Arab American communities and multiple states.”
The radio segments are live and focus on everything from politics, government services to social life, fashion, music and everyday life for Arabs and Muslims in America and the Middle East. Oftentimes, topics focus on events in the Middle East, from the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine to the ongoing war in Syria itself.
“Our programs were not only of political nature or only entertainment, but included a humanitarian focus, educational, including health-related community education, immigration related topics and programs, youth related topics, and we played a role speaking out against terrorism and terrorist acts,” Alhusini explains.
“I am also very involved with the recent wave of refugees of Syrian origins and non-Syrian origins. Through my extensive network, I am able to connect those refugees with the right individuals who can help them and that in itself is very powerful. Having the means to communicate a message and connect people to each other is powerful.”
Alhusini says she continues to outreach to community leaders and activists to expand the radio program. She gives time to other co-hosts to provide specialized broadcasts to broaden involvement and quality programming.
“My dream is to get the support we need to make this radio program a 12 hour program 7 days a week, broadcasting over most of the United States, connecting Arab Americans and their communities and businesses across the states and building bridges with mainstream America,” Alhusini says, adding that her radio show receives support from many groups and businesses.
“My dream is also to communicate my story as an immigrant who struggled and lived the American dream just like any immigrant. I want people to know that we are human first, we share similar struggles and dreams regardless of what some of the candidates today may say about us. I also want to promote our great country to the young journalist generations in the Middle East who want to engage with us and get to know the United States through our experience and who want to report from their home countries through us strengthening the bridges between our countries.”
But she says that Arab and Muslim businesses and organizations still need to recognize how much a strong news media can not only help them expand their activities and businesses but also strengthen support from its community.
Alhusini believes that one day, American Arabs will join together to support each other and recognize that by networking they can help each other expand their voices, in all media forms including print, online media and the broadcast media on radio and one day American Arab television.
“Without a news media that is founded and driven by American Arabs and American Muslims, we really cannot tell our story fully or accurately to the American people,” Alhusini argues.
“The reality is that despite the work of Arab and Muslim journalists based in the Middle East, Americans are not really hearing our full story because they want to hear it originate from Americans living in this country. Our voices are weak today but they continue to grow.”
US Arab Radio will be celebrating the community and its programming at a dinner banquet in Wayne, Michigan on September 30, 2016 at the Wayne Tree Manor, 35100 Van Born Rd. Click here to get more information.
For more information on US Arab Radio, visit the website www.uschaammedia.com. (Arab names are often translated different ways from Arabic to English. Here are other name spellings: Alhusinni, Al-Husini, Al-Husinni, al-Hussini)