Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The ADC Drama Judge Not That Ye Be Not Judged

"Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts."

Psalm 28:3

This verse came to mind when I read a particular article written by the longest-serving head of one of the Arab American Institute. The article was commenting on the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) controversy with the Syrian composer Malek Jandali.

While there are many legitimate concerns with the issue of canceling the composer’s live performance over a song, this should not be an opportunity for people with vile intentions to pile on ADC. As the Arabic proverb has it best, “when the camel falls, the knives are many”

Like many in the community, I was disappointed and channeled my frustration. The organization's silence combined with their poorly-written statements did not exactly help. ADC has gone into damage control mode and partially reversed their decision by playing the song at the Gala as well as acknowledged their shortcoming in a statement released Saturday.

But I have also seen that a few elements in the community started to use controversy as a stepping stone for score settling and achieving their own agenda.

How does ADC differ from many Arab American Washington DC based organizations? I can think of few ways:

  • ADC has a longer track record in democratic tradition than any other Arab American organization. Since the group’s inception the organization had many different leaders; unlike the other organization, it’s not a one man show. The community is diverse and with that diversity comes politics. ADC is only the they body where that diversity and complexity is revealed.
  • ADC welcomes all elements in the community. Everyone brings something to the discussion. Other organizations claiming to represent the community feel like a private club or a frat house where you have to be initiated and have to make a lot of money. Elitist of sorts.
  • ADC actually helps people in places that you never knew existed. I know of many cases where people were denied a visa and ADC has stepped in to help. Others have been discriminated against and found ADC by their side. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail, but they keep going on.
  • ADC is a breeding ground for many bright Arab American leaders who go on and do well for their country and for their community. A significant segment of the Arab American residents of the city have benefited from ADC. Many of them came to the area to do an internship or work for ADC to gain experience and go on with their careers.
  • ADC does not serve as a talent manager for Arab dictators and their associates. While ADC never pursues such figures, AAI chases wealthy dictator-friendly Arabs to get their money and then its head writes books about how awesome those dictators really are. ADC doesn’t do that.
  • ADC has an open forum for healthy discussion in the community where all members can take part of the discussion. This has not been so the past few years, but this is the tradition. Unlike similar organizations where even its own staff is intimidated and sworn allegiance to the gifted leader.
  • On a personal note, when Palestine had a rough batch of civil strife in the summer of 2007 and the borders were sealed, ADC allowed for me to stay in the United States and work until things calmed down.

So the next time ADC does something wrong, and trust me they will, remember you are not perfect either. For 26 years The Arab American Institute (AAI) had only one president who remains in charge. Because when others are wrong and you come to promote freedom and democracy, maybe you need to take your own advice and look at your track record.

This is an organization worth saving. I am reminded of an old saying, without people change is not possible, and without institutions change is never lasting. By the same token, ADC should not be held hostage by the biased politics of the few in its board. It must change or be changed.

For a long time, Arab Americans have inspired Arabs back home. This time, in the wake of the Arab spring, let us be bring some Arab spring to our community.

[Hat Tip:Kellee]




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