Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 1992, Page 55, 56

Arab-American Activism

By Catherine M. Willford

American Muslim Council Programs

The Washington, DC-based American Muslim Council (AMC) has initiated a comprehensive demographic study of the U.S. Muslim community. Since its establishment in 1990, the non-profit AMC has worked to identify anti-Muslim discrimination and stereotyping, serve as a resource agency, and raise the level of socio-political awareness and involvement among Muslims in the United States.

According to staff researcher Farid Nu'man, this demographic study, when completed, will be the first of its kind. It is being conducted with the help of the International Population Center of San Diego State University. Some patterns have already begun to emerge in the early stages of the research. Nu'man notes that the largest group of U.S. Muslims, 42 percent, are African-American. The second largest group are Muslims of Indo-Pakistani heritage, compromising 24 percent of the total community. It may surprise many to learn that Muslims of Middle Eastern descent rank only third, at approximately 19 percent.

Of major cities, New York City is home to the largest concentration of Muslims, perhaps as many as 500,000. The states of California and Illinois also have substantial Muslim populations.

Between 6,000 and 10,000 Muslims serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Last September, the U.S. Armed Forces Chaplains Board designated the American Muslim Council as the first Ecclesiastical Endorsing Agency for Muslims.

In response to the needs of the American Muslim community, AMC is organizing a legal department to respond to discrimination complaints, many of them involving Muslim women. "Discrimination frequently focuses on women," Nu'man stated, "because they are more easily identifiable, due to their dress." For example, a teacher in Philadelphia was terminated by the Board of Education for wearing her hijab (headcover), as was a nurse at a major hospital. (The teacher has since been rehired, according to Nu'man.)

For information or to offer assistance to the legal department of AMC, contact Executive Director Abdurahaman Alamoudi at 1212 New York Ave. NW, Suite 525, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 789-2262.

Djerejian Addresses ATFL

Ambassador Edward Djerejian, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, addressed the recent American Task Force for Lebanon (ATFL) membership meeting in Washington, DC. While expressing cautious optimism about Lebanon's future, the State Department official stressed that stability and peace in the region can only be achieved if power is vested in the political system and its institutions, and not in individuals.

Djerejian began his remarks by acknowledging ATFL member Ambassador Philip Habib as the "political godfather" who had originally recruited him for a diplomatic career.

Stating U.S. policy objectives toward Lebanon-the restoration of Lebanon's unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, the dissolution of armed militias, and the withdrawal of all non-Lebanese forces-Djerejian described the Taif agreement as the best conduit for meeting these objectives, but noted that "it is a framework, not some final, immutable solution."

Djerejian stressed that the U.S. firmly supports the Taif agreement provision for withdrawing Syrian troops from Beirut and coastal areas, and believes "redeployment of Syrian troops to the Bekaa Valley should occur no later than September of this year." Many Lebanese have been fearful that upcoming elections, to be held this summer according to some Lebanese officials, would be tainted by the presence of foreign troops.

Regarding the ongoing Arab-Israeli peace talks, the diplomat commented that Lebanon, along with the Palestinians, has the most to gain from the multilateral talks.

Djerejian, who was U.S. ambassador to Syria prior to his present assignment, said Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad is a man who honors the commitments he makes in negotiations. "Syria is willing to coexist with Lebanon as long as its basic security needs are met, and the Lebanese government is unbeholden to a foreign power," Djerejian stated.

Ninth National ADC Convention

A record-breaking 3,000 persons attended various events of the ninth annual convention of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) held April 30-May 3 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA.

Speakers introduced at convention panels, dinners and luncheons by ADC Chairman Sen. James Abourezk, ADC President Albert Mokhiber and ADC Vice Chairman Abdeen Jabara included Crown Prince Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan; African National Congress official Dr. Allan Boesak; journalists Alexander Cockburn, Seymour Hersh, Christopher Hitchens and Norman Solomon; ABC news anchor Peter Jennings; former Congressman Paul Findley; Representatives Mary Rose Oakar (D-OH) and Nick Rahall (D-WV); former hostage Robert Polhill; filmmaker Saul Landau; Amnesty International USA President Jack Healy; educators and editors Jack Hayes, Audrey Shabbas and Jack Shaheen; and peace talks delegation heads Dr. Haider Abdul Shafi of Palestine, Dr. Mowaffec Al-Allaf of Syria, Souheil Chammas of Lebanon, and Dr. Abdul Salam Majali of Jordan.

Among those presented with achievement awards during the convention, whose theme was "Civil Rights at Home, Human Rights Abroad," were Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Naifeh, Ambassador Andrew Killgore and Richard Curtiss, publisher and executive editor respectively of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Imam Mohamad Jawad Chirri of Detroit, Dr. Arfan Al Hani of the Arab American Medical Association, New Hampshire activist Frank Maria, Occidental Petroleum president Dr. Ray Irani, and journalists Robert Friedman, Andrew and Leslie Cockburn and Mohammed Al-Bedrawi of the Arab Network of America.

Films shown at the conference included "Facts of the Ground," distributed by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (contact Anata Video, [216] 322-1360); "Introduction to the End of an Argument" by Elia Suleiman and Jayce Salloum, (212) 865-4137; "The Mountain" by Hanna Elias (contact 5742 Corbin Ave., Tarzana, CA 91356); "Stolen Freedom" by Tony Kandah, (213) 462-2055; "Struggle for Peace" by Elizabeth Fernea and Steven Tally, (212) 727-1711; and "Voices of Palestine" by Maggi Carter, (409) 898-4926.

U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce Honors Founder

Departing after 15 years of service in the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, Commercial Counselor Ibrahim Faris Khodja was honored by the U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce at an April 22 testimonial luncheon. Chamber president Jean Abi Nader, treasurer Kayid Shawash, and other speakers representing the U.S. Department of Commerce and Saudi Embassy colleagues pointed out that, while heading the embassy's commercial section from 1974 to 1977 and again from 1981 to the present, Mr. Khodja facilitated the growth of Saudi-U.S. trade from a few million dollars to more than $18 billion dollars annually.

Mr. Khodja was responsible for the Saudi Pavilion at the 1982 World's Fair in Nashville, TN. He founded the U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, produced the first guide for Americans on doing business in Saudi Arabia, and has backstopped visits by more than 20 Saudi delegations to the United States since 1981.

He also started the embassy's series of brochures on various aspects of Saudi Arabia, more than 3.3 million copies of which have been distributed in response to requests from American schools, journalists and travelers. From 1977 to 1981, Mr. Khodja served in Riyadh as director general of foreign trade with the Ministry of Commerce, to which he is returning.

Catherine M. Willford is the circulation director of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.