The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Open Letter to the American Society of Newspaper Editors

March 24, 2007

Dear Members of the ASNE:

Arab American journalists remain under siege, not just from extremists in their own community but also from mainstream media that refuse or fail to distinguish between professional Arab American journalists and activists and extremists who continue to dominate our community.
Arab American journalists are American, professional journalists, and focused on getting the story. Yet, we continually face discrimination, including from our own profession of American journalism.

The challenge is complex. But Arab American journalists are constantly attacked from their own community by extremists who have exploited the situation to convince most Arab Americans that they represent the mainstream community, when they do not. But they succeed because Arab Americans believe they have no voice. We have no voice in American society. Mainstream American newspapers continue to exclude us, unable to distinguish between extremists and moderates. We look all the same to mainstream Americans through the eyes of mainstream American journalists.

This creates a situation where moderate Arabs -- the majority of Arab Americans -- are pushed into silence. This allows the extremists to work the community, moving center-stage in our society and appearing to others as if they represent us.

Although we have been in America since the mid-19th Century, we continue to face discrimination. Worse, the groups that should be helping us to break through the discrimination do not help at all.

In 1999, we formed the National Arab American Journalism Association to do several things: organize as professional journalists, not as political activists; to serve as a conduit to other journalism groups; and, to serve as a focal point for accurate information on the Arab American community.

We are journalists. We have won numerous journalism awards. I was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" in November by the New America Media. Yet, when Creators Syndicate signed me on as a columnist in 2003, they released me saying that few mainstream American newspapers wanted a column from an Arab American journalist.

We can't allow this to continue. The inability of moderates to rise and to promote professional journalism only serves the extremists. This situation indirectly contributes to growing terrorism because some terrorism is the result of individuals who are consumed by frustration, rejection, voicelessness and a sense of despondency that they are alone and have no options to choose from. Give my community options. Help us strengthen our voices.

As you meet this week in Washington D.C., please recognize that Arab Americans are Americans. And, more importantly, Arab American journalists are an essential part of getting the story correctly and completely. You need us to help convey the full story. Without us, the story becomes politicized.

We need your support. Please help us as professional journalists.

Thank you for your time

Ray Hanania
National Coordinator

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