The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.

Friday, December 19, 2008

SPJ asks me to remove post on encouraging Arab journalists to mail their shoes to protest President Bush

This is a response to a letter fromt he President of the SPJ requesting that I remove a post which urged Arab American journalists and others to "mail" their shoes in protest to President Bush ... at the request of SPJ, I removed my post, which is reprinted below under my response.

-- Ray Hanania

Friday Dec. 19, 2008

Dave Aeikens

Re: My post on throwing shoes and mailing my shoes to President Bush:

Hey Dave … I viewed the shoe-throwing incident as representing a form of free speech that is not violent … I know some people say throwing a shoe is violent, but I don’t see it that way … I also felt that Arab American journalists feel that the Iraqi cameraman responded in a way that is denied many Arab world journalists, not just in Iraq where people are not allowed to fully express themselves … I didn’t see it as a political statement at all … I also think that mailing my shoes to President Bush as an Arab American journalist and opinion writer is an appropriate form of protest against the repression his administration has come to symbolize not just in the Arab World but in the Arab American community.

I will take it down as a courtesy to the SPJ … BUT, I think this topic should be discussed in more detail …

Arab journalists and Arab American journalists are discriminated against every day … I don’t see the concern or attention to these matters at all. In fact, for example, UNITY would not even discuss our issues with them, but they decided to address our issues on their own by reaching through the Arab American journalism community rather than working with the Arab American journalism community.

Because SPJ has done so much to work with Arab American journalists, and ONLY for that reason, I will remove the posting, and replace it with this. I think that in an America where Arab satellite television can’t find a place on Comcast Cable or most major cable TV programs because Americans think that Arab World journalism is “biased” is an outrage, but Arab American journalists are the only ones who see that and get no support from the mainstream media.

Arab American journalists are always a problem, but never a part of the solution, never a part of the positive movement forward, always excluded, always ostracized, always put under severe scrutiny for our words in ways that no other community is also measured. It’s unfair and I protest it. But, again, out of respect to the SPJ and only to the SPJ because the SPJ has more than any other organization reached out to Arab Americans at least in this small manner to give us a platform where we might express our views, I will remove it and post this instead.

I hope to see mainstream American journalism show the same concern for the discrimination that we continue to face in this country as Americans of Arab heritage trying to carve out a place in professional journalism. I hope one day to see mainstream journalism ask aloud why there are no Arab Americans writing columns at major newspapers given the fact that the Arab World and the Middle East are among the TOP stories and the main focus of this country’s news media attention.

I hope that is an acceptable compromise.

Thank you and I appreciate and respect your views
Ray Hanania


I just came back from the post office and mailed an old pair of shoes to President Bush at the White House in protest of his policies.

Arab journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Kanye West of the Arab World, has started a trend that I think is great. Let's face it, he didn't go there and blow himself up. That's progress in a region where violencebecomes the protest form of choice. But al-Zaidi, who was brutalized by guards (one reportedly yelling not to kick him in the face"), is a hero. Instead of violence, he used a cultural form of protest that is popular in the Arab World, and that one many American came to know when American soldiers during the invasion of Iraq, pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein in front of one of the dictator's palaces in Baghdad, (trying to make it look like the "people" did it) and then those civilians who were brought there by the military started to express their disdain for Saddam Hussein in the way they knew best, by throwing their shoes at the statue.

How ironic that more than five years later, Iraqis are now throwing their shoes at President Bush?

And I want to help, as a fellow Arab American journalist who believes that violence is NEVER the right choice, NEVER a good choice, and NEVER a strategy for success, the symbolic throwing of my shoes at Bush (courtesy of the US Postal Service) is the most powerful expression of free speech today against the Iraq war possible.

I hope you will join me and others.

-- Ray Hanania

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