October 2012 Arabesque Lecture Recap

Will Arab Americans Swing the 2012 Election?:
Understanding the Impact of the Arab American Vote


Washington, DC | www.adc.org | October 18, 2012 -- Yesterday, ADC kicked off the 2012-2013 Arabesque Lecture Series with a panel discussion about the upcoming presidential election and the role of Arab and Muslim Americans. The event took place at the ADC office -- it was a full house, and many tuned in to watch the event live online.

ADC was honored to have as its guest speakers Dr. Clovis Maksoud, former ambassador and permanent observer at the United Nations and its chief representative in the US for more than ten years, and Corey Saylor, CAIR’s National Legislative Director. ADC’s President Warren David moderated the discussion, inviting both speakers to share their insights on a range of key election issues important to members of our community and fielding questions from the audience in the hall and on twitter.

Both speakers enthusiastically shared an optimistic message: Arab and Muslim American communities have become more engaged in politics and have an impact. In fact, in his introductory comments, Saylor underscored the significance of our role in this election, saying “this is the year where we may be the ones to swing it.” Regardless of who we vote for, it is imperative, he said, that members in our community make their voices heard so that our political leaders take notice, which is why CAIR, ADC, and a number of other organizations have coordinated efforts on a “get out the vote” campaign for our communities.

Saylor also shared his observations that although many Arab and Muslim Americans are disappointed with President Obama’s performance, Republicans have not “been doing us any favors.” For example, over the last two years, thirty-three states and the US Congress have introduced seventy-eight overwhelmingly Republican-supported anti-Islam bills. Furthermore, frontrunners in the GOP presidential nominating season made disparaging comments about our community in recent months. He also cited Rep. Peter King’s five anti-Muslim hearings. It is up to us, Saylor emphasized, to make our voices count: “We really do have an opportunity to turn out voters and show American leaders that they must include Muslims in their calculations, rather than calculate how far away they want to be from us in order to get elected.”

Dr. Maksoud shared his view that the election and growing level of general participation in political life is a way of taking back our right to be part of the process. He recalled the immediate days after 9/11 when he was a professor at American University and many Arab and Muslim students were afraid to go attend class: “We answered the question of President Bush and others ‘why do Muslims hate us?’ Muslims and Arabs don’t hate, but they're angry. They are angry at being discriminated [against], angry at being marginalized, angry at the residual commitment to Palestinian rights, angry because of the Israeli lobby taking almost total control of deciding the Middle East issues in this country, [...] never [having] any sympathies from acting diplomats or acting politicians. In a way they were angry, but not hating.”

“A marginal group of Arabs and Muslims hate. They are limited, restricted; they don’t belong to the mainstream. But the mainstream Arab and Muslim communities are angry -- and anger is an invitation to dialogue. Anger is an attempt to negotiate rights [...] to negotiate, to convince, to persuade. That was the difference between anger and hate. To blend them together into one semantical statement was an attempt to marginalize a whole Muslim and Arab community, and to make them on the defensive, instead of full-fledged American citizens who have the right to argue, to negotiate whatever they think are their rights [...].”

The conversation continued with a robust question and answer session (both on and offline), covering a range of important election topics, including foreign policy matters -- such as what the next president should do about the crisis in Syria, and whether or not a second term President Obama would be more assertive with Israel; and, issues closer to home -- such as the power of a collective protest vote, and how our community’s engagement and activism could help protect the Constitution.

At the conclusion of the event, David appealed to everyone to make it to the polls on Election Day, encouraging those interested in further action to volunteer for the ADC Voter Protection Unit (VPU).

ADC thanks all those who joined us last night and calls on all eligible voters in our community to make sure to vote on November 6th! 

Missed yesterday's Arabesque Lecture? Don't worry, we recorded it!