Arab Americans Meet To Build National Coordinating Coalition
Washington, DC — Leaders from the Arab-American community met in an historic meeting to launch a new effort to “share information, learn from one another about work being done by various organizations, and choose who represents us in meetings with the U.S. government”, according to Dr. Hala Maksoud, former president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in her welcoming address to the participants. This initiative is the outcome of several years of preparatory work between Dr. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute (AAI) and Dr. Maksoud, and her successor, Dr. Ziad Asali.
Dr. Asali emphasized that this coalition was completely voluntary, its work would be non-binding on its members, and it would serve as an umbrella mechanism for coordinating communications, “to get together on things that unite us.” In his opening remarks, James Zogby noted that the Arab-American community was very accomplished and quite diverse.
“The proposed coalition,” he added, “should reflect this diversity by attracting a broad spectrum of representatives from this rich and dynamic community. Inclusion is critical to our effectiveness and success.”
After these initial remarks, the participants, representing 28 groups from 15 states, agreed that a national coordinating mechanism to serve the entire Arab-American community was critical, and adopted a resolution to create a “Congress of Arab-American Organizations” (CAAO) in the coming months. A steering committee was formed to implement the resolutions adopted by the ad hoc group and make recommendations to follow up the agreements on the mission of the CAAO, its composition and membership criteria, the functions of an executive committee to oversee coordination, and membership recruitment across the country.
AAI and ADC will serve as the secretariat of the CAAO and provide coordination of various communications mechanisms that will support the network of organizations participating in the CAAO. There was a lively discussion among participants who will now take the concept back to their organizations for adoption. A formal report from the steering committee is expected in 90 days. The steering committee, coordinated by Helen Samhan (AAI) and Khalil Jahshan (ADC) is made up of 13 delegates from various organizations who will lend their expertise to fully develop the details of the CAAO and its mission.
In addition to the representatives attending the meeting, there was broad support expressed for the concept among the more than 80 groups originally invited that were unable to send representatives to Washington. These organizations will receive the information materials sent to the ad hoc committee, and the membership list will be continually expanded to include as many organizations as possible. Arab-American organizations representing cultural, social, political, community, and religious groups are encouraged to contact AAI and ADC to become part of the CAAO network.