Important news about a conference that took place last night, from Walid Phares in FrontPage:
Now, finally, after three years of hard work since the tragedy of 9/11, another face of Mideastern Americans is surging to the forefront. Slowly but surely, American groups from Mideastern descent, in disagreement with the established political elites of the 1980s and the 1990s, came to the surface. Four days after September 11, a powerful letter of support was sent by the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU), a diaspora-based organization, to President Bush. “Millions of Lebanese around the world are standing with the United States against Terrorism,” wrote the authors.
At a time when Washington-based Arabist groups were circulating analysis indicting America and its policies for the actions of al Qaeda, other Mideast-Americans took the fight to the public sphere. Lebanese-Americans were the first to break the wall of American Jihadism. With the longest standing historical experience in this regard, their community organizations pioneered all aspects of the efforts against Terror: translators, analysts, experts, poured into government agencies.
Next were the Chaldo-Assyrians, mostly concentrated in Chicago and Detroit, who were followed by the Copts from Egypt. These American groups had good reasons to join the campaign. For decades, their mother nationalities had been brutalized in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. Then came Muslim and Arab groups who rejected the diktat of the dominant Wahabbis and Ba”athists. Shiites who have suffered under Saddam and Sunnis who have suffered under Assad felt America was wounded by the same forces of Terror, which caused them and their communities great harm.
A new wave of Muslim groups against terror appeared. Isolated and constantly intimidated by well-financed radical Islamist lobbyists and organizations, American Muslims began to gather together in smaller associations. Syrian Reformists, Lybian democrats, Yemeni intellectuals, and Palestinian dissidents declared their own entities.
As the new anti-terror Arabs struggled to affirm themselves, Iranian-Americans and Kurds came to the front of the American debate to confirm the thesis that the peoples of the Middle East “want freedom and democracy.”
Meanwhile, the African side of the Mideast communities of America rose to visibility. First Southern Sudanese, followed by Mauritanian and joined by the exiles from Darfur. This tiny African American immigrant community exposed the regime of horrors in North Africa. Berbers came to witness as well. Day after day, between 2002 and 2004, a new “community” of activists made it to the national media, the US Government and finally to the edges of the global debate.
Today in the United States, thousands of Americans of Middle East descent are joining forces to answer the anxious questions of their neighbors: “Yes we are fully Americans and we feel this is our country which we love and want to defend against Terrorists,” said the organizers of a historic conference to take place in Washington DC on Friday October 1, 2004. “It is time for our communities to break the silence imposed by the oil backed elite,” said Tom Harb, a member of the American Lebanese Coalition, a group that co-sponsored the event. John Michael, a medical doctor from Chicago revealed that, “tens of thousands of Assyrians and Chaldeans have sided since day one with the U.S. when it decided to liberate our mother country ? Iraq ? from the bloody Saddam.” &nb
More than 30 organizations, from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, have been meeting and planning for what will become a “beginning for a new era in Mideast-American history” as qualified by Dr Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim activist heading the American Muslim Forum for Democracy. “The mass graves in Iraq shook off the basis of our consciousness” said Zainab al Suwajj, the courageous Arab female leading the Islamic American Congress.
Walking hand in hand with Muslim moderates, Coptic groups are raising the issue of persecution of Christians in Egypt at the hands of fundamentalists. Michael Meunir, President of US Copts said “it will be interesting to see that this new wave of Americans from Mideast descent will show the world and the fanatics that Muslims would stand by Christians when persecuted and the other way around.” Moyammed Yahia from Darfur’s exiled community agrees: “We saw Christians coming to our help, when we Black Muslims were massacred by the Janjaweed.”
This talk wasn’t politically correct a few years ago. Now it is out in the open. Soon, it will have a national umbrella. The “Middle Eastern American Convention for Freedom and Democracy” will hold its sessions on this first Friday of the Fall of 2004. According to the press release issued by these organizations, “Americans of Middle Eastern descent will gather in Washington, D.C., to show their support for the efforts to defeat terrorism and radicalism and to create a free and peaceful Middle East.”
The forum will include speakers from different affiliations, a mosaic never seen before in Middle Eastern America. “At these dangerous and critical times, we want to provide a forum for all Middle Eastern Americans who support the United States in the war against terror and applaud the fact that the Middle East has one less tyrant after the fall of Saddam,” said Dr. Joseph Gebeily, the Convention’s executive director. “As primary victims of the prevailing intolerance in the Middle East, we strongly support the war on terrorism and efforts to promote democracy in all nations of the Middle East.”
I’ll bring you updates on how this went as soon as I have them.