SOURCE: ARAB NEWS
BY: RAY HANANIA
WASHINGTON: The coronavirus pandemic has forced many Americans to stay at home away from others. But under these circumstances, Arab Americans have “come together in ways that it never did before,” the president of the national organization Arab America told Arab News.
This despite the pandemic disproportionately “impacting the health and lives of the Arab-American community,” said Warren David. “It has been a bitter-sweet experience for Arab Americans.”
He added: “People are suffering. Schools and businesses are closing. Mosques and Arab churches are conducting their services online.
“This past Easter was an unusual experience especially for Christian Arabs, because Easter is their most important religious holiday. And Ramadan, which is coming, is going to be the same. We’ll see changes.”
Explaining the difficulties faced by Arab Americans in terms of social distancing, David said it “runs contrary to the foundations of our culture. We’re a giving community, we’re open, we share. We come from large families, and we even extend those families beyond our relatives and neighbors.”
He added: “It’s our habit and culture to embrace ourselves and to embrace others. So for some it has been very difficult to stay home from religious services, not pray together and not eat together.”
David said since 2017, the community nationwide has united to celebrate Arab American Heritage Month every April. Previously, it was celebrated at different times depending on which state one lived in.
“Arab American Heritage Month is so important, yet we’re faced with a challenge this year. We decided we’d commemorate rather than cancel it,” David said.
Each week, during a teleconference call with Arab-American leaders, David and his wife Amal lead a discussion about progress in getting recognition of the event from each state. They then introduce special guests who discuss their work.
The teleconferences have featured interviews with Arab Americans who have made a difference in the lives of the community and the country.
Speakers have included Dr. Mahmoud Akel and Dr. Amal Al-Sharouf, physicians from New Jersey who discussed how Arab-American medical professionals are on the frontlines of the fight against coronavirus.
They have also featured Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha, the Michigan physician whose research in 2015 exposed the water poisoning of children and families when the city of Flint switched its water source from the Detroit River to the Flint River, which had been polluted by industrial waste.
David said: “They spoke about achievements in their fields, but more importantly showcased the roles they play in helping people in this country, a source of pride for Arab Americans.”
He added: “We have so many in our community who are working on the frontlines helping fight the pandemic and giving back to the community at large at this very difficult time, but also doing so as Arab Americans, something we’re very proud of.”
David said this year’s heritage month has brought together by teleconference more than 200 Arab-American leaders from 17 states. “Not only did Arab America secure proclamations from 19 governors (to recognize the heritage month), but also efforts have been made to rally support for this country and for Arab Americans who are making a difference during this COVID-19 crisis,” he added.
“We’ve experienced more participation and interest because of the pandemic. Arab Americans are doing incredible things, and they want to share those stories and emphasize how engaged they are in helping this country. Arab Americans are Americans, and we’re as much a part of this country as everyone else.”