Blog Posts Related to the Arab American Community

  • President Obama Announces Additional Humanitarian Aid for the Syrian People

    Americans and people all over the world have been moved by the images of courageous Syrians standing up to a brutal regime, even as they suffer the consequences of the violence waged against them by the Assad government. Right now, humanitarian conditions in Syria are deteriorating in the face of a massive, man-made humanitarian emergency. People have been forced from their homes; schools, clinics and bakeries continue to be targeted; and food prices are on the rise as winter takes hold.

    The numbers are staggering. According to the United Nations, an estimated 2.5 million people are displaced inside of Syria, and over 678,000 people have fled to neighboring countries. Their stories touch us all, and the American people will continue to stand with them. That is why President Obama announced today that he has approved a new round of humanitarian assistance, an additional $155 million to provide for the urgent and pressing needs of civilians in Syria and refugees forced to flee the violence of the Assad regime. This brings America’s contribution to date to $365 million, making the United States the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. 


    Read the President's message in Arabic (pdf). You can also watch the video with Arabic subtitles.

    Our assistance is being delivered all across Syria and is providing food, clean water, medicines and medical treatment for hundreds of thousands of people. It will expand the delivery of vaccines for children and clothing and winter supplies for millions of people facing both the regime’s brutality and the hardships of winter. It will supply flour to bakeries in Aleppo to provide daily bread, and allow families to feed their children; it will finance field hospitals to care for those who are wounded; and it will provide care and services for the growing number of victims of sexual violence. Our assistance also supports a growing number of refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. 

  • President Obama Hosts Fourth Annual Iftar Dinner at the White House

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the Iftar Dinner, Aug. 10, 2012

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the Iftar Dinner in the State Dining Room of the White House, Aug. 10, 2012 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Last night, President Obama hosted his fourth Iftar dinner as President in the State Dining Room of the White House. The Iftar is the meal that breaks the day of fasting during Ramadan, when Muslim families and communities eat together after sunset.

    During his remarks at the dinner, the President reflected on the importance of religious freedom and the important role Muslims have played throughout our country’s history.

    Of all the freedoms we cherish as Americans, of all the rights that we hold sacred, foremost among them is freedom of religion, the right to worship as we choose.  It’s enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution -- the law of the land, always and forever.  It beats in our heart -- in the soul of the people who know that our liberty and our equality is endowed by our Creator.  And it runs through the history of this house, a place where Americans of many faiths can come together and celebrate their holiest of days -- and that includes Ramadan.

    As I’ve noted before, Thomas Jefferson once held a sunset dinner here with an envoy from Tunisia -- perhaps the first Iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.  And some of you, as you arrived tonight, may have seen our special display, courtesy of our friends at the Library of Congress -- the Koran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson.  And that's a reminder, along with the generations of patriotic Muslims in America, that Islam -- like so many faiths -- is part of our national story.

    Watch the President's remarks at the Iftar Dinner here.

  • Roundtable with MPAC’s 2012 Young Leaders Summit

    Valerie Jarrett with MPAC Young Leaders

    Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett meets with students attending the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Young Leaders Summit, July 12, 2012. (Photo by the Office of Public Engagement)

    Yesterday, we had the opportunity to speak with 27 outstanding college and graduate students who were attending the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Young Leaders Summit. Currently in its 5th year, the summit is a weeklong civic training program that exposes the students to careers in public service and encourages increased engagement in their respective communities. As we sat around the table in the Roosevelt Room it proved to be an ideal setting for them to engage directly with senior Administration officials and share their own unique perspectives. 

    The students, whose studies range from psychology and the environment to finance and women’s studies, asked insightful questions around a variety of policy issues. The conversation touched on domestic and foreign policy.  Ronnie Cho, an Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement and liaison to Young Americans, discussed the President’s work to address issues of concern to the next generation of Americans including college affordability and clean energy policy. Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett welcomed the students, encouraging them to share their stories, insights, and perspectives here in DC and also as they returned home. 

  • Engaging Arab and Muslim Small Business Owners

    Muslim-American and Arab-American Roundtable on the Economy 1

    Roundtable attendees listen as a recent graduate of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland speaks about the challenges of starting a new business, June 6, 2012.

    Yesterday, we had a chance to hear directly from successful business leaders from the Muslim-American and Arab-American communities at a White House Roundtable on the Economy. We were hosted at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy for this first in a series of business roundtables around the country to gather advice on how to create an economy built to last by supporting small businesses.

    The roundtable brought together entrepreneurs from a wide range of professions, ranging from IT specialists, physicians, and pharmacists to hoteliers and realtors—all of whom have created successful small businesses that are driving our economy. The conversation provided an ideal opportunity for Michael Strautmanis, a senior advisor to the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and Kassie Lewis from the State of Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development to sit down and gather tangible feedback about what the federal government can do to address the challenges often faced by small business owners. For more than an hour we engaged in a frank and practical discussion about the things that small business leaders feel are important, including access to capital, bonding, the need for an educated, skill-based workforce, and the support needed to export their goods to international markets.

  • Exploring Communities of Muslim Women throughout History

    The more globalized and change-intensive the times, the more important it is to expand our knowledge of the world, near and far, past and present. Accordingly, the National Endowment for the Humanities has developed a Bridging Cultures initiative to highlight specific histories and cultural traditions of various communities around the world.

    In this context, the NEH and White House Office of Public Engagement gathered together an audience on May 30th to hear from two scholars who have used NEH funding to explore places and moments in time when communities of Muslim women began to expand their legal rights. The presenters were:

  • Spotlight on Commerce: Dee Alexander, Senior Adviser on Native American Affairs

    Editor's note: This post originally appeared on The Commerce Blog.

    On December 19, 2011 Secretary of Commerce John Bryson appointed Dee Alexander as his Senior Adviser on Native American Affairs. As the Department’s Tribal Consultation Official, Alexander’s principal responsibility is implementing the Department’s Tribal Coordination and Consultation Policy, per President’s Obama’s Executive Order 13175 (PDF), which ensures meaningful and timely input by tribal officials in the development of policies that have tribal implications.

    Alexander works closely with the Minority Business Development Agency and other Commerce bureaus to promote the Secretary’s vision for job creation and economic growth on American Indian and Alaska Native communities. As the Senior Adviser on Native American Affairs, Alexander is housed in the Secretary’s Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.

  • Creating A Better Life for All

    Last week I had the honor of watching one of the best films I have seen in years. Thanks to the leadership of Secretary Hilda Solis, the Department of Labor (DOL) hosted a screening of A Better Life for students and Administration employees. The film follows Carlos Galindo, a father with the strength and determination to ensure a better life for his son Luis, while living in the shadows of Los Angeles, a place I called home for 9 years.

    In front of an audience of nearly 300 stakeholders and guests, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis introduces and holds a discussion with film director Chris Weitz, Diane Cortez, OSHA Investigator; and Lucia Garcia, Wage & Hour Investigator before screening the 'A Better Life' on the evening of Thursday, February 16, 2012. (Photo Credit: Department of Labor)

  • Connecting the Dots

    Linda Sarsour

    This week I am being recognized as a Champion of Change for my work empowering Arab and Muslim Americans nationally through civic engagement, direct service and advocacy campaigns. Born in Brooklyn, New York to parents who emigrated here from Palestine and attending NYC public schools my whole life, I would say I was an ordinary kid with an ordinary life.

    September 11th, 2001 was the most tragic day our country has ever faced and a day that has changed and reshaped who I am and determined the work I choose to do. In a matter of one day, I went from being an ordinary Brooklynite, New Yorker to one who shares a religion and ethnicity with terrorists. Growing up, my dream was to be a high school English teacher and to work in inner city schools to teach young people how to express their lives, their challenges and aspirations through writing. I hope that I will still venture on this endeavor in the future. 

    Two months after 9/11, I began volunteering in the Arab American community in Brooklyn which began my career as a local and national organizer. As the Advocacy and Civic Engagement Coordinator for the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), I am able to connect communities to resources and to each other. The National Network for Arab American Communities is a network of 22 Arab American organizations in 10 states, including the District of Columbia. We work to build the capacity of local community based, grassroots organizations so that they can better serve, empower, represent and engage their constituencies in addressing challenges and issues they are facing in their local communities.