Iran, release detained Michiganian
Sep 24, 2013, 5:05 am
Iran, release detained Michiganian

By Dawud Walid

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has come to the United Nations to present a new, less boorish face for his country to the world. I hope that he will listen to renewed calls for Iran to release Michiganian Amir Hekmati, who has been denied due process in Iran on an espionage charge for two years.

Rouhani is attempting to present himself as a moderate, which is not difficult considering the tone of former Iranian President Ahmadinejad. He recently released 80 political prisoners, extended Rosh Hashanah greetings to Jewish people, and brought Iran’s only Jewish member of parliament with him to New York. He also exchanged letters with President Obama, which some analysts view as a positive step in potentially thawing relations between our two countries. Perhaps, Rouhani can also show that he’s serious about improving relations by releasing Hekmati.

A bipartisan coalition of 64 congressmen are calling for the release of Hekmati, an ex-U.S. Marine, while Rouhani is at the U.N. I join them in reiterating my two-year call for Hekmati to be given due process or be immediately released.

The Obama and Rouhani administrations have deep philosophical differences on a number of issues. The tension and mistrust between America and Iran cannot be solved with some nice gestures and a few flowery speeches. It is my hope, however, that our nations can improve relations based on respecting international law, eschewing support for extremists, and promoting cooperation among nations.

Releasing Hekmati would be a nice olive branch, though a tiny one, that the Iranians could extend to us.

Fellow humans are not “abeed”

Fellow humans are not “abeed”

By Dawud Walid

Thursday, 09.19.2013, 07:49pm

I was prompted to write this after a recent Facebook discussion, which I weighed in on, when the term “abeed” (slaves) was used in a thread, in reference to a news story about an African American woman, who flashed an Arab American businessman in Detroit, during a verbal dispute. What was disturbing about the initial thread, before further discussion, was not simply the racist comments that were used about the unruly woman, but that some showed a profound lack of empathy when I mentioned that the term “abeed” is a hurtful word.

Calling a black person a “abed” (abeed in plural) is offensive. The term has been used for so long in certain segments of the Arab World that many people have become desensitized to its meaning. I know that all people do not use the term with overtly malicious intent; however, the word is disturbing, nonetheless.

“Abed” is a term that, at one time, had a general meaning of slave, then became a specific term, referring to blacks, who were viewed as subservient. For instance, “mamluk,” another term that is used for an enslaved person, came to specifically refer to a non-black slave, such as a Turk. Hence, “abeed” became nomenclature, which strictly referred to people with darker skin, as it is continued to be used today.

It is disingenuous to say that it is a good word, because excellent worshippers of God are “abeed.” When people use that term, it is not because they are saying that black people are the best worshippers, nor do they call lighter skin persons, or their own pious family members, “abeed.” The term has ugly roots and is derogatory; therefore, its usage should cease, instead of explaining it off to the offended and telling them not to be so sensitive, because it’s a compliment.

What was positive about the Facebook discussion though was that many young Arab Americans pushed back against those who used the term, pointing out that it should not be dismissed as non-offensive. I know Arab American activists throughout the country that promote solidarity between African Americans and Arab Americans. Moreover, some of them have directly challenged the usage of the term “abeed.” Likewise, I know of numerous African American leaders, who have spoken out against anti-Arab bigotry among other black people and confronted bigots, like Terry Jones.

So, the next time you hear someone using the terms “abed,” or “abeed,” politely recap the points made above. If we want people to be sensitive to us, we must be sensitive to others. Fellow humans are not “abeed.”

— Dawud Walid is the Executive Director of CAIR-MI

Navy Yard shooting: We need better mental health care for veterans
Sep 18, 2013, 9:35 am

Navy Yard shooting: We need better mental health care for veterans

By Dawud Walid

We are faced with yet another national tragedy with the Washington Navy Yard shooting which has left 12 innocent people dead. As elected officials and pundits discuss the reasons why shooter Aaron Alexis initiated his killing spree, I hope, as a veteran of the U.S. Navy, that much of the discussion is based on how our nation can better serve the mental health issues of our citizens, especially veterans.

Alexis served in the Navy and held a security clearance as a defense contractor at the time of his killing spree. He also had two prior brushes with the law for inappropriate use of firearms. The last incident led to his discharge from the military. His father purports that he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result from assisting in recovery efforts of 9/11.

Alexis should have been given long term and thorough mental health care prior to and after his discharge. Moreover, this should have been a criterion for his receiving a security clearance to come back on a military installation as a defense contractor. It’s astounding that a man, who stated to the Veterans Administration that he heard voices, was allowed to maintain a security clearance, much less own firearms.

The Department of Defense with the aid of Congress needs more resources to assist Americans leaving the military. Suicide, substance abuse and homeless rates of those who wore the uniform are far higher than those who never did.

As we look for answers to how our nation can take measures to prevent another such tragedy, the conversation should not about Alexis being black or Buddhist. Our discourse should be centered on how we can end one of our national shames: How poorly we serve the mental health needs of those who sacrifice themselves by serving in the armed forces.

Alexis appears to be one such veteran who was underserved.