AAI Media Coordinator Launches Attack On Ikhras

[Ikhras Note:  The following article first appeared on the Arab-American, variety website KABOBfest as a guest submission on May 23, 2011.  The author is the media coordinator at the Arab-American Institute]

Confronting the Needless Hostility Within

One of the mistakes our community has made in dealing with Islamophobia has been to ignore the forces behind it, assuming they were far too crazy and marginal to ever gain sufficient traction in the mainstream to mount a serious challenge to our communities. Now, as we see Islamophobes elected to Congress, arbitrary controversies erupting at various sites where Muslims sought to build places of worship, and states passing paranoid laws to fight the imaginary creeping of “Sharia Law,” we know we should not have waited this long to take the threat of Islamophobia seriously.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a different brand of extremism, still in its marginal infancy, is trying to stir up trouble in our community. These are people who stridently claim to be the only authentic Arabs who care about justice for their communities in the US and in the Middle East, and they assign the term “house Arab” to any Arab American who promotes engagement with US policymakers or participation in the American political process.

While Islamophobes oppose Arab and Muslim involvement in American politics on the grounds that we are a potential threat and cannot be trusted, these guys oppose such engagement on the grounds that the US political establishment is such an unmitigated evil that there is no reason to engage it (the permeation of either ideology increases the “otherness” of Arabs and Muslims and the sense that they don’t belong in or are an integral part of this country). Anyone who does engage, so their logic goes, must be doing it to gain favor with the political elite, or for personal enrichment and empty self-promotion as a fake community leader with high connections.

Some with this ideology have anonymously (that is to say under pseudonyms) created a blog called “Ikhras,” Arabic for “shut up,” which is aimed at what they describe as “House Arabs.” Its content is about 5% spot on (occasionally they do go after people in a deserved fashion), about 10% funny and entertaining, but the remaining 85% is malicious, juvenile, and destructive. Intellectual consistency and clarity are completely abandoned in favor of feeble and often self-contradicting ad hominem attacks that are simply too extensive and convoluted to explain in detail.

To give just one example, the anonymous writers at Ikhras pleaded with the youth of the Egyptian revolution (particularly Wael Ghonim) not to associate themselves with the Arab American Institute (AAI), but when these activists took part in AAI’s Gala they were accused of being fake revolutionaries (including Jawad Nabulsi who was shot in the eye while protesting on the streets of Cairo – dare I speculate that this is more than what the anonymous bloggers of Ikhras risked for the revolution?). This is pretty indicative of their doltishly arrogant “either you’re with us or against us” mentality. If they truly believed in such personal attacks, why don’t they have the courage of their convictions to sign their real names to such vitriol?

Recently, Ikhras contributor Tammy Obeidallah (who I’m told is not Arab but who signs her real name) wrote a screed on Ikhras attacking Arab American comedian Dean Obeidallah as “the father of all House Arabs.” What was his crime? He didn’t condemn Israel and the United States in the course of an interview he did on CNN. During an exchange in the comments section on Ikhras and on twitter, Tammy accused Dean and Maysoon Zayid (another Arab American comedian) of being “Zionists” (consistent with Ikhras’ style of wild and baseless accusations). Once you’ve reduced yourself to making enemies out of Arab American comedians and staunch supporters of Palestinian rights like Dean and Maysoon with personalized vitriol, you’ve basically made it impossible to identify the limits of the depths to which you are willing to sink in vilifying anyone who disagrees with you. This type of strident orthodoxy demanded by Ikhras to spare oneself from baseless attacks is the sort of nasty bullying that must be confronted by all of us who value political and ideological diversity within our community before it becomes a poisonous source of unnecessary division and antagonism.

For those who consider themselves reasonable, but nevertheless find themselves partially sympathetic to the attitude of Ikhras, let me say this: there are a thousand approaches to advocacy, and we don’t have to agree with them all. Some of us prefer congressional advocacy, some of us like mass demonstrations, some prefer to write Op-Eds and letters to the editor, and some think BDS is more effective. Some of us prefer the principled stance that the US should end military aid to Israel until the latter abides by international law and respects the rights of the Palestinian people, while others prefer to advocate for what they see as more pragmatic and achievable goals like an even-handed diplomatic approach coupled with more moderate pressures.

The DC-based political advocacy approach requires one to play by specific rules, and they include constraints and considerations that people doing grassroots advocacy don’t have to bother with (maintaining relationships with various governments and government officials and using language and talking points that are suitable for that sphere). Whatever you think of the Washington game, it is what it is. Our political opponents who are so effective in Washington also play the game, and exceptionally well.  If you don’t like the game, then find ways to limit the time you devote to it, or don’t play it at all. But don’t waste valuable energy denouncing those who choose to play it because they see the value in giving our community a voice in Washington. If you think you can do advocacy more effectively, by all means the stage is wide open.

And finally, a word to the anonymous folks who run Ikhras: the fact that people like Zuhdi Jasser, Irshad Manji, Nonie Darwish, Brigitte Gabriel and the rest of the self-promoting clowns (who do sell out their communities) don’t provide you with enough material to regularly update your website constitutes no license to expand your list of victims to anyone whose approach to advocacy you happen not to agree with. Had you chosen to focus on those who really deserve harsh criticism and delivered it in a thoughtful manner, your site might have served a constructive purpose. I hope you will take a moment for introspection on the role you play in the causes you say you care about. Sensationalism and contrived controversy is precisely what has reduced public discourse in the US to its current sorry state. The last thing the Arab American community needs is its own version of this mindless, angry divisiveness and McCarthyite stridency. Instead of being distracted and driven apart by irrational and anonymous public hate letters, we need to come together and work, if not in a cooperative, at least in a complementary fashion to advance the causes we care about. Let us elevate the discourse in the pursuit of a better model.

Omar Baddar is new media coordinator at the Arab-American Institute, but this piece is written in his personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views of AAI or any other organization with which he is affiliated.




  15 comments for “AAI Media Coordinator Launches Attack On Ikhras

  1. May 28, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    I really don’t think Sarkanos is worth responding to anymore. He’s plainly a misogynist, if you read back over the comments you can see his tone changes completely when responding to a male then when he is responding to a woman.

    • Sarakenos
      May 29, 2011 at 9:21 AM

      Fuck you Rodney. Fuck you more than any other woman on earth.

      There, just proved you are wrong.

      Misogynist? Seriously? House-Arab is not working any more?

      You and your friends are just dying to fit me into a “category” or a “label” in order to dismiss my criticism of your bullshit. What’s next? You wanna call me a Zionist? A Nazi? Fascist? Racist? … Come on, stick your hand again into the bag of bullshit fortune cookies you carry around, and pull out another one and read the next bullshit statement, see if it works better.

      • May 29, 2011 at 11:22 PM

        You can be a House Arab and a misogynist at the same time. Zionist? Well, you said it, I didn’t.

  2. trabulsi
    May 28, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    Great response and great blog.  Keep up the good work.  

  3. Omarh
    May 27, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    Ikhras may have went overboard targeting the Arab Clowns but for the most part they constantly hit their target with eloquence. Nothing written in the AAI hasbra piece diminishes our respect for Ikhras but please guys keep your energy focused on the a-holes not the clowns. 

    • Sarakenos
      May 27, 2011 at 5:38 PM

       Agreed, and I’ll add: In order for Ikhras to continue being the awesome website many of us got to know and love, they should also drop their rabid clowns from their writers’ list.

      • May 27, 2011 at 9:54 PM

        How’s it going, Housie? Too bad Baddar’s apoplectic tirade you published failed to generate the desired feedback. I see you and Maysoon just can’t get over me, but in the process, you’ve shot yourself in the proverbial foot. And if you don’t know what I mean, you’re even denser than I realized.

        • Sarakenos
          May 28, 2011 at 4:11 AM

          Everybody knows what you mean, Tammy. There is no one denser than you on this entire website. But that’s the thing about dumb people, they’re too dumb to know that they’re dumb.

          Human beings learn best when they make mistakes (like how we learned how to ride a bicycle, or how to walk). That means, even geniuses have dumb moments. But what separates average people from dumb people is that they have what we call a learning curve. They can look back at something they said or did, and say “oops, I shouldn’t have done that.” You, on the other hand, announced that you don’t retract anything you say and you never regret anything you do. That means your cognitive capacity has already reached its maximum (I don’t know how long ago, but I’d guess sometime around the age of 10).

          You are like the Monica Lewinsky of Ikhras. You must have served one of them in order to let a dumb person like you get published on their website, because certainly you wouldn’t get published on any other merits. Your piece on Dean was pure shit (even – I repeat – even if Dean was indeed the father of all house Arabs).

          So, there are two possible paths I see from here:

          1 – Either you actually grow up and learn from your mistakes and take some writing classes, in which case Ikhras and others would publish you again and we would all get to enjoy something worth reading.

          2 – Or, you stay the same dumb person that you are, and the Ikhras team will allow you to publish another piece of shit (I seriously doubt they would), in which case they would be shooting themselves “in the proverbial foot.”

          Prophet Muhammad said: “support your brother whether he was ظالم أو مظلوم.” So the disciples asked him: “sure we would support him when he’s مظلوم, but how do we support him when he is ظالم?” And the prophet replied: “By stopping his ظلم” … So if the Ikhras team doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do, someone else will.

          • May 28, 2011 at 8:54 AM

            Hmmm…I’d hazard a guess and say I’m a bit more widely published than you. And I also have the brass to write and post comments under my real name. I highly doubt you’d accuse someone like me of “servicing someone” under your real name. Better to stay an anonymous loser hack. 

            • Sarakenos
              May 29, 2011 at 9:26 AM

              I see improvement already. “anonymous loser hack” .. much better choice of words. I’d go with “anonymous loser” cuz I don’t have hacking abilities. 


              • May 29, 2011 at 11:28 PM

                Obviously doesn’t know the slang definition of the noun “hack.” Look it up. At least you admit you’re a cyber monkey, hurling insults instead of feces, from behind the safety of your keyboard in your parents’ basement.

                • Sarakenos
                  May 30, 2011 at 1:21 AM

                  I thought we are in the business of throwing the proverbial shoe, no? You think calling me a misogynist and house-Arab is not “hurling insults… from behind the safety of your keyboard in your parents’ basement”? Come on Meatloaf! Put your gloves back up, raise the level of intellect… what else you got?

                  Thanks for the “look it up” tip on the word “hack.” English is my second language, so please don’t hold that against me

  4. May 26, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    Good laugh over coffee…actually I had seen this on their lame blog, but declined to comment as that would be giving them what they wanted. Last time I checked, this piece had generated a whopping six comments, and most of them were not complimentary to AAI. Now for some real comedy, I could post the comments Maysoon Zayid and Dean Obeidallah sent to a few of my Facebook friends who came to my defense, one in which Dean threatened yours truly with “holy war” (I’m not kidding–you can’t make up stuff that good.)  

    • Maysoon
      May 27, 2011 at 3:02 AM

      Shall I send the one where your EX husband called me a whore and threatened to “Fuck me up.” Come on who doesn’t love  and respect a man who threatens a disabled chick. Horrifying.  I’ve asked you before I’m going to ask you again please stop using my name to further your vendetta. I have blocked you on facebook and twitter. Its time to stop. Focus on something worthwhile… http://www.playgroundsforpalestine.org/homepage.php

      Ikhras maybe you could look into who sold Israel the concrete to build that wall.

      This is my last comment. Yammer as you please I will not be back.

      • May 27, 2011 at 3:46 AM

        No, you didn’t block me on Facebook because I never contacted you on Facebook. Evidently some of my family and supporters did take issue with your comments to me, as you took issue with my piece on Dean. You were free to respond to me; they are free to respond to you. That’s how free speech works. When you’re in the public eye, expect criticism. I will continue to criticize anyone that sells out the community and my children’s birthrights. By playing in a film that glorifies the Mossad and IDF and flaunting your friendship with the star of that show, a pro-Israeli Jew, you are demeaning Palestinians. I don’t care how many camps you run, I would never let my child attend one because I know where most of that dirty money comes from.

        And no, this isn’t your last comment. You will be back, if not here, then someplace else. You have contradicted yourself many times on this point. And it’s highly doubtful my ex-husband knows you are disabled; he was not familiar with you prior to this. I am aware that your husband sent him messages on Facebook cussing him out in Arabic and threatening him with physical violence should he come to Amman. And just to set the record straight, since my personal life seems to be of such utmost importance to you, my ex and I were married 7 and 1/2 years and have 2 children together. He certainly did not “use me for a greencard” as you keep insisting to everyone that will listen to you.

        Your juvenile hostility towards me is borderline obsessive, and more than a bit…for lack of a better word…psychopathic. As one commenter on the prior thread said, perhaps you deserve an article all your own. I’ll keep that idea on the back burner for a slow news day.

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