Two Arab-American women, Michigan State Representative Rashida Tlaib and Rana Abbas, a former member of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination (ADC) in Michigan, have accused Imad Hammad, the ADC regional Director and Senior National Advisor for Public Affairs of sexually harassing them and several other women. The allegations stretch back to 1999, and apparently a formal complaint submitted to the ADC National Office in 2007 went ignored.
Sexual harassment is the most pervasive form of workplace harassment and takes several forms. According to Tlaib & Abbas, Hamad engaged in aggressive verbal and physical sexual harassment over an extended period of time. Such behavior should never be tolerated, and the failure of the ADC to investigate these allegations immediately after they were brought to the attention of its leadership is as alarming and troubling as the sexual harassment itself.
This is not the first time the ADC has ignored complaints of misconduct by its members and directors. After ikhras broke the “Hanania Emails” scandal, revealing national board member Ray Hanania referred to Arabs as “raghead fags”, we reached out and notified leaders within the organization. The ADC failed to respond or repudiate Hanania and he remained on the national board until his subsequent ouster following an uproar by members and supporters of the group. Hanania, who remains associated with the ADC in Chicago, has now come roaring to the defense of Hamad while simultaneously attacking anyone calling on the ADC to promptly address these allegations. It goes without saying that sexual harassment is a much more serious issue than a racist, homophobic slur by an irrelevant and disgraced member of the community, but it does suggest there’s a prevailing culture of tolerance for misbehavior and lack of accountability within the ADC.
Ikhras has criticized Tlaib’s House Arab political behavior in the past through social media, including making a spectacle of herself as a member of James Zogby’s Arab-American contingent at the Democratic Party Convention in 2012. However, sexual harassment is not a political dispute, and for this reason we feel it is incumbent upon us to express our full support for Tlaib, Abbas, and all the women that have taken the difficult decision to come forward with their complaints.
For the ADC this sexual harassment scandal is merely the latest in a long series of shameless episodes that have characterized the group’s pattern of political and organizational behavior over the years. The self-described “largest grassroots Arab-American organization” is an empty-shell, thoroughly corrupted, ineffective, and irredeemable organization. It has virtually no base of support within the Arab-American community or any credible leaders. It also lacks the required internal democratic mechanisms that would make it amenable to accountability, reform and change.
We call on the Arab-American community to fully support the victims that have come forward and put pressure on the ADC to address these serious charges. This must be done through a full and independent investigation. The ADC should also call on law enforcement agencies to open a criminal investigation and instruct all its former and present members with any relevant information to fully cooperate. It must also be emphasized that this pressure should be geared towards achieving justice for the victims of sexual harassment and holding accountable those that failed to address these allegations when they were first made, and not out of any concern for the ADC, its (non-existent) credibility, or reputation. On the contrary, if anything positive can possibly come out of this scandal it would be to further erode the lingering semblance of respectability this organization may still enjoy among a select few within the Arab-American community and finally place the ADC where it belongs, in the trash bin of Arab-American history.