Why I am starting this blog

Ever since I came to Washington DC 10 years ago and began working on Arab-American issues at the national level, people have been encouraging me to start a blog. For complex reasons, I never have until now. However, the proximate cause for beginning this blog deserves mentioning at the outset. Recently, a visiting scholar from North Africa at the Wilson Center came to see me to seek my advice on a project. She was attempting to study Arab-American political engagement by looking at community newspapers around the country, and was predictably dismayed by the quality and quantity of comment and analysis to be found in these publications. As we spoke, she began to wonder whether expanding her project to include Arab-American political blogs might produce a richer database that could form the basis of her research. She asked me if I could point her to the major Arab-American blogs on the Internet. 

This question threw the rather grim reality into sharp relief. I tried in vain to think of any reasonable, constructive and intelligent Arab-American political blog. In the end, I told her to take 24 hours and see what she could come up with on her own, as I did not want to take responsibility for pointing her in the direction of any of the well-known and frequently updated existing Arab-American blogs of which I am aware. Frankly, it was impossible to think of any major Arab-American blog that is not maintained by angry idiots, political extremists or overgrown juvenile delinquents. The next day she called me up and recited the same list of blogs I would have given her, and it was obvious that she recognized immediately that this commentary, if you can call it that, was not likely to add any depth to her project. My impression was that she had pretty well decided to change focus altogether given the paucity of serious social or political analysis either in print or online. 

I’m not sure what happened to her project, but this exchange led me to the conclusion that something needed to be done. My intention in this blog is to add a serious, responsible and constructive perspective to the Arab-American blogosphere, to reflect the universal values in which I deeply believe, and to provide a much-needed corrective to irresponsible and destructive rhetoric of many varieties, including political extremism of the left and the right, bigotry including both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, opposition to peace in the Middle East, and religious fanaticism of all stripes. It is my hope that readers will find the commentary and analysis that is forthcoming to be interesting and engaging, even if they do not always agree with it. Above all, it is my hope to add a thoughtful, sincere and positive voice to the shrill din that passes for much of Arab-American political discourse online, that will reflect my decade of experience working in Washington DC and, I believe, the often-unrepresented views of many people in our community who want to seriously engage with our fellow citizens, our government and our political system.