American-Arab Conference Honors Community Contributions

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Community, professional leaders celebrate heritage and build for the future
By Afzal Khan
Washington File Special Correspondent
Washington — Prince Turki Al Faisal, Saudi Arabia‘s ambassador to the United States, urged Arab Americans to build “new and enduring bridges” between the Arab world and the United States. He made his comments in an address June 17 to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) 26th annual convention in Washington.
“The terrorists and deviants [of September 11, 2001], who are trying to create a wedge between the Arab world and the United States, are not part of us. We look at you Arab Americans as the role models that we need to emulate in our part of the world,” Prince Turki said.
Prince Turki was the keynote speaker at the concluding dinner that also featured Michigan Congressman John Conyers, a longtime supporter of the Arab-American community.
Conyers presented an American flag to the family of Rafiq Hariri, Lebanon‘s former prime minister who was assassinated in Beirut in February 2005. The flag had flown at half mast over the U.S. Capitol in Washington to recognize Hariri‘s close ties with the United States. (See related article)
On June 16, ADC presented its Lifetime Policy Achievement Award to Clovis Maksoud, who served as Arab League ambassador to the United Nations and to the United States, and who is now a professor of international relations and director of the Center for the Global South at American University in Washington.
At dinner the same day, the ADC Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Lebanese-born Egyptian actor Omar Sharif, who has starred in dozens of Egyptian films as well as the Hollywood classics Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago.
For two successive evenings, Sharif regaled the audience with humorous anecdotes from his childhood in Egypt, and spoke about his experiences as an actor in Hollywood and as a prominent Arab in international circles.
Sharif, who now lives in France, said an ADC is needed in that country to protect the civil rights of its millions of North African Arab immigrants.
The ADC Lifetime Excellence in Journalism Award was presented to CBS 60 Minutes senior correspondent Mike Wallace.
In his acceptance speech, Wallace said that for the first time he has “fully understood” ADC, and said the Arab-American community is “insufficiently understood” by other Americans.
“It is up to you to change the attitude of [other] Americans toward you. You owe it to your kids,” Wallace said.
The Arab-American Press Award was given to Osama Siblani, the publisher of Arab American News, a bilingual weekly newspaper in Dearborn, Michigan. With a circulation of more than 30,000 in the Detroit metropolitan area, the Arab American News has become a popular resource for American journalists seeking news about the Arab-American community.
The Voices of Peace Award went to Hany Abu-Assad, a Palestinian filmmaker whose Paradise Now, which depicts the Palestinian people‘s struggle, won the 2006 Golden Globe Award for best foreign film.
Abu-Assad also won an award at the Cannes Film Festival for the short documentary feature Curfew in 1993.
The Distinguished Cultural Contribution Award was conferred on Ghassan Massoud, a Syrian actor and filmmaker, who played Saladin in the 2005 film Kingdom of Heaven and played the sheikh in the Turkish film Valley of Wolves: Iraq.
Famed filmmaker Mustapha Akkad, who was killed in a terrorist bombing in Amman, Jordan, in November 2005, also was honored. His son, Malek Akkad, led a tribute that included clips from his father‘s controversial film The Message: The Story of Islam. Akkad also produced the popular Halloween horror film series.
The ADC Humanitarian Award was given to Richard Shadyac, who was instrumental in establishing the Children‘s Cancer Center of Lebanon, a partnership between the American University Hospital in Beirut and St.
Jude Children‘s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. St Jude was founded in 1962 by Arab-American entertainer Danny Thomas.
The conference featured panel discussions on Arabs in the arts and media, business opportunities for Arab Americans, the political situation in key Arab countries, civil rights, the Patriot Act and other issues arising from September 11 that have affected the estimated 4 million members of the Arab American community. (The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

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