The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Arab-Americans organize to challenge Hollywood stereotypes

Posted by vmsalama on November 19, 2007

(Pictures from the event below — thanks to my friend Yasmin Hamidi for these great photos) 

The Associated Press

Friday, November 16, 2007

NEW YORK: A leading Arab-American activist said Friday he plans to open an office in Hollywood to challenge stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. entertainment industry.


“The equation on American television and film is, Arab equals terrorist,” said Jack Shaheen, who was in New York on Friday for a meeting of the Network of Arab-American Professionals.

The group is comprised of about 5,000 young professionals who “are all around us,” said Dena Zakaria, a Philadelphia lawyer whose parents come from Syria.

“They’re your doctors, your lawyers, your engineers,” she said. “They’re part of the fabric of American society, they’re integral to the nation’s landscape. We’re here to stay.”

Zakaria said that despite efforts by the government and others to combat stereotypes, “the perception of Arabs by American citizens is getting worse and worse.”

“The negative stereotypes of the Arab ‘bad guy’ without a counter-image have prompted this groundswell of activism by members of the community,” she said.

This year’s conference will include presentations by Shaheen on his book, “Reel Bad Arabs,” which examines how films present Arab stereotypes; the Palestinian ambassador to the United States, Afif Safieh; and the Egyptian novelist and feminist, Nawal El Saadawi.

Shaheen, a 72-year-old Lebanese American, said he plans to set up an office in Hollywood to lobby filmmakers and television producers, and will recruit staff members this weekend at the conference.

He says he has compiled about 50 examples of films and TV programs “that blend the Arab terrorist image with images of ordinary Arabs and Muslims in America.”

“I want these young Arab-American professionals to help squash this damaging virus of hate,” he says. “The only way that can happen is if they can take steps to meet with producers, writers, directors and not let these manufactured prejudices continue.”

The organization was founded in January 2001, nine months before Sept. 11.

Yasmin Hamidi, a network spokeswoman, said the terror attacks fueled the growth of the organization.

“Arabs and Muslims in America felt an urgent need to organize because the community was under increased scrutiny,” Hamidi said.

Below: Far Left, Afif Safieh, head of PLO Mission to the US; Jack Shaheen; gentleman nearest to the right, Khalil Jehshan of Pepperdine University and one of the founding fathers of the Arab American lobby.

Egyptian Author and Feminist Nawal Al-Saadawi


2 Responses to “Arab-Americans organize to challenge Hollywood stereotypes”

  1. A. said

    It’s about time….as Pakistan implodes!

  2. Ahaa, its nice dialogue about this post at this place at this weblog,
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