Deadline Now: Arab Americans in Toledo
Friday, April 1, 2011
Dr. Samir Abu-Absi, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Toledo, has recently authored the book Arab Americans in Toledo, a highly-praised chronicle of Toledo's Arab American experience. He will be joined by Dr. S. Amjad Hussain, retired thoracic-cardiovascular surgeon, columnist for The Blade and the author of Treading a Fine Line: A collection of Opinion Columns with Readers' Comments.
Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this week's edition of Deadline Now:
This has been a difficult decade for Arab-American Toledo, and for other Muslims in the region and across America.
For most of them, September 11 was an even blacker day than it was for the rest of America. That’s because they knew it meant that from then on they would be under suspicion for years to come.
In fact, virtually all had no more in common with al-Qaeda than the average Toledo Christian had with Jim Jones, or David Koresh.
Fortunately, people in Toledo seemed to get that instantly. For Christian, Jewish and other Toledoans, Arab-Americans aren’t some scary and exotic species. They are our friends, neighbors and family members. When I first came to Toledo in 1978, I met old men who proudly remembered Danny Thomas’s brother when he was a cop on the beat. Toledo was the eighth city in America to have a thriving mosque, which first opened its doors in 1954. The gleaming structure off I-75 in Perrysburg just may be the most impressive mosque in the nation. Arab-American accomplishments are no recent phenomenon.
Mike Damas became the city‘s first Arab-American mayor more than half a century ago. Any contest for most popular living Toledo native would be easily won by Jameel “Jamie” Fahr, known as Corporal Klinger to a few of us who are over a certain age.
But that doesn’t mean the community has been exempt from discrimination and stereotyping. Nor does it mean that every Arab-American or Muslim American is a saint, or even a good guy.
Three fairly minor league terrorists were arrested in Toledo a few years ago and sentenced to stiff prison terms.
As far as I could tell, the local Arab-American community had no sympathy for them. Toledo’s Muslims of whatever ancestry deserve a fair break and a fair shake from the rest of us.
They have some excellent ambassadors. Amjad Hussain has been explaining a lot of things, including some facts about Islam, to Toledoans for decades. Now, Samir Abu-Absi has a new book -- Arab-Americans in Toledo -- which deserves to be read, at least in part, by everyone who lives in this part of the world. For one thing, much of it is fascinating. For another, the better we all know each other, our customs and history, the better off we all will be.