Tag Archives: Arab-American

Yemeni-Americans stuck in Yemen say U.S. failing to help them, say there’s pattern of bias against them

Yemeni-Americans stuck in Yemen say U.S. failing to help them

Published in Detroit Free Press, Page 1a, on May 18, 2015

By Niraj Warikoo

Trapped in Yemen, metro Detroiters ask U.S. government for help, saying the failure to evacuate them is the latest example of the U.S. government discriminating against Yemeni-Americans

— Yemeni Americans say the failure to act is part of a pattern of bias they face from the U.S. government.”They’re treating us like we’re not Americans,” said Mahmoud Ali, a Dearborn resident who has an uncle, brother and cousin who have been stuck in Yemen since March.

Click here to read the full story in the Detroit Free Press. And accompanying story about differing views among Yemeni-Americans on the war in Yemen.



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Arab-Americans and Muslims call for peace; plan memorial at Dearborn mosque

As Arab-Americans and Muslims across metro Detroit urged unity and peace, one of Dearborn’s biggest mosques is holding a memorial service Saturday for the victims of the Boston terror attacks

“As Muslims, this is not how we’re supposed to be acting,” Bilal Amen of Dearborn, who’s helping organize the memorial service, said of the attacks in Boston and other places around the world. “We want to stand united for all people who are victims of terror.”

The Islamic Institute of Knowledge in Dearborn plans to hold the event at 9 p.m. Saturday as a way to express solidarity with terror victims in Boston, as well as in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, where terrorists have killed civilians. The two Boston attack suspects are reportedly Muslim.

Amen said that Islam teaches its followers to respect the laws of any country you live in.

“We’re Muslims, but we’re American,” he said. “The Quran tells us to abide by the laws of our land…we’re in America and follow American laws.”

Today, the Dearborn-based National Network for Arab American Communities released a statement saying “our thoughts and condolences continue to be with the victims of the Boston Marathon attacks. We are grateful to the brave first responders and law enforcement officers, who endangered their own lives.”

It also said that “we urge the media and the public to refrain from scapegoating or turning against our fellow Americans based on their racial, ethnic, religious or immigrant identity.”

Amen and others said they were concerned about potential backlash towards Muslims and others after the Boston attacks. A contributor to Fox News wrote online on Monday of Muslims: “Let’s kill them all.”

Amen said such remarks reveal a misunderstanding of Islam.

“Anyone who knows the Muslim religion knows that we don’t preach hate,” Amen said.

Arif Huskic, a Muslim leader in Hamtramck, said that like other Muslims, “I feel really bad” about the Boston attacks. “I never thought something like could happen, repeating 9/11.”

Also today, the director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has a Michigan chapter, strongly condemned the attacks and called for unity.

“Americans are united today in condemning terrorism and in the conviction that those responsible for the terrorist attacks in Boston must face justice,” said Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council. “We reiterate the American Muslim community’s consistent condemnation of terrorism in all its forms.”

Awad added that “America will stay united. We will not turn on each other.”

Dawud Walid, who heads the Michigan branch of the Council, said “we don’t have a high level of fear of backlash against the Muslim community, but…there is always the possibility of a few loose cannons who could seek vigilante justice against a random Muslim.”

Amen said that one of the themes of Saturday night’s banquet in Dearborn is: “Terrorism has no religion.”



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Advocate for Arab-American and Muslim causes dies. Was former editor of Arab American News in Dearborn

Kay Siblani, former executive editor of the Arab American News, died on Jan. 1, 2013.

By Niraj Warikoo

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

Marianna Kay Siblani, a former nurse and executive editor of the Dearborn-based Arab American News who advocated for Arab and Muslim causes, died Tuesday at her mother’s home in Warren after battling breast cancer. She was 64 and previously lived in Dearborn Heights.

“She’s always been a fighter,” said Osama Siblani, her ex-husband and publisher of the Arab American News. “She fought very hard — for her health, her family, for the community.”

Ms. Siblani was not of Arab descent and had no family ties to the Muslim community. But as an adult, she became “amazed by the Middle East, its history, very attracted to the culture, the food, the music,” said her former husband, to whom she was married from 1992 to 1995.

She was born Marianna Kendall in Detroit and worked at St. John Hospital in Detroit as a nurse, Siblani said.

In 1984, she helped him when he started the Arab American News, which today is the biggest Arab-American newspaper in Michigan and one of the biggest in the U.S. The early years were challenging, but she worked long, hard hours to keep it going, Siblani recalled.

Ms. Siblani was active in Arab-American and Muslim issues. She traveled around the Middle East with Siblani, and was at his side when he interviewed leaders such as Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

She set up Oasis Communications in the early 1990s, serving as a consultant on health care issues related to Muslim-American communities. She also worked at the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, helping it set up in 2000.

In 1987, Ms. Siblani was hit by a drunken driver while walking in Dearborn and suffered a collapsed lung. She later was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which was removed. She developed breast cancer about two years ago.

“I always depended on her,” Siblani said. “I’ve known Kay for 36 years. … I don’t know who I’m going to call on now for advice.”

Ms. Siblani is survived by her mother, Anna Leota Kendall; daughter Michelle Marshall; brothers Kenny and Keith Kendall; sister Cathy Jones, and three grandchildren.

Visitation is 2-8 p.m. Saturday and 1-8 p.m. Sunday at Verheyden Funeral Home, 28499 Schoenherr Road, Warren. The funeral is set for 10 a.m. Monday at the same location. Burial will be in Christian Memorial Cemetery in Rochester Hills.

Contact Niraj Warikoo: nwarikoo@gmail.com or Twitter.com/nwarikoo

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Rima Fakih, Arab-American Muslim from Dearborn, wins Miss USA

Rima Fakih of Dearborn wins Miss USA, the beauty pageant. Fakih is believed to be the first Arab-American and Muslim to win the crown. Click here to read my story published in the Detroit Free Press.

And here’s a story I wrote about the party in Dearborn to celebrate Rima Fakih’s win.

Also, click here to read a preview story in the Detroit Free Press that I wrote about Rima Fakih before the victory.

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Niraj Warikoo

Niraj Warikoo is the religion writer for the Detroit Free Press. He graduated from Columbia University in New York City with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a masters degree in journalism.  In 2005, he was one of ten journalists selected nationally to be a fellow at the University of Southern California, where he studied national security and civil liberties in the post 9-11 era. Warikoo has been an invited speaker at conferences and universities across the country, and on TV shows such as MSNBC’s Hardball Show with Chris Matthews and C-SPAN.  In previous years, he has written often about workplace safety issues, including investigative reports that exposed corporate negligence in the deaths of six workers at the Ford Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan. Warikoo also has examined the environmental destruction of Michigan’s wetlands in a special report based on new data he obtained. In 2006, he traveled to Lebanon to write stories for the Detroit Free Press on the aftermath of the war between Hizballah and Israel.  In recent years, Warikoo wrote about Michigan’s immigrant communities, including the region’s Arab and Muslim population —  the highest concentration in the U.S.  Outside of work, Warikoo enjoys listenting to music; he played the piano and trumpet for 10 years. Raised in Pennsylvania, he’s a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and proud to say he was at Rocky Bleier’s last home game.

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