Saturday, June 11, 2011

[UPDATE] Don Bustany: There is no room for debate on whose side ADC must stand

Posted today (June 11, 2011) on ArabCalendar, a YahooGroups list based in Southern California:
"If ADC is not awakened by the outrage that ought to come from the community and doesn't move quickly to go on record denouncing the Assad regime, then it ought to be dissolved."


-Don Bustany on ADC statement regarding the Malek Jandali controversy
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On June 13,  he sent this letter:

Dear Friends and Colleagues of ADC: 

A colossal blunder has been made. The playing of Malek Jandali's song, "Watani Ana," after it had initially been removed from the program did not make things right again. 

The ADC problem lies in the machinery that allowed Jandali's song to be banned in the first place. The solution may be found in analyzing the process that led to the dreadful decision in the first place. It begs obvious questions:

Has ADC paid attention to what's going on in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain with rumblings in Morocco and the KSA?

How was the original decision to bar the song made?


How many brains -- and whose -- were involved in making that decision?


In the deliberations -- assuming there was such -- did no one say, "Hold it, folks. In the big picture, in just the past six months, two Arab societies have dumped their presiding dictators, two others are in the process and dying as they try, and in four more we hear the rumblings as they begin their struggle for democracy?"

How can we know this and not applaud any Syrian American who speaks out against the rule of the Assads?

Why has ADC not come out publicly and strongly to condemn the obvious brutality of the Assad regime?  Why? -- because some of us have been friendly with Bashar or others in the Syrian hierarchy or have sensitive business interests to protect? Fine. Resign from ADC and tend to your business. 

ADC must now go into damage-control mode to minimize the tremendous damage that's been done by implicitly showing support for Bashar al-Assad. A mincing, fictional explanation will not do the job.

The ADC leadership must act with courage and honesty, take its righteous lumps, and get us back on track. Our pro-democracy message throughout the Arab world (and the US, of course) must be loud and clear and immediate.

Despotism is out; democracy is in.  There is no room for debate on whose side ADC must stand.


In solidarity,


Don Bustany

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More from Don Bustany regarding the ADC fiasco written on June 16:

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

I apologize for having misled you in my letter of Monday, June 13, regarding events at the ADC Convention in Washington .

False information had been received by many of us in southern California asserting that the scheduled performance by Malek Jandali at the main Banquet had been canceled by ADC because Malek’s song sounded critical of the Syrian regime. Believing it, many of us were outraged that ADC would do that to avoid offending Bashar Assad as he violently suppresses non-violent civilian protesters.

Without further researching the matter, I let loose with the June 13 letter criticizing ADC – for something it never did. What I’ve learned is that there was no banning of Malek’s performance or of the playing of his song, but that there was poor communication between the parties, and Malek chose not to appear. His song, however, was played.

So, to the ADC leadership, I apologize for my impulsive and mistaken action.

Now I want to talk about the elephant in the room that we’ve been pretending isn’t there. ADC has a long-standing policy of not intervening in the affairs of other countries. But ADC is applying this political neutrality, 30 years after it was adopted, in a world in which it’s impossible to witness mayhem being committed upon peaceful civilians and not speak out, not declare on which side of the conflict one stands.

The world is now witnessing the brutal suppression of people in police states peacefully petitioning their rulers for their basic human rights. ADC is a civil rights organization. How can we be neutral in the Arab Spring of 2011 while twenty police states murder their Arab citizens – our cousins – for non-violently demanding their civil rights? How can we Americans savor our own civil rights when others – whether cousins or strangers – are denied theirs?

Evil people do evil things; but the evil persists only if decent people see it and do nothing. Are we decent people? Do we see the evil?

How does it benefit us Arab Americans to hold back from addressing the realities of world affairs? What boat are we afraid to rock? Certainly it can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that Mubarak, Qadaffi, Assad, et al are murderers of their own people only for the purpose of remaining in power. When Arab Americans say nothing in such circumstances, we are, in effect, signaling that we approve of those regimes. We do not approve.

In the complexity of human society, doing the right thing is always going to upset somebody. That is not a reason to hold back from doing the right thing.

I urge the ADC Board of Directors to adjust to the necessity of publicly condemning the brutality of the dictators who call themselves ‘presidents’ and ‘kings.’ It would be a declaration of ethical principle. If some regard it as intervention in their internal affairs, so be it.

Please, let no one mistake my critique of ADC policy as a lessening of my support for this remarkable organization. I joined when I first heard of it in 1986, and my admiration for it and for the community heroes who founded it, and for those who came later and have kept it running, has never waned. The legal service it provides to Arab Americans – and others – is phenomenal. Last year alone, ADC’s high-priced lawyers handled 700 transactions at no charge to the people served and are responsible for adjustments in federal law affecting many of us. We need ADC, and it needs us.

In continued solidarity,
Don Bustany
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