Friday June 10, 2011
AAI Statement on the ADC Controversy Over Malek Jandali’s Performance
We were deeply troubled to learn that ADC's leadership had cancelled an appearance by renowned musician Malek Jandali because of a freedom song he was set to perform at their annual convention. As troubling as the cancellation is, we were disturbed by ADC’s refusal to comment on the matter for an entire day, allowing the story to grow and become an embarrassment to the organization and to the Arab American community. When they finally did release a statement, it was infuriatingly oblique, not addressing the issues at hand (whether Jandali was indeed barred from playing the song in question; whether he was disinvited, and why).
There are many reasons for our concern with these actions by some in ADC's leadership to bar Mr. Jandali from performing his song and their failure to recognize and address the damage this has done to our community.
First and foremost is our concern for the dedicated staff at ADC, as well as for the organization's membership across the country (in fact, we overlap in membership and we often partner with ADC staff on initiatives here in Washington). The silencing of Mr. Jandali has unfairly harmed and cast a pall on the hard work done by ADC's staff to make this convention a success. It also hurts ADC’s members who look to this organization for leadership as the country’s largest Arab American civil rights organization. Finally, this behavior by ADC's leaders will be used to discredit the group in the public's eye, weakening its ability to carry out its indispensable mission.
Predictably, this episode has opened the floodgates for critics of our community and our work, from within and without. We at AAI do not want to get into an intramural fight which would benefit no one, but we think it is important to make our position clear. We believe that the spirit of the Arab Spring across the region is something to honor and celebrate – in fact, we have paid an all-encompassing tribute to it during our Gibran Gala a few weeks ago. We did not take this position because we are pro- or anti- any government. We are Americans and our government is here in Washington. Rather, what has moved us was the energy and the hopes of young people across the Arab world who have, at great risk, peacefully demonstrated calling for freedom and opportunity. The use of state violence to stamp out this movement has been horrifying to witness and demanded a response from us. That is why we honored the "youth of Arab Spring" and that is why we believe Mr. Jandali should have been free to perform "Watani Ana."
At this point, ADC's leaders owe Mr. Jandali, their staff and members more than an explanation, they owe them all an apology.
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