Detroit Free Press
Posted by Detroit Free Press on October 23, 2015 in News Clips
Speaking to Arab Americans in Dearborn, Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley slammed "Islamophobia and xenophobia," saying the U.S. should take in more Syrian refugees.
"I stand for a more compassionate America," O'Malley said to about 200 people at the University of Michigan-Dearborn as part of a three-day conference held by the Arab American Institute. "We are a nation of immigrants and refugees. It's in our DNA...The enduring symbol of America is not the barbed-wire fence. It is the Statue of Liberty.
O'Malley spoke Friday afternoon in a city whose population is more than 40% Arab-American Muslim. His remarks were the most extensive of any presidential candidate so far this year about Arab-American and Muslim issues. Before his talk, he met with Syrian and Iraqi refugees in metro Detroit, listening to their stories.
O'Malley called for bringing in 65,000 Syrian refugees, more than what the U.S. government currently plans to take in. Noting that Germany is taking in 800,000 refugees, he said: "As a nation, we should step up...we are a large nation. We must do better."
Doing so, he said, will help America be a "moral leader of this world," saying "there are other ways to lead than at the end of a drone strike."
Referring to his Irish heritage, O'Malley said that many Irish immigrants once faced bigoted hostility like some Arab-Americans and Muslims face now. When he was governor of Maryland, O'Malley said he kept on his desk an old sign that read "Help Wanted: No Irish Need Apply," as a reminder of the prejudices newer groups faced in America. Some employers in America once refused to hire Irish-American Catholics.
"When I look in the eyes of immigrants, I see my grandparents," he said.
O'Malley slammed Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Detroit native Dr. Ben Carson for making anti-Muslim remarks. He said there is a disturbing pattern of anti-Muslim sentiment, saying "houses of worship...have been denied permits, worshippers exiting the mosque in Phoenix (Arizona)...greeted with protesters carrying assault rifles."
O'Malley said that a "shadowy network of hateful" groups is "scapegoating and marginalizing Arab and Muslim Americans."
O'Malley met with the Assad family of Garden City, featured in a Detroit Free Press story last month about Syrian refugees, and two refugees from Iraq who now live in Troy and Dearborn Heights. Moustafa Assad told O'Malley about leaving Syria for Turkey and then the U.S. this year.
Moustafa Assad of Garden City speaks to Gov. Martin O'Malley in Dearborn (Photo: Niraj Warikoo)
"I left everything behind," Radhia Fakhrildeen of Dearborn Heights told O'Malley. "Americans are very friendly."
Noor Al-Dabbagh of Troy talked about the challenges she has had finding medical care for her sick husband.
The three refugees spoke on a panel before O'Malley's talk with Jim Zogby, the longtime head the Arab American Institute, who called them "three heroes."
"They wanted their kids to live in freedom," Zogby said. "To make the decision to risk it all is a big deal."
O'Malley also touched upon the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying he supports the two-state solution.
"Both sides have to take steps to end this violence" and stop "provocative actions," he said.
For many Arab-Americans and Muslims, the Palestinian issue is important and they've been disappointed with the positions of presidential candidates regarding support for Israel.
O'Malley said the U.S. should get involved in the peace process, noting that peace eventually came to Northern Ireland because of American intervention.
"There was a time not long ago when people thought that a 700-year strife in a place called Northern Ireland, which had religious divisions seemingly intractable," would never end, O'Malley told the crowd. But "America took a role, America didn't walk way from the table."
"We can never give up on peace," he said. "As a nation, we have a unique calling I believe to always be about waging peace."
Speaking to reporters afterwards, O'Malley reiterated his support for a two-state solution, saying it's the only way forward.
He also touched upon the issue of trade, saying that he opposed the Pacific Trade Deal supported by President Barack Obama, expressing concern about American jobs going abroad to countries where labor rights aren't respected.
The Arab American Institute conference continues in Dearborn on Saturday and Sunday with video messages from U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).
Contact Niraj Warikoo: email@example.com or 313-223-4792. Follow him on Twitter @nwarikooOriginal Article