Posted by Shadi Matar on July 02, 2015 in Blog

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder made his final appointments to the Middle-Eastern American Affairs Commission, which was created earlier this year. The 15-member commission will be tasked with advising the governor on issues relating to the Arab and Chaldean American population of Michigan. This commission replaces the Michigan Council on Arab and Chaldean Affairs, which was founded by executive order in 2013.

The major difference between this commission and the councils that were made in 2013 and 2004, is the inclusion of the clause that advocates for more political inclusion for Arab Americans. In the past, the council was only tasked to “promote public awareness of the cultures and recognize the history and contributions of the Arab and Chaldean American communities of Michigan.”

As the state with the second largest population of Arab Americans in the country, this commission will have no shortage of tasks to accomplish. With Islamophobic and anti-Arab events happening on a regular basis throughout the state, continued work to educate people about Arab Americans is needed but more inclusion within the political system is also vital for the Arab American community. 

The individuals on the 15-member commission come from various backgrounds and professions ranging from those directly engaged with the Arab American community to local business owners. The members on the commission include; Dave Abdallah, Wendy Acho, Mariam Bazzi, Fay Beydoun, Susan Dabaja, Haifa Fakhouri, Helen Habib, Lina Harajli,  Sharif Hussein, Abe Munfakh, Michael Romaya, Manal Saab, Paul Sophiea, Suzanne Sukkar, and Bishr Al-Ujayli. Commission members Fay Beydoun, Mariam Bazzi, and Susan Dabaja also serve on the National Policy Council of the Arab American Institute.

Each member comes to the commission with various nationalities, political, and religious beliefs that give this commission a wide range of perspectives from the different Arab American communities in Michigan. Each member will serve various term lengths ranging from two years to four years in order to have new voices on the commission on a regular basis.

Some of the goals of the commission outlined in Governor Snyder’s executive order are to “Monitor, evaluate, investigate, and recommend programs for the betterment of the Middle-Eastern American community.” and to “Promote the involvement of Middle-Eastern Americans in government at all levels.”

The Arab American community has suffered political exclusion for decades. Some politicians went so far as to return campaign contributions from Arab Americans. This commission serves as just one example that some progress has been made for the inclusion of Arab Americans in the political process throughout the country.

Michigan political officials were one of the first to reach out to the Arab American community and have benefited greatly from doing so. In 1998 the Arab American political action committee was formed in Michigan. Other state leaders should take note of Governor Snyder’s example and engage their Arab American communities and get input on policy matters that affect them.

Governor Snyder commented on the creation of the commission saying that “The Middle Eastern American community plays an integral role in our state, and this commission will help ensure Michiganders from diverse backgrounds have the best opportunities to actively work together.”