The Arab American News

Posted by The Arab American News on October 23, 2015 in News Clips

By Ali Harb

"Assalamu allaykum; marhaba; kif halkum?" Peace be upon you; hello; how are you? Presidential candidate Martin O'Malley greeted a crowd at the University of Michigan-Dearborn in Arabic, and went on to condemn xenophobia and Islamophobia, which he said are trickling into mainstream politics.

O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland, met with refugees from Syria and Iraq during the Arab American Institute's National Leadership Conference Friday. He said the country needs better management to speed up the screening process for those seeking refugee status.  

He boasted about his record on inclusion as governor, including appointing diverse staff, creating a Middle Eastern American affairs commission and hosting a yearly Iftar dinner.

The former governor said Dearborn, like many other cities, represents the best that America has to offer — "People who work hard; people who appreciate that our diversity is our greatest strength; people who appreciate that we're all in this together."

O'Malley encouraged greater civic participation from Arab Americans. 

"We need more political involvement, not less," he said. "That means voting in every election. It means volunteering your time to help candidates get elected. It means becoming a part of this political process."

He added that public service is not the exclusive work of politicians but is something everybody should be involved in.

"For Arab Americans and American Muslims in particular, I'm sure it's easy to get discouraged when you see some of the rhetoric streaming off of debates and podiums," he said.

The former governor denounced hatred against Muslims. He said demonstrating with guns in front of mosques and denying permits to houses of worship are unacceptable. 

O'Malley said Islamophobia is promoted by networks that want to scapegoat Muslim Americans. He singled out Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson for their attacks against Muslims. 

O'Malley said such bigotry has "tragically" made its way into the debate about refugees. 

Several Republican politicians have voiced their opposition to accepting refugees from Syria, citing security concerns. Trump, who compared Syrian refugees to an army, said last month he would send the newcomers back to their war-torn country if elected.

O'Malley said ISIS presents a real threat to the Middle East and the United States.

"While we must do everything we can to keep our country safe, we cannot let fear defeat the compassion of what it is to be an American," he said. 

The Democratic candidate added that the United States should follow the International Rescue Committee's recommendation to accept 65,000 Syrian refugees. O'Malley added that the number is consistent with past U.S. policy in similar situations.

O'Malley said he was the first presidential candidate to say the government should accept a greater number of refugees from Syria.

"There are other ways to lead than at the end of a drone strike," he said. "And in the face of this humanitarian crisis, we need to step up."

The former governor also voiced this message when he met with the refugees before his speech, saying the United States can lead the world with compassion, not only with its military. 

Original Article