Posted by on December 02, 2010 in Blog

Many of us have grown accustomed to hearing news about Arab Americans from places like Dearborn, Chicago, and other major cities on the east and west coasts. Here, we would like to highlight the work of the local Arab American community in Nashville, TN.

Last month, Arab American community leader Zainab Elberry took the initiative and played a key role in organizing a reception at the Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel to honor Moroccan Ambassador to the US Aziz Mekouar. The event was sponsored by a range of local individuals, organizations, and Vanderbilt University departments, as well as AAI. Elberry’s husband Dr. Nour Naciri introduced the speakers and former Congressman Bob Clement delivered the welcoming remarks for the event, attended by nearly 250 community members. Other dignitaries in attendance included Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper, and Tennessee State Senator Douglas Henry.

The event was an all around success. In addition to Tennessee elected offcials, a diverse group of business, religious and community leaders attended the event with their families. Speaking about what motivated her to organize the event, Elberry said:

There was much media attention recently to things that divide us, so we wanted to show our unity by doing something positive. Having interfaith communities come together for an event that highlighted the friendship between an Arab/Muslim country like Morocco and the United States was a perfect opportunity for that.

Clement and Associates Vice President, Terri Dorsey said, “the turnout was very impressive, the right politicians attended, and the food was great. I think everyone learned a great deal about Morocco. And it was a very positive event.”  Click here for more photos from the event with Ambassador Mekouar.

A few weeks after Elberry's event, a Tennessee judge ruled against blocking contruction on a mosque in Murfreesboro near Nashville. The judge found no legitimate grounds for blocking the project and dismissed the plaintiff’s “fiery accusations that Islam is not a religion but a violent political movement looking to supplant U.S. laws.” Interfaith groups, including Arab American community partners, had come together to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community in the weeks and months leading up to the ruling, waging the fight for a more positive and tolerant discourse on the issue. Their triumph marks another high point in the broader battle for a more constructive political discourse in our country.

Next week, Belmont United Methodist Church will be showing “Sacred Space Denied: The Bethlehem Wall,” a film that focuses on the plight of Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem under Israeli occupation. The screening was organized by human rights activist Lynn Grassmeyer, a Christian and a third generation Palestinian who got involved in Palestine Activism after being inspired by Jewish activist Anna Baltzer four years ago. Grassmeyer, who is now a key organizer with AAPER and who regularly works on Palestinian rights with Zainab Elberry, said she had organized the screening of the film,

to tell the side of the Christian Palestinians, especially at Christmas, who are faced with major obstacles under daily Israeli occupation. Having recently returned from Bethlehem I have witnessed for myself the hardships they endure, surprisingly forgotten by the western church.

Kudos to our friends in Nashville for their great work! Let us know what is going on in your city by emailing us at:, or comment on the post. We would love to hear about what you’ve been doing.