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NAAP team up in conference on political, social challenge

NEW YORK, Nov 19 (KUNA) -- The Network of Arab-American Professionals (NAAP) concluded here late Sunday their two-day national conference, the fourth since its inception, with the theme "Envisioning and Embracing our Arabicity for the Future." Arabicity, explained NAAP spokesperson Yasmin Hamidi to KUNA, is "a word we made up. The idea behind it is to think about where you fit within the landscape of the Arab-American community and where you can make a difference in putting that community on the map of the US." The NAAP mission is to promote professional networking and social interaction among Arab-American and Arab professionals in the US and abroad and educate both the Arab-American and non-Arab communities about Arab culture, identity, and concerns.
It is also to advance the Arab-American community by empowering, protecting, and promoting its political causes and interests in the US and abroad within all levels of society, support the Arab student movement in the US, and serve society through volunteerism and community service efforts.
Some 600 NAAP members from throughout the US gathered in a New York hotel to debate various issues in a number of panels concerning their professional, cultural, and political lives as Arab-Americans.
The discussions dealt with a wide spectrum of topics, including "Competing desires to assimilate and preserve an Arab identity", "When Identity becomes a problem on the job", "Collaborators or Patriots: Debate on cooperation and participation in the war on terror", and "Changing the portrayal of Arabs in Media and entertainment." The political topics dealt with Palestine, Iraq, Iran, and Darfur.
Hamidi admitted that since NAAP is a diverse organization whose participants come from all different parts of the Arab world, from all religions and professions, there are issues that are not agreed on easily.
She cited the crisis in Lebanon and the split among Palestinians as examples that divide NAAP members. "Actually, it happens a lot," she said, adding that the organization "tries to play a constructive role as a community by raising money for Lebanese and Palestinian children rather than highlight our differences." NAAP member Sarab Al-Jijakli, a young Arab-American of Syrian origin who is co-founder of NAAP New York Chapter, told KUNA his chapter created a "massive election outreach campaign" that focuses on registration drives throughout New York where Arab-Americans are concentrated and on information regarding where candidates stand on Arab-oriented issues.
He said "we've seen during the last five years (when his chapter was founded) an amazing growth" in the number of Arab-Americans registered to vote. "We educate them. We make sure everybody understands the importance of voting, its impact, and how we have to vote as a community." He noted that there is now a "greater recognition among the powers across the country as to the role of the Arab-American vote and the growth and maturity of the Arab-American political institution." He said a commissioner representing New York Mayor is attending the NAAP conference "because they recognize the importance of the Arab-American community, our growth potential ... because we're upwardly mobile and highly affluent." "We're cracking the code as to the American system, in a sense. In many cases, it makes a lot of people nervous, but for us, it's a good situation to be in," he said proudly.
He acknowledged that he or his parents will probably not see the change, but his children will.(end) sj.wsa KUNA 190943 Nov 07NNNN