A regular update from the Arab American Institute | Vol. 6, 41 | December 13, 2005 http://www.aaiusa.org/countdown/countdown.htm“Courage In Their Coverage” On December 7, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius honored the professionalism and courage displayed by many of today’s leading Arab journalists. “The best of the Arab journalists are my heroes,” he wrote. “They are risking imprisonment and death to tell the truth.” Just five days later, Gibran Tueni, publisher of the venerated Lebanese daily An-Nahar, was assassinated in a massive car bomb. Tueni recently won a seat in the Lebanese parliament and was regarded as one of the leading critics of Syria’s military and intelligence presence in the country. Long before the world attention that followed the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Tueni sparked debate about Syria’s role in its neighbor’s affairs. Publishing an open letter to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2000, Tueni wrote, “You must realize that many Lebanese are uncomfortable with Syrian policies in Lebanon and with the presence of Syrian troops in the country…Many Lebanese consider Syria's behavior in Lebanon to be completely at odds with the principles of sovereignty, dignity, and independence.” In a powerful eulogy, The Daily Star’s Michael Young wrote, “In killing Tueni, the murderers hoped to strike a mortal blow at Lebanon's most prestigious newspaper. For them, the real danger has always been independent thought—against which they can only muster media that threaten, crowds that threaten, and security services that best them both by implementing the threats.” “Don’t License Bigots, North Carolina” The Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License (CSDL), an organization which advocates linking driver’s license eligibility to immigration status, has announced an inflammatory and misleading billboard campaign in North Carolina and New Mexico. The ad depicts an individual whose face is covered by a Kufiya (the traditional male headdress in some Arab countries) carrying a grenade and a North Carolina driver's license as well as two figures wearing military fatigues and reads “Don't License Terrorists, North Carolina.” The slogan is repeated in disjoined Arabic letters incorrectly written left to right. The billboard unfairly conflates the question of immigration and national security and casts a shadow of suspicion on Arabs and Muslims, unfairly equating them with terrorism, and encouraging an environment that can lead to prejudice and hate crimes. In doing so, the ad utilizes false stereotypes and racist rhetoric to promote an anti-immigrant agenda. The shameful lowering of the bar on public discourse has got to stop. One Man’s Public Diplomacy Making good on his commitment to promote interreligious understanding, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal has donated $20 million to Georgetown and Harvard universities for programs aimed at teaching American students about Muslim civilization and the religion of Islam. “It is vital for the monotheistic religions to reach a common ground of understanding and to gain knowledge about what unites our civilizations,” said Alwaleed, a member of the Saudi royal family and chairman of the Kingdom Holding Company. “We are determined to build a bridge between Islam and Christianity for tolerance that transcends cultural and geographical boundaries.” In addition, his donations have established American studies programs at American Universities in Cairo and Beirut. Looking For Democracy in the Arab World? Look No Further… Ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections, the Palestinian political establishment was shaken up this week by the announcement of a list of politicians offering an alternative to both the secular, ruling Fatah, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, and the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas. At the top of the ticket are former Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, whose experience at the World Bank and reputation for transparency has gained him widespread international respect, and former minister and spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi. “There's a great deal of excitement as well as support, and we hope to address [the needs] of people who are disenchanted,” Ashrawi told the Christian Science Monitor. “We're using the elections as a launching pad. This is a group of people who are likeminded, who want good governance, peacemaking, and democracy to be part of the vision.” Other prominent politicians on the ticket include former minister Yasser Abed Rabbo and Abdul Qader Al-Husseini, a member of one of Palestine’s most historically prominent political families, and the son of the late minister for Jerusalem Affairs Faisal Al-Husseini. Palestinians continue to display a sophisticated and open democratic culture, yet are told that they cannot achieve sovereignty before "democratic reform." If that arbitrary standard were applied universally, very few states would exist in the world. Heard Around Town… AAI President James Zogby hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill to release a new poll, “Impressions of America: 2005.” Respondents from Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, UAE, and Saudi Arabia all identified employment opportunities and improving health care as major priorities; in Lebanon, both male and female respondents ranked ending corruption and nepotism as their number one concern…Also on the Hill, the House passed a free trade deal with Bahrain this week 327 to 95. The Persian Gulf nation joins Jordan and Morocco in having bilateral agreements with the US, while Oman and UAE continue negotiations. The agreement is expected to pass the Senate by the end of the year. Did a friend forward this to you? Click below to receive Countdown in your inbox each week!