There is a lot of people that George W. Bush refuses to listen to, and we are proud to have interviewed at least one of them. Back in Bush’s Governor days, Arab American News publisher Osama Siblani warned him against the folly of invading Iraq. “If you shatter this country, you will never again put it together.”
His words proved prophetic, of course. Remarkably, this seasoned newspaper guy is not a journalist by education, but an electrical engineer with a B.S.S. from U of D. He set aside a lucrative career as Vice President of Energy International, Inc. (a major import-export firm dealing with the Middle East) to start the Arab American News. He did so in the wake of the 1982 Israeli invasion of his homeland, Lebanon, and his summation of the mainstream media: “They were getting it wrong.”
Personal agony motivated the move as well; the ’82 war resulted in the complete destruction of the home he’d renovated for his mother. These were the stories that he felt were not being told by an American media often prejudiced against Arab perspectives. Proof of his success, and subsequent respect throughout the community is the 30% increase in non-Arab readers since the tragedy of 9/11. “We are a vehicle for bringing a different, and we feel complete, perspective to our readers, whatever their nationality. And not just readers: when you publish, your effectiveness often exceeds your circulation.”
The big-shouldered, broad-smiling Siblani speaks with unabashed emotion of his journey to America in 1976, when nearly 300 neighbors and relatives from Baalbeck turned out to bid him farewell; he chokes up when discussing the pain of having parted with his mother—as the youngest of eleven children, his journey to the United States, away from familiar faces and parental comfort, was a difficult one. Still, the fifty-two year old Siblani maintains that he was ‘Born again in America. This became my home, so that when I return to Beirut, I do it as a visitor, and when I land again in Detroit, I have returned to my country.”
Siblani is also Chairman of the Congress of Arab American Organizations, a 43 member Arab consortium and the chief organizer of Dearborn’s ‘Festival of Peace,’ which was held August 14, 2007, in Hemlock Park. Commemorating the one year anniversary of the Israeli-Lebanese War, the message was one of peace and understanding and included performances of nationalist folk songs, emceed by Dearborn Attorney Abed Hammoud. The event’s hot food was catered by the popular Chef Habib Bazzi of the Bint Jebail Cultural Center, while Garden Foods provided soft drinks and water.
So successful was the turnout that the even will likely become a yearly one in Dearborn.
Pictures from Festival of Peace