‘Moral interest over economic interest’ is not the message usually propounded by capitalists, but Nasser Beydoun is no ordinary capitalist.
Chairman of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, Beydoun, who immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of four, views the world as planet in trouble. He’s smart enough to see the problems and clever enough to see solutions.
“The United States must once again become the beacon of light to the world,” he says, “We have to be a moral leader, the sort of country that people everywhere want to emulate.”
The path to such utopia may well be economic, as seen in the revitalization of several of Dearborn’s neighborhoods, largely by Arab-owned businesses assisted in part by the American Arab Chamber of Commerce. Beydoun points to the nearly three hundred businesses that have opened up along Warren Avenue in the past twenty years. “The local economy has been transformed, and this was an area once considered lifeless.”
He sees unlimited potential in the Middle East, as well, from his native Lebanon to the rugged lands of North Africa. “There is literally a trillion dollars in investment opportunities throughout the twenty-two countries of the Arab world looking for partnerships. Nationally, and even locally, we haven’t been able to really take advantage of that. There are projects going on over there that we can only dream about,” he effuses, pointing out that there are more sky cranes in Dubai alone than in the entire United States. “Things are happening at a staggering pace in the Middle East, and it’s incumbent on Michigan to find angles to be involved.”
To that end, he leads delegations overseas on a regular basis, junkets which show the positive side of this often-misunderstood area of the world and emphasize the opportunities—the ‘low-hanging fruit’—available to investors willing to see beyond the media misinformation.
He dispels a few of the misconceptions that many Americans hold about their Arab brother and sisters. “In Detroit, which has the largest Arab population outside of the Arab League, the majority of people are Christian, not Muslim. And throughout the world, the majority of Muslims are non-Arabs.”
The result of these misconceptions, he laments, is that Arab Americans have been subject to undo scrutiny, and their businesses, unfair prejudice. He proudly states, “There has never been an Arab American convicted of an act of terrorism on US soil, and never an Arab American convicted of spying for another country.”
For his part, Beydoun walks the walk, living in Dearborn Heights with his wife and family. Asked why he has not cashed in on a trendy zip code in, say, Bloomfield Hills, he says, “I couldn’t do it—Bloomfield Hills is too far away from Yasmeen, my favorite bakery!”