13 Middle Eastern Immigrants Who Made America & The World Great

With Middle Easterners becoming the boogeymen of the world, it’s worth remembering that, despite all the mayhem ravaging their countries and the extremist movements that kill them on daily basis, many of them have used their talents for the greater good and contributed to the betterment of humanity and made America great in their own way.

1. Gebran Khalil Gebran:

Gebran Khalil, who has a monument commemorating him in the heart of Boston, is one of the most celebrated writers in the United States. One of the most influential and top-selling books in the world, The Prophet was written by the Lebanese immigrant from Bcharre. It has been translated to 40 languages, has never been out of print, and has been the center of multiple adaptations the last of which was an animated movie by Salma Hayek.

 2. Tony Fadell:

The name may not be a household item for many, but what Tony Fadell has created has not only revolutionized the way we look at music, it also changed our relationship with our own homes. The iPod, that device with the click-wheel that, only a decade go, changed the entire music landscape was his creation. He later on founded Nest Labs, which created the Nest Thermostat. He’s Lebanese.

3. Michael DeBakey:

Dr. Michael DeBakey, who passed away a few years ago, was a true medical pioneer for the entire world. As medical students, we memorize his classification of aortic aneurysms and use it as a standard. He created a multiple of medical devices that have become essential in cardiothoracic surgery. He was also one of the first physicians ever to do carotid artery bypass grafts, a surgery which was revolutionary at the time and is still cutting-edge today. He was also Lebanese.

4. Donna Shalala:

Mrs. Shalala was United States Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001. She was the president of the University of Miami, a private university in Coral Gables, Florida, from 2001 through 2015. She is, until now, the longest running secretary of health and the first Arab American to be as such.

5. Shakira:

One of the most successful female singers around the world, and arguably the most successful latino singer is Shakira whose hits “Whenever Wherever” and “Hips Don’t Lie” have made her a household item is originally Lebanese. Her father is from Zahle and her maternal grandmother from Tannourine. Hashtag Batroun pride.

6. Edward Said:

The late Edward Said was a professor of literature at Columbia University, a public intellectual, and a founder of the academic field of postcolonial studies. A Palestinian-American, his father was a U.S. army veteran. Known for the book Orientalism, a critique of how the Western world perceives The Orient, he transformed the academic discourse in Middle Eastern studies and in the studies of cultures.

7. Reem Acra:

Reem Acra is one of the most important fashion designers around the globe today. Based in New York, she has become one of the most awaited on any red carpet. She lately made headlines by dressing up First Lady Melania Trump for her pre-inauguration dinner with her husband, U.S. president Donald Trump.

8. Zaha Hadid:

The late Zaha Hadid was an Iraqi architect whose works have spanned the entire globe. From football stadiums to parliaments to university faculties, she is as controversial as she is iconic. Zaha Hadid was one of the top architects in the world and the leading female architect at that.

9. Charles Elachi:

Mr. Elachi is a Lebanese professor of electrical engineering and planetary science at the California Institute of Technology. From 2001 to 2016, he was director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and vice president of Caltech as well. He was one of the key figures in NASA’s space explorations from the 1990s onwards and has been inundated with more awards than one could count.

10. Ilhan Omar:

On the day Donald Trump was voted president, Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American person (and woman) to win a legislature seat. She was born in Mogadishu, but her family fled after dictator Siad Barre was toppled in 1991 and Somalia collapsed into violence, famine and religious fanaticism. She fled to a Kenyan refugee camp, from which she was resettled in the U.S. four years later. Soon enough, she moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she now serves in the state legislature.

Twelve-year-old Omar knew little English and grew frustrated that teachers continuously overlooked her in class. She once showed pluck when a maths teacher ignored her raised hand when asking pupils to solve a number puzzle.

11. Helen Thomas:

The child of immigrants from Tripoli, Lebanon, Helen Thomas was an American author and news service reporter, member of the White House press corps and opinion columnist. She was a columnist for Hearst Newspapers from 2000 to 2010, writing on national affairs and the White House. She covered the administrations of eleven U.S. presidents — from the final years of the Eisenhower administration to the second year of the Obama administration.

12. Whoever Created Hummus:

Yes, seriously. We gave you hummus. Have some respect. You may have ruined it with celery (don’t do that), but you still got it from us no matter what the Israelis do or say.

13. Steve Jobs:

A little bit of a stretch, but Steve Jobs is technically the son of a Syrian (Muslim) immigrant who, under Trump, wouldn’t have been born given that his father wouldn’t have been allowed into the country. Lucky for the world, that did not happen back then. Steve Jobs went on to found one of the leading tech companies in the world, which gave us the Macintosh, the iPhone, iPad, and a slew of other devices that have become the benchmark of technology today. Period.

Bonus – Jesus:

Jesus was a Middle Eastern man, whose mother was veiled, and who probably wouldn’t have been allowed entry to the countries banning people on their place of origin. It is through him that Christianity was given to the world. As such, Christianity is a Middle Eastern export. You are welcome.

Food for thought:

Great people come from all places. Where you come from has no bearing on the kind of person you will end up becoming if you are given an equal chance at making it. Let’s not put people in boxes based on where they come from, ban them from fulfilling their true potential out of fear and cower away in bubbles because we’re too comfortable there. The next big thing could be in the mind of those we hide away.

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Arabs Should Look In The Mirror Before Criticizing Trump’s Travel Ban


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Over the past few days, I watched Americans old and young protest against their president’s travel ban. It was a sight to behold – those people who were taught all their lives to fear Arabs, Muslims and to have all kinds of negative connotations with them were standing up for human decency.

The protests haven’t been exclusive to the United States. London and other European cities have had their own share, culminating in an fiery discussion between British PMs about Trump and his policies.

Meanwhile in the Arab world, crickets.

Not a single Arab country had anything to say about the ban. They couldn’t even muster the guts to stand up with their own. I guess that whole “Arabism” theme is only nice when used from Arab Idol and The Voice podiums.

What some countries did was the exact opposite: Kuwait fortified travel bans against 5 Muslim countries, including Syria. The top Emirati diplomat came out in support of the travel ban. And these moves are not without context.

The two Arab countries that have taken the most refugees are Jordan and Lebanon with 1 million and 1.5 million officially registered refugees, respectively. Gulf counties, all of which are not affected by Trump’s ban despite them being the biggest exporters of Islamic terrorism, have taken in a total of zero.

As a side note, that is also the exact same number of Americans that have been killed by terrorist attacks from the countries Trump has banned, while the number is 2500+ from the Gulf countries that he has not banned and who haven’t taken in any refugees.

In fact, Gulf countries have made their visa requirements for other Arabs so disgusting that no one dares speak up against it. I personally have no intention to ever work or live there, so I suppose I can speak up.

KSA has increased its visa price to $1200 for Lebanese nationals in an attempt to curb the number of Lebanese coming in for work, and as a political retaliation at the country not giving it the blowjobs it always needs.

The UAE has made it near impossible to obtain work visas for it as well, and depending on the Emirate you’re applying to work in, you could be rejected entirely despite having proper paperwork. Moreover, the UAE has made it near impossible for Syrians whose families are in the country to get visas to visit; case in point: a Syrian friend of mine who was born and raised there couldn’t go see her family since moving to Lebanon for university studies, but was able to get a 2 year US visa (prior to the ban).

The UAE’s situation doesn’t stop there. They’ve been systematically targeting people for deportation based on their religious affiliation. If the Lebanese state had any decency, they’d publish the list of Shiite nationals who were deported just for being Shiites.

As mentioned above, Kuwait has enforced a visa ban on 5 Muslim countries, including Syria. But this isn’t new for Kuwait. In fact, the country is known for its derision of foreigners coming in, however they are, except if they are Westerners of course.

As a Lebanese, I need a visa to enter every single Arab country even if for a visit except Jordan and Syria. The rest of those countries don’t have a straightforward process either and for some of them, I have to provide the same papers demanded by the US or Schengen visas. And my country isn’t better either. Yes, we have 1.5 million to 2 million refugees, which is probably more than what the country can handle granted, but few are those who are happy with having the refugees here and see them as anything more than a burden in the best of cases or treat them with all the xenophobia they could muster on average.

In fact, it might be hard to believe but Lebanon has strict visa requirements toward certain countries as well. For starters, the criteria we’ve enforced towards accepting Syrians in are hell. Many are turned away at our borders because they can’t tick off the checklist from hell we’ve started to enforce a few years ago. We also enforce inhumane visa requirements on countries we deem as “lesser.” Refer to how Deepa Dermasiri, Malek Maktabi’s New Year Eve gut-wrenching story, couldn’t get a visa to come see her daughter in Lebanon and passed away before she was able to.

What’s worse, the story doesn’t just stop with visas. While Americans protested against a ban that doesn’t even affect most of them, has there been any protests in the places we come from? In the grander scheme of things, has there been protests against the horrendous visa requirements we have for each other to begin with?

Do Lebanese dare to speak up against the rules the Emirati government humiliated them with? Or Saudi visas? Or any Arab visa?

Do we even stand up for minorities in our countries? When was the last time we had protests for some parts of our societies that were oppressed? When did Muslims have mass protests for the persecuted Christians in some Arab countries? When did we have mass protests for women rights? LGBT rights? KSA has Muslim only roads. Just saying.

Yes, those of us who stand up are courageous because it’s so difficult to do so in the first place, but the rest are complacent and satisfied. With what? Religion, money, lack of education… you name it.

Yes, Trump’s ban is all kinds of messed up. But then again, aren’t we all kinds of messed up too? Let’s take a hard look in the mirror at how we treat each other before panicking about how others are treating us, because the fact of the matter is: we treat other Arabs worse than Trump could ever do.

So thanks to the Americans protesting for us. You’re greater than even I thought you were.

Bahrain… Stop Being A Drama Queen

Hassan Nasrallah came on TV a few days ago and, as usual, he started preaching (or the more accurate Lebanese term: ynazzer). During this much “awaited” sermon, he naturally commented on the Bahraini revolution, wondering whether the Bahraini events not getting enough attention is related to the protesters being Shiites. He also said Hezbollah would help the protesters.

As a result to that, Bahrain saw it fit to suspend its flights to Lebanon and ask its people to leave the country and refrain from visiting, citing potential threats to their safety.

Now I wonder, does the Bahraini government really think we care about where tourists are coming from? Does it really think we – even Hezbollah – have checkpoints to check foreign passports and then, if those passports are Bahraini, abduct them?

Does it even make sense for Hezbollah to do anything to harm the Shiite-majority community?

Sure, Nasrallah is a hypocrite. In his speech, he spoke about the importance of the revolutions going on everywhere… except Syria, simply because a revolution in Syria doesn’t work to his advantage. And yes, he is a man of big words and little action. But for the Kingdom of Bahrain to have the reaction it had to a few words he spoke about the events in their country is blowing things way out of proportions.

If anything, the Lebanese government should warn and ask us to refrain from visiting a troubled country like Bahrain, not the other way around.

Dear Bahrain, stop being such a drama queen… for your sake and ours.