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The News Circle: Arab-American Magazine Elder Statesman

NCM Profile

NCM, Teresa Moore Posted: Jul 22, 2003

About a third of the wave of Arabs who have immigrated to the United States since the 1970s call California home. Pointing proudly to Arab-Americans like Kinkos founder Paul Orfalea and Ford Motor Co. president and chief executive Jacques Nasser, Arab Americans are galled at having their loyalties questioned.

Sometimes I want to say, You are talking to a fellow American. You are not talking to an al-Qaeda member. But I have to be reasonable in my judgment, says Joseph Haiek, editor of The News Circle: Arab American Magazine. At this moment, we begin to see our own journalists and leaders debating on major networks. This is a positive sign.

Since 1972 Haiek has published the News Circle, the nations oldest magazine devoted to Arab American issues. In 1974 he published the first edition of the Arab American Almanac. But before he became the elder statesman of the Arab American journalists, Haiek belonged to a Catholic press organization in Los Angeles.

We had a lot of members who were in the major media who didnt know what they were talking about, he says, recounting the story of a member who praised him and other Jews who converted to Catholicism.

Haiek, a Melkite Catholic from Jerusalem, patiently explained to the European American Catholic that he was descended from the original Catholics, while the other mans ancestors were the real converts.

People here mix nationality with religion and these are separate issues. You will find Arabs from Morocco to Iraq. Most of us in this country are Christian. What defines the Arab? The Arabic language.

Haiek and his wife Teresa brought their four children to Southern California in 1967 and educated them in Catholic schools. Both of his daughters help with the magazine and almanac, which are subsidized by the familys commercial publishing company.

The monthly national magazine is a mix of news, commentary, politics and culture. Haiek published only in English until an elderly reader asked him to print articles for the segment of the audience that only read Arabic. He returned to English-only a few years ago when press from the Arab world became more available on the Internet and on satellite television.

We cant compete with daily news from the Arab world, but we have an important role to play for Arab Americans. First, to keep the community aware of its culture. Second, to reach out to other media and to officials to let them know that we are here, we know our rights and we know our obligations.

In addition to notices of events of interest to the community, the News Circle is also full of ads featuring services offered by Arab Americans. The ads are more than marketing tools. Like the articles on the prominent personages, they offer a record of Arab American accomplishment.

Haiek points out that groups of Arabs have been immigrating to the United States since the 1800s and most assimilate within a couple of generations. Nevertheless, he feels it is his duty, through the almanac, to educate the public about the contributions of one of the worlds oldest cultures to one of the youngest nations. In the wake of September 11, he feels this mission is more critical than ever.

We cant blame other people if we are dormant, he says. We have to tell people who we are. We are Americans of Arabic background. None above the others, but none below the others.

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