Voice: Arab-Americans should change their names if they feel like it

March 26, 2002

Your Wednesday AP article, "Some Arabs in U.S. changing names, citing Sept. 11 bias," brought to mind how very difficult it must be for Americans (previously from Arab countries) to get away from those who wish to speak collectively for them.

The spokespersons for the organizations named in that article went to great lengths to reprimand and suggest instructions to those who would consider changing their names. They evidently legally researched those named in the article and then blatantly named them and attempted to shame them, in this article. Methinks they protested way too much, and I find this rather suspicious.

Says Hani Awadallah, president of the Arab-American Civic Organization, "This is really a shame. You're admitting some kind of guilt, which is not the case. This shows no guts, courage or manhood."

To which I say, how very revealing. I question why these "Americans" were researched and why it was any concern of these organizations? These individuals wish to get on with their lives, and names are frequently changed to protect the innocent.


I question why any would want to research and then manipulate individuals who wish to distance themselves from those who may try to control their lives. Practical reasoning would suggest these persons are simply Americans who recognized a sticky problem (which they had no control over) and sought a gentle, peaceful means to avoid further problems. They do so without trying to bash themselves into an already tense "on red, orange, yellow, blue or green alert" society.

I see this as an intelligent and sensitive approach that they recognize, that due to the heinous crimes of Sept. 11, caused by aggressive Muslim religious extremists, that many of their fellow Americans no longer have much faith or trust in the Arab world.

What makes this an issue of "courage"? What "guts" does one need? And how on earth does enduring uncomfortable silence at the drop of a name have anything to do with their "manhood"? (cough, cough … ladies excluded, of course)

Sept. 11 changed everyone's lives. It's ridiculous to think that America will ever be the same. Just as it is ridiculous for bin Laden (now here's a name I'd definitely change) to think he could defeat this great country and all of its peoples. Thus, a name change is a fresh start, a new page, another beginning in a free country away from forced and controlled views. This is a country that many previous Arabs sought refuge, to get away from these "dominating" types who tried to manipulate them.

I'd personally like to encourage those who wish to, to change their names, despite this "revealing" article, and get far beyond these major stumbling blocks. And may I honestly share with you that I see many of these so-called "Arab-American" organizations as being too aggressive with you and suspect them — and since you DO live in America and are an American, you have the option to tell them what to do with their "damaging collective" views, and you don't have to endure this anymore.

Flip them a well-known symbol and get on with your lives. If this doesn't discourage them, a simple phone call to the proper federal authorities will guarantee it.

This decision is the choice of all who wish to change their names and remain unharassed, or who don't need or want someone telling them what to do or how or what they should be "collectively" thinking.

Meanwhile, enjoy picking out your new name. (I always liked the name Ms. Honey.)


Salton City

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