Ben Smith reports:
A leading Arab American group dropped a prominent Syrian-American musician from performing at their annual convention in a dispute over a freedom-tinged song that he was set to perform.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a longtime Washington civil rights group, repeatedly asked the German-born Syrian composer and pianist Malek Jandali to reconsider his piece choice, Jandali told POLITICO. When he refused, Jandali was told today that he couldn't perform at this weekend's event.
Jandali's "Watani Ana: I am my Homeland" doesn't specifically mention Syria or the broader Arab Spring uprisings, but is heavy on the themes of freedom and liberty. Jandali calls it a "humanitarian song." But lyrics include "oh my homeland, when will I see you free" and "When the land is watered with the blood of martyrs and the brave/ And all the people shout: Freedom to mankind."
Apparently, the chairman of the ADC board is a friend of the regime in Damascus:
The chairman of the ADC board, gynecologist Safa Rifka, is aligned with Syria's ambassador to the United States Imad Moustapha. In a blog post, Moustapha called Rifka one of his three "best friends" in Washington D.C. The ADC describes itself as the largest Arab-American grassroots advocacy group and vows to end "discrimination and bias against Arab Americans wherever it is practiced."
I'll be curious to see how many of the convention's confirmed speakers drop out in the wake of this news. Here's a list of the speakers, from an ADC e-mail:
DEBORAH RAMIREZ, a Professor at Northeastern University Law School.
DAVID COLE professor of constitutional law, national security, and criminal justice at Georgetown University.
ALIA MALEK, author and civil rights lawyer.
MICHAEL ROLINCE, a recognized expert in counterterrorism, intelligence and counterintelligence investigations.
RALPH NADER, America's most renowned and effective crusader for the rights of consumers.
DANIEL SUTHERLAND, Chief, Countering Violent Extremism Group, National Counterterrorism Center.
ROY AUSTIN, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.
SHARIF EL-GAMAL, NYC real estate developer of Park 51 "Ground Zero Mosque."
PAUL FINDLEY, former U.S. Representative from Illinois and cofounder of the Council for the National Interest.
JEFFREY GHANNAM, a journalist, lawyer and media development practitioner in the Middle East.
KHALED MATTAWA, Libyan author-writer who teaches at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
RADIA DAOUSSI, Tunisian native and president of the Vineeta Foundation.
SAMER SHEHATA, Assistant Professor of Arab Politics at Georgetown University.
HADY AMR, USAID's Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East.
IMAM YAHYA HENDI, Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University.
RABBI ARTHUR WASKOW founder and director of the Shalom Center.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH, comedian who has appeared on CNN, and Al Jazeera's "The Stream."
JILLIAN YORK, writer and activist whose work focuses on freedom of expression in he Arab world.
ASHLEY ANSARA, CEO and President of Ansara Holding Corporation and ADC National Board Member.
WILLIAM YOUMANS, Ph.D candidate at the University of Michigan and a new media consultant.
AHMED AHMED, comedian, performer. and producer of the new film, "Just Like Us."
MANAL OMAR, director of Iraq and Iran programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
KHALED BEYDOUN, a graduate of the UCLA School of Law and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
MOON YOUSIF SULFAB, U.S. Senate staffer with Senator Mitch McConnell.
MOHAMAD DEEB, a former ADC intern and staff member.
MOHAMMED MARAQA, designer, applications for progressive campaigns and non- profit organizations.
GEORGE NAGGIAR, founder of the American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights.
MIKO PELED, Israeli peace activist and writer living in the US.
JOSH RUEBNER, National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
GHASSAN SHABANEH, Associate Professor of Middle East Studies at Marymount College.
YOUSEF MUNAYYER is Executive Director of The Jerusalem Fund and The Palestine Center.
CLOVIS MAKSOUD, former Ambassador of the Arab League, professor of law at American University.
NADIA HIJAB, Co-director of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network and co-founder of US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation