Maad Abu-Ghazalah Challenges Tom Lantos for Congressional Seat

Article excerpt

Elaine Pasquini is a free-lance journalist based in Ignacio, CA.

Maad Abu-Ghazalah is a young, intelligent, well-educated Arab American, and he's trying to do what no one has done before. He hopes to unseat Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos, who has represented California's 12th congressional district in Washington for the past 22 years.

The 39-year-old Nablus-born Abu-Ghazalah received a B.S. from the University of Notre Dame in 1983, a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Virginia in 1985, and a law degree from Santa Clara University in 1993. In 1996 he founded MAG Systems, which develops software for patent attorneys. Abu-Ghazalah is active in the Bay Area Arab-American community, having served as president of the local chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) from 1998 to 2000. In November he will run as the Libertarian candidate for the California congressional district which includes Brisbane, Colma, Daly City, Foster City, Hillsborough, Millbrae, Montara, Moss Beach, Pacifica, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Mateo and the southwestern portion of San Francisco.

Abu-Ghazalah spoke to the Washington Report on Feb. 22 by his booth at the Islamic Society of San Francisco's Eid al-Adha celebration. "I decided to run following the 9/11 tragedy," he said. "Seeing Arab Americans being defensive about their heritage due to anti-Arab backlash, I thought, `it's okay to be Arab.' There is space for us."

Although a friend urged him to drop "Abu" from his name, he strongly disagreed. "We should be proud of our culture," he insisted, "and not change it or deny it for any reason."

One of Abu-Ghazalah's main concerns is protecting Americans' civil liberties, which he believes are being threatened by the current policies of the Bush administration--and, in particular, the actions of Attorney General John Ashcroft. Abu-Ghazalah's recently installed campaign billboard, a satire on a prime time television program, depicts a finger-pointing, accusatory-looking Ashcroft, next to the words "The Ethnic Profiler, Thursdays at 7 p.m. on the Spy Channel."

Another of Abu-Ghazalah's major concerns is the ever-expanding U.S. military action overseas. Unlike his Democratic opponent, Abu-Ghazalah opposes unconditional military aid to Israel. With respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he told the Washington Report, "I am for the restoration of inalienable rights to the residents of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as to the refugees who have been prevented from returning to their homes."

Emphasizing his desire to represent all Americans, not just Arabs, he spoke proudly about receiving the endorsement of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA). …