Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab-American Activism

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab-American Activism

Article excerpt

Philip Morris Company Removes Offensive Ad

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) recently confronted the Philip Morris Company regarding an offensive magazine advertisment for Virginia Slims cigarettes. The two-page ad, which ran in Cosmopolitan and several other women's magazines, pictured a man wearing a turban seated among three veiled women. The caption read, "The Sultan of Bundi had nothing against women. He thought everyone should own two or three."

In a letter to Philip Morris president Hamish Maxwell, ADC stated that the reference was "demeaning and insulting to people with ethnic origins in the Muslim world," as well as to "women of third world ethnic origins." ADC stressed the damaging effects of such negative stereotypes, and requested an apology and guarantees that the ad would be withdrawn.

In response, ADC received a letter from Virginia Slims representative Joann Cunningham, who said, "It was never our intent to denigrate any culture." Cunningham also stated that the company would not use the ad in the future.

New Research on Arab Settlers

Michael Suleiman, a political scientist at Kansas State University, will soon publish the results of 10 years of research on daily life among the first Arab-speaking settlers in the United States. Suleiman has compiled nearly 7,000 documents -- newspapers, periodicals, personal histories and letters -- that represent a century of heritage and history.

Recently there has been increased interest in this area of scholarship. The Smithsonian Institution has collected Arab-American memoirs and family histories. The Library of Congress was practically devoid of material about Arab Americans until it began microfilming documents and newspapers on the subject just 15 years ago.

Suleiman, working in five languages, uses the newspapers, magazines and journals of early settlements to recount daily life and social history, including the first US newspaper printed in Arabic, Kawkab America or "Star of America," which began in 1892 and lasted 17 years.

Suleiman's research has disclosed a great many women writers in the newspapers of the day, challenging the assumption that the men always arrived first, found work and then sent for their families. "While this in general was the case," says Suleiman, "many educated women were among the very first immigrants. …

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