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By Briana Gomez

October 31, 2020 (San Diego) -- The San Diego Arab and Muslim Community Coalition recently held its fourth biennial Community Forum last week. This year’s forum took place in the unprecedented zoom fashion due to COVID-19 and public health concerns.

The Coalition is comprised of 16 local organizations that deal directly with the Arab and Muslim communities (which sometimes overlap). Many of these organizations also deal with other social justice issues and are inclusive of other non-Arab, Middle Eastern minorities such as Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Kurds who have large populations in the East County suburbs.

The forum was attended by various prominent community members, including representatives of elected officials and local figures.

The program was led by speaker Ammar Qadan (photo, left) and began with an introduction of each organization in the coalition.

Qadan is a Jordanian American who works in the business aspect of the biotech industry.

After a representative from each of the organizations spoke, the program was turned to Ojeni Touma. Touma holds a degree in biology from San Diego State University and is a board member of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee’s San Diego Chapter, as well as a board member of the cultural organization, House of Palestine.

Touma presented astounding facts about Arab and Muslim communities. For example, the largest group of Muslims in the United States is members of the black community.

Additionally, Touma told the audience the difference in using the terms Arab (a noun for a person and can also be an adjective i.e. Arab culture), Arabic (the Semitic language spoken by Arabs and can also be an adjective i.e. Arabic food), and Arab-American (refers to a US citizen and permanent resident who originates from an Arab country either directly or ancestrally).

The presentation also reviewed accomplishments of Arab Americans, such as their high education rate – 50 percent have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, and 20 percent have a post graduate degree (compared to the national average of 12 percent).

The income of Arab Americans is also 26 percent higher than the national average.

Following Touma’s presentation were videos by local Arab Americans.

Photo, right: Dr. Al-Naser is President, San Diego Chapter, of the National Arab American Medical Association. He is also a pulmonary and critical care physician practicing in San Diego’s East County.

Dr. Raed Al Naser, who contributed to ECM in previous commentary, presented a video on his career on the front lines facing COVID-19.

Other video clips presented featured local activists and business people.

The program concluded with Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).

Ikhrata is a prominent Arab-American who holds an influential role in local governance.

The forum was attended by 24 panelists and 49-51 attendees.

The committee plans on reintroducing this event in 2022, with a possible option for both online and in-person attendance.

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