Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Arab-Americans say they have felt left out of U.S. national politics. Now, several key Arab-American leaders have endorsed Republican candidate Ron Paul for President. It’s a move they hope will put America’s three million Arab-Americans back on the nation’s political stage.
“We believe that Dr. Paul brings to this campaign sense, sanity and sincerity," said Osama Siblani, publisher of the largest Arab-American newspaper in the United States - The Arab-American News - telling a crowd of Ron Paul supporters his paper has endorsed the Texas congressman for President.
“He is the only candidate that brings us together while others are dividing us apart,” added Siblani.
Siblani’s Michigan-based newspaper has influence with Arab-Americans across the country.
He addressed Paul's supporters at a rally organized by the University of Michigan’s Arab Student Union in Dearborn - a city with one of the nation’s highest concentrations of Arab-Americans.
Arab-American leaders say in recent years, the Republican and Democratic parties have treated their community like a liability in national elections - but not Ron Paul.
“The only person in the presidential race that has really reached out to the Arab-American community is Ron Paul," said Siblani. "We see a lot of excitement in the community, relatively speaking, for this campaign.”
Other Arab-American national groups have also endorsed Paul - largely for his stances on civil liberties and foreign policy.
Paul has pledged to limit the power of the government to spy on its own people and wants to quickly end the war in Afghanistan.
“What we need is a new foreign policy based on non-intervention, minding our own business, obeying the Constitution and taking the advice of the Founders - it’s much better to talk to people than initiate war against them,” said Paul.
Those policies resonated with Arab-Americans at the rally in Dearborn.
“I think war should be stopped immediately and I think Ron Paul is the only candidate who is able to do so,” said Amani Berry, a Lebanese-American.
“His message appeals to the Arab-American because it is pro-American and it is not pro-Israeli or pro-Zionist,” added Nafeh Abunab, a Palestinian-American.
At least three million Arab-Americans live in the United States, not enough to elect a candidate, but enough to influence an election.
Arab-American leaders say nearly a million of them reside in politically important states like California, New York and New Jersey, whose primary elections are yet to come.
Osama Siblani says his paper’s endorsement is meant to put the Republican and Democratic parties on notice that they cannot continue to ignore the Arab voting block in the U.S.
“Politics is a strange game, you know. You have to be able to play it," said Siblani. "We cannot just continue to be [in] the sideline, or intimidated and we are not going to be intimidated. We can find our ways, one way or the other, into those parties because we can punish them or we can reward them.”
“Gentlemen, can you please come to the side for a second? What I said inside I meant it. We need to vote for Dr. Paul and also we need to give him money," he said. "Let’s do it!”
Arab-American groups say they plan to rally their members - and open their pocket books - in support of Ron Paul all the way to the Republican national convention.
They don’t expect Paul to win the nomination.
But through their endorsement they hope their voice will be heard by both political parties, no matter who gets elected.