Chance to reach Arab voters

COSTA MESA — Mayor Allan Mansoor and businessman Phu Nguyen, his opponent in the 68th Assembly District race, will appear at an event in Anaheim later this month hosted by an Arab American networking group.

The Network of Arab American Professionals Orange County chapter, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that brings together Arab Americans, whose professions range from the fields of law and medicine to business and engineering, will host the two politicians at a Sept. 29 mixer.

Rashad Al-Dabbagh, a NAAP board member, said the 68th Assembly District has a large Arab American community, one that comes out to vote.

"We're just providing both candidates a forum to explain what their agenda is, why they should be elected, and we want to make sure that the Arab American community's concerns are met and their questions are answered," Al-Dabbagh said.

Mansoor, who is half Egyptian, has been criticized by some in the Arab American community for what they say is refusal to embrace his Arabic heritage — a claim he dismisses on grounds that he strongly identifies as an American since he was born and raised here.

Sami Bishara Mashney, editor-in-chief of the Independent Monitor, an English-language newspaper in Anaheim that caters to the Arab American community, criticized a blog post that Mansoor posted in January 2008 in which he took exception to an Orange County Register article that referred to him as an "Arab American candidate."

In his column, Mashney highlighted how Mansoor took exception to being called an Arab American and how the mayor noted that, even though his father was born in Egypt and has an Arabic name, he was influenced by European culture. Mansoor's mother came from a region of Finland influenced by Sweden.

Al-Dabbagh said that many Arab Americans view Mansoor as someone who is hiding his Egyptian heritage while embracing his mother's culture.

But in an interview Friday, Mansoor said that his past comments about his parents' heritage were taken out of context. If read in full, his words merely questioned the wisdom of the political correctness that requires one to hyphenate who they are, Mansoor said.

In the same blog post where Mansoor addressed his heritage, he wrote, "Egypt is on the continent of Africa, does that make me African American? Or do you have to be dark skinned or politically correct to be called that? … Or should I be listed as Egyptian American, or Swedish Egyptian American, or does Arab or Egyptian come first? Am I allowed to ask these questions publicly in America? Or is it not politically correct?"

Mansoor said Friday that the criticism is a smear campaign by a handful of people who do not agree with him on the real issues.

"As I've mentioned before, both my parents immigrated here — my father immigrated from Egypt, my mother immigrated from Sweden — and I love my parents and I'm proud of them and I'm very open about who I'm and my family heritage," Mansoor said. "But I also make it clear that I'm an American and we all have our own family heritage and that's fine."

Nguyen, who operates a wire-transfer service and other businesses, was born in Vietnam. He now lives in Garden Grove.

The Candidate's Night is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29 at Andaluz Bakery and Restaurant, 930 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim. For more information, contact NAAP President Salee Zawerbeck at (949) 838-4588.

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