Asbury Park Press, 1/20/2005
HARTRIONO B. SASTROWARDOYO/Staff Writer
LONG BEACH Township showed its support for promoting education about Muslims and Arabs in schools by passing a resolution supporting the establishment of a New Jersey Arab Heritage Commission through the state’s Department of Education.
Aref Assaf, president of American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, New Jersey chapter based in West Caldwell, was the initiator for such a commission and in May petitioned then-Gov. James E. McGreevey for its establishment.
“I sit on the state Ethnic Advisory Council,” Assaf said. “I felt it was time to correct information about Arabs, especially after (Sept. 11), with regards to our community image and safety.”
Assaf sent a letter to McGreevey which he said was acknowledged and was told would be reviewed.
“No action was taken by the governor” before his resignation, he said.
Assaf has not reached out to acting Gov. Codey, preferring to wait until after the November 2005 election! s to bring it again to the attention of the governor, he said.
Assaf said he feels that educating the public would be the best approach.
“We want the commission to be acknowledged and sanctioned by the state in order to work with the different departments within the state, especially education,” he said. “The curriculum needs to be improved and made more accurate about the history and culture of the Arab people, and promote tolerance and understanding.
“We’re like the rest of American citizens,” Assaf said. “We’re good and care about the country and don’t approve of terrorist actions.”
Assaf notes that the proposed New Jersey Arab Heritage Commission would be no different than other state ethnic commissions already established.
“We’re not asking for anything unusual,” he said, adding that other ethnic commissions were funded by the state but that the Arab Heritage Commission would not be asking for money.
“We feel that a state Arab ! Heritage Commission is very timely and urgent and should be dealt with a seriousness that it deserves,” Assaf said.
Hartriono B. Sastrowardoyo: (609) 978-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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