Response to Amer Zahr’s Sexual Harassment Column
|Rana Abbas, former ACRL executive director|
The Imad Hamad saga has attracted a motley crew of individuals who joined in for two reasons: 1. To say, without any legal basis for personal knowledge, that the allegations are “true” for a variety of reasons. 2. To say that we basically need no investigation and that Imad should be fired because these two women have made these allegations. Allegation is the key word.
Let’s look at the bright side of this sordid affair. Who knew that everyone in our community is a solid supporter of women’s rights? This is great! It really is. However, by God, people will prove it by piling on Imad Hamad before receiving all the facts.
Let me make one thing clear. I am not stating these women were not harassed; nor am I stating they were. No one, other than Imad and the women, was in the room when the alleged harassment occurred. No third party could state with conviction that anything did or did not happen. What we should know for a fact is that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, everyone deserves a fair hearing (or in this case an investigation), and those who make allegations have the burden of proof.
Amr Zahr has made a living getting comedic material of what he calls “boaters.”
In the U.S. a boater is someone who has a boat or is on a boat. In the Arab American community a “boater” is a term commonly used by American born Arab Americans to refer to recent Arab immigrants.
With the Imad Hamad issue Amer has expanded his comedic attempt to an attack on Imad Hamad and the whole organization of ADC. (See http://www.civilarab.com/in-search-of-leadership/)
Amer stated, “Less than two weeks ago, ADC-Michigan regional director Imad Hamad was suspended after accusations of sexual harassment over a period of 14 years came to light. I personally know and admire both of the women, Rashida Tlaib and Rana Abbas, who have openly accused Mr. Hamad in the press. I have also known of their accusations privately for years. And I said nothing.”
According to ADC, Imad voluntarily agreed to be put “on leave.”
That’s not the same as suspension. And having heard of the accusations/allegations does not mean he has “known” of them. Knowing and hearing about something are not the same.
According to the Honorable Mary Rose Oakar, Ms. Abbas wanted to remain anonymous during the initial investigation of this matter and adamantly refused to sign an affidavit. Assuming that Amer was informed about these allegations years ago, then who was discussing it? Especially since we have read that at least Rana did not want to put her name in writing on any formal complaint.
It is understandable that any woman who is subjected to harassment has reservations to step forward. It is also understandable that sometimes it takes years to build up courage to speak up. But why not through the proper protocol rather than a smear campaign in the media?
Amer stated, “The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Hamad’s employer, has told us all that it will be hiring a third-party to conduct an “independent investigation.” I am not quite sure what this investigation is supposed to provide.”
If an employee is charged with wrongdoing the employer is supposed to investigate the matter before taking action. A person making allegations of discrimination or harassment has the burden of proof. Otherwise it is one person’s word against the other. That is the law in this country. In matters of sexual harassment (as well as other disparate treatment) allegations, the respondent, or an outside federal or state agency that deals with discrimination or harassment, needs to have a written complaint signed by the people making the allegation in order to conduct an investigation.
An open letter sent to the Arab American News is not proper protocol, and does not prove that an incident happened.
Amer stated, “Man, that is some bad luck for Hamad. If you’re going to sexually harass someone, you should really pick the quiet ones. Don’t pick the ones that are going to become congresswomen and defense contractors. They’re talkative.”
I understand Amer is a comedian, but this is not funny.
Amer stated “You might think that ADC would be proud to call them part of the family. Instead, ADC’s Board of Directors is dragging its feet and prolonging their ordeal. To make things worse, ADC’s leadership has known of Hamad’s “bad habits” for years and done nothing. It looks like it’s going to take two strong Arab-American women to make them act right.”
It is disturbing that anyone could be or is subjected to sexual harassment. It is never acceptable. However it is not acceptable to take away a person’s right for due process. It is innocent until proven guilty.
The sexual harassment issue has been raised before and investigated. At that time a third party was hired to look into the allegations. The ADC president at the time this matter was raised initially was the Honorable Mary Rose Oakar. Hon. Oakar told me that Rana Abbas told her of a verbal incident only, that Rana wanted to remain anonymous and shortly after telling of the verbal incident Rana left for a better paying job. She refused to sign an affidavit. If there is evidence that this is not accurate then someone needs to bring that to the table.
It is my opinion that the board is not dragging their feet. Their timetable is not determined by popular demands for fast (in)justice. A written and sworn affidavit is needed to be submitted first by the alleged victims making the allegation. From what I understand, at the time the open letter Ms. Tlaib wrote was published in the Arab American News and all over Facebook, there had not been any formal complaints submitted.
Amer stated, “Rana and Rashida knew how to speak the truth. Many leaders could learn a thing or two from them.”
Yes, these women are known, admired and have worked in the community. However, it would have been more responsible if Rana or Rashida had directed these claimants with newer issues to EEOC or the Michigan Department of Civil Rights if they did not believe ADC National would be helpful- and there is no evidence of that.
There is a responsible way to lead and “speak the truth”, and lynching a man, making a media spectacle of serious matter, in order to short circuit due process is not responsible.