ING Executive Director’s Remarks on City of Sunnyvale Proclamation of Arab American Heritage Month

April 26, 2023

Upon receiving this proclamation from the City of Sunnyvale, ING Executive Director Maha Elgenaidi, who is Arab and Muslim American, read the following statement:

“I am honored to speak to you today during Arab American Heritage Month about the many contributions of Arab Americans to our country.  According to the Arab Cultural Center of Silicon Valley, there are an estimated 50,000 Arabs Americans currently residing in the greater San Jose area. They include generations of native-born Arab Americans, and immigrants who arrived in the South Bay to study, live, work and join their families. 

In business, Arab Americans have made significant contributions to Silicon Valley as entrepreneurs, innovators, and job creators. They have founded and managed successful companies in a variety of industries, from technology and real estate to food and hospitality.  In tech, the list of outstanding tech innovators include Osama Bedier, founder and CEO of Poynt; Shaygan Kheradpit, former CEO of Coriant; Mohammed Al Adham, Co-founder and former CEO of Telly; Bassel Ojjeh, CEO of LigaData; Osman Rashid, founder and former CEO of Galxyz; Fadi Bishara, founder of Blackbox; Omar Tawakol, founder and former CEO of Voicea, and now founder and CEO of Rembrandt, and the list goes on.

Arab Americans have also played a significant role in politics and public service. Many serve today in government at the local, state, and national levels such as Mayor Sam Hindi of Foster City, and US House Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. They like others have worked tirelessly to represent their communities and to promote policies that benefit all Americans.

Yet, despite these many contributions, Arab Americans have faced discrimination and prejudice throughout their history in the United States. From the mid-19th century when Arab immigrants first began to arrive on our shores, they have been the targets of xenophobic attitudes and policies.

More recently, the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment and rhetoric has made life even more challenging for Arab Americans and their families who are often conflated with Muslim Americans.

Many people don’t know that 70% of Arab Americans are in fact Christian, not Muslim.

As we celebrate Arab American Heritage Month, we must remember to honor their many contributions, and to reject the prejudice and bigotry that has too often characterized their experiences in this country.

In closing, thank you to the City of Sunnyvale for celebrating Arab American Heritage Month and for your commitment to promoting greater understanding and appreciation of Arab American contributions to our country. Together, we can work to create a more just, equitable, and inclusive society for all Americans. Thank you.