Politics
6:03 pm
Wed December 8, 2010

Arab American group asks Wayne State to reconsider Helen Thomas award

A prominent coalition of Michigan Arab-American groups is angry that Wayne State University has pulled an award honoring journalist Helen Thomas.

Wayne State ended the “Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award” last week after she made controversial comments at an event in Dearborn.

Thomas asserted that “Zionists” control major U.S. institutions, including the White House.

Wayne State called those remarks “anti-Semitic.” But the Congress of Arab American Organizations disagrees.

Spokesman Osama Siblani says Thomas’s statements expressed disagreement with U.S. and Israeli policies, but not animosity toward Jews.

He says the university’s “hasty” decision to pull the award stifles free speech.

“Diversity does not mean only diversity in color and race, but also in opinion. And we think should be tolerant to other points of view…and I think we should have a debate at the academic level and not smother it.”

Siblani says Arab American leaders have discussed their concerns with Wayne State officials, and the “ball is now in their court.”

Thomas is a 1942 Wayne State graduate of Lebanese descent.