The Thomas Affair: A Letter to Wayne State University

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[singlepic id=83 w=320 h=240 float=left] An article on Fox News entitled: “Groups Consider Renaming ‘Helen Thomas’ Awards” indicated that Wayne State University has already decided to keep the name Helen Thomas on their “Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity in the Media” award. This after Helen Thomas has been filmed on video making offensive remarks against Israelis living in Israel.

I consider this, in many ways, an affront to Muslims as much as it is to Jews. Why? Because, we are all suffering from intolerance in the region, be it the intolerance of violent rulers, like Assad of Syria or Ahmadinejad of Iran, or the intolerance perpetrated by the religious extremists represented by al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and many other Palestinian groups.

That prompted me to write the letter below to President Jay Noren of the Wayne State University. Hope you can all do the same, as well as write to the other group “Society of Professional Journalists”, which is considering stripping her name from their “Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement” after meeting in July.

Honorable Jay Noren

President, Wayne State University
656 W. Kirby
4200 Faculty/Administration Building
Detroit, MI 48202

Dear Mr. Noren,

I read an article on Fox News in regard to the Helen Thomas Award that apparently has already been debated at Wayne State University with the result of keeping her name intact on your prestigious “Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity in the Media” award.

As an American-Muslim with Syrian origins, I could not disagree more with your decision. Allow me to elaborate.

The region today is experiencing a paradigm shift with extremists groups like Hamas and Hezbollah gaining the upper hand, and liberal Muslims and minorities like the Jews in Israel, the Christians in Lebanon or Egypt, and the Kurds in Syria, Iran, and Turkey becoming marginalized and at the receiving end of the extremists”™ anger and terror.

In such an atmosphere, no gasoline is needed to stoke further the fire of hate and exclusion, which is exactly what the unfortunate remarks of Helen Thomas have memorialized in the minds of many of us who expect nothing but understanding, tolerance, and compassion by all parties and on all fronts. Especially, from Helen Thomas who influences so many people with her writings and more so with her words.

I urge you to reconsider this issue within the larger picture that tolerance by all is the only reasonable order we must all be united under. If our leaders start making anti-Semitic remarks, be it against Muslims or Jews, they would be committing the ultimate sin of creating divisions amongst people rather than the unity and the healing that is expected from them.

There is no doubt that the name of Helen Thomas has been engraved in the history she permitted herself for others to write for her. Every recipient of your prestigious award will also carry the same burden, which dilutes the very essence of the reasons why the award is bestowed upon deserving writers and journalists.

We hope the University will reconsider this difficult decision.


Farid Ghadry

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