About Dr. Esam

 There has been a lot of discussion in the media and the public lately about who I am and if you listen to some of these accounts you would believe I am some kind of an evil-monster whose mere presence in American life represents a threat to the greater good.

In 1982, I migrated from Libya. Even as a young man at that time the American dream became a powerful vision in my mind as my family, and those immigrant families around me, thanked God that they had escaped a society dominated by the rule and edicts of a dictator for a society where we could enjoy our rights as humans without the interference of a dictatorial state..

I did not speak English upon my arrival to this country, but with hard work and the grace of God I was blessed to be in gifted and talented programs and advanced placement courses, graduating high school with a near perfect grade point average in only two and a half years. In high school, along with my brothers, I started the first Friday prayers in a High school in the area and was president of the International Club (which included many non-Muslims from Latin America, Africa, and Asia) as well as being an officer and member of several honor societies and appointed Cabinet member by the school principal after my first year at the school.

After graduating from JEB Stuart High School with honors, I gained admission to the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgetown University. Upon graduating with a double major in International Relations and Biology in 1989, I gained admission to the Georgetown University School of Medicine where I completed my studies.

Seeing the need for Muslims to be involved in campus life in an organized manner, I was able to help successfully start the first chapter of the Muslim Students Association at Georgetown and since that time the MSA has evolved into a leading presence on campus. The Muslim Student Association evolved as an organizational body with a goal to help both foreign born Muslims and those raised in this country fully advance into American society and at the same time overcome any challenge to surrender their religious identity.

I also helped establish and chaired the MSA Council for the Washington DC metropolitan area during my tenure at Georgetown. All of this was an inspiring indication that the great American “melting pot,” that accepted diversity was genuine and included Muslims.

The dream of America is when you work hard and play by the rules, you not only succeed, but you are accepted into the society regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion, and that is my vision of America and the one shared by millions of others?  Isn’t it the shared value that defines our country, and encompasses faith in ourselves and our future?

After the emergence of the Muslim American Society (MAS) in 1993, I served as the first chairperson of its youth department and subsequently served on its executive committees and I am currently honored to be the president of MAS as a Muslim because we are working hard to bring the Muslim voice into the mainstream and am proud as an American to be doing my civic duty as an active member in the society. 

Doing what I do as Chief of the Division of General Surgery at INOVA Alexandria Hospital; and the standard of my representation as a humanitarian- are truly reflections of my character, and God is the judge of good character. Yes, I am a Muslim and a civil rights activist and am proud to be in a nation that holds and proud to be president of an organization whose primary purpose is to defend the Constitution.

Being Muslim in America has not been, and is not, easy. Muslims are a religious minority that must often put up a fight for every legal liberty. Free speech means acknowledging the words of a man even if you oppose them, even if he is standing center stage and advocating for action you contest. If our leaders claim this country to be the land of the liberty, then the symbol of this country cannot be contained to only a piece of paper titled “the Bill of Rights.” The symbol also has to be one of it citizen’s utilizing his right to raise his voice against a perceived injustice. Celebrate this on every level of government, and then we can talk humanely about immigration, assimilation and all the other problems that America has not yet dealt with.  

Many Muslims across the United States are familiar with me. They know me as a brother they can come to and discuss their problems with and someone who will listen and through my work I have made many friends of all faiths.

Change is often hard to accept.  Some men fear it, but it will nevertheless come. As Americans we must be prepared to include and adapt, but as Muslims we must continue to struggle for change that will enhance and give dignity to our status as citizens.  When any people refuse to act on their own behalf, they negligently give permission to be left behind.

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One Response to “About Dr. Esam”

  1. badria Kafala Says:

    The Muslim Link. October 5, 2007 Issue.

    ——————————————————————————–
    Governor Appointee Resigns After Smearing by Islamophobes

    Governor Appointee Resigns After Smearing by Islamophobes

    Essam Omeish, MAS President, was a commissioner on VA Commission on Immigation

    By Farkhunda Ali

    Muslim Link Staff Writer

    A prominent Northern Virginia Muslim surgeon and Islamic worker, Dr. Essam Omeish, was forced to resign from his recent appointment to the Virginia Commission on Immigration (VCI).

    Omeish is the president of the Muslim American Society (MAS), and a respected speaker and activist for Islamic, inter-faith, and anti-war programs.

    Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) appointed Omeish to the 20-member commission this past August. The Governor asked Omeish to step down September 27 after a Virginia Republican state delegate made his office aware of an internet video showing Omeish at a pro-Palestine rally. On the video, Omeish makes reference to “jihad”.

    The state General Assembly created the commission earlier this year and empowered the Governor to appoint 10 members. The General Assembly appointed the remaining 10 members.

    Gov. Kaine was searching for a dedicated community member who is medical a doctor to serve on the commission. Omeish said he had good relations with the governor’s office and was recommended for the position.

    After passing the criminal and the background checks, and receiving a good recommendation from the INOVA Hospital, Gov. Kaine officially announced Omeish’s appointment to the commission.

    Within a few days from the August announcement, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), one of the largest Jewish organizations in the nation, denounced the appointment. The ADL registered several complaints with the Gov. Kaine’s office labeling Omeish as an “anti-Semite”.

    After Gov. Kaine confirmed Omeish’s appointment as a commissioner, the commission members participated in their first meeting in the General Assembly of Virginia on Sept. 25th.

    The governor received a letter from right-wing Republican delegates C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah County) urging him to remove Omeish from the commission. Gilbert argued Omeish’s views are “radical,” and questioned his ties to MAS and Dar Alhijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church. A letter from Gilbert to the Governor’s office said that MAS has “questionable origins” to terrorist organizations and that Omeish sits on the board of a center with “radical views”.

    Omeish said MAS was beginning to respond to these allegations when listeners called in during Gov. Kaine’s monthly radio show in Richmond and questioned his appointment. The callers told Gov. Kaine Omeish is supporting violence by supporting “Jihad” referring to a 2000 Jerusalem Day Rally.

    The You Tube videos of Omeish at the rally, which surfaced on the internet by Thursday, Sept. 27th, include his verbal opposition to Israeli tactics against the Palestinian people. The same day, Gov. Kaine asked Omeish to step down from his seat to ensure the work of the commission is not affected by the controversy of his political statements.

    Omeish immediately resigned.

    “I did not resign because I agree with the allegations, but because I did not want to disturb in any way the work of the commission,” said Omeish.

    Omeish clarified the term “Jihad” and said the term meant the “constant struggle” against oppression. “The whole thing was totally taken out of context,” said Omeish.

    He said the word “Jihad” was used before 9/11, when it did not have a negative connotation. Had he known that after 9/11, some words will be misconstrued to an entirely different meaning, he said he would have chosen a “better” word.

    Regardless of Omeish’s political views on Israel, he said his critics should look as his talks about American Muslims playing an active role in addressing the “faulty policies” in the Middle East through political debate.

    “It was not a careless call to violence,” said Omeish.

    Omeish supporters believe this inflammatory campaign was launched by right-wing anti-Islam bigots.

    In attendance at the September 28 press conference held at a hotel in Alexandria, VA in support of Omeish were Rev. Grayland Hagler, Senior Minister of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Washington, D.C., Brian Becker of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, and Latino immigrant rights leader, Juan Carlos among others. Omeish’s supporters stated the whole incident serves as additional evidence of anti-Muslim intolerance and the desire to keep Muslims out of the public discourse.

    Omeish believes this politically charged campaign is the work of infamous islamophobe Steve Emerson and his “Investigative Project on Terrorism”. “This is clearly to limit our involvement as Muslims in the political process,” said Omeish.

    Omeish said although he is a fierce critic of the Israeli military forces against Palestinian civilians in Lebanon and the occupied territories, he has consistently pressed for a peaceful, non-violent solution to the conflict in the Middle East.

    As part of Omeish’ resignation announcement, Gov. Kaine promised to keep his agreement. Gov. Kaine assured Omeish his former seat in the commission will be reserved until the VCI finds another Muslim medical doctor to fulfill the position.

    The new commission on immigration will be tackling potentially debatable issues surrounding immigration. The implications of the newly introduced 287-G resolution allowing local police authorities to enforce federal laws on undocumented immigrations are one of the commission’s controversial issues at debate.

    According to Omeish, Republicans were trying to undermine the work of the commission by trying to question the governor’s ability to influence immigration policies from the beginning.

    “We started with an uphill battle. There was in inevitable reason for conflict,” said Omeish.

    In a statement made to the Washington Post, Gov. Kaine’s spokesman Kevin Hall said, “the governor was pleased that Dr. Omeish agreed that the controversy surrounding the doctor’s political statements could seriously divert and distract from the important work of the commission.”

    Omeish believes this controversy will temporarily shed unconstructive light on MAS nationwide but expressed confidence in the future. “As it brings more visibility to the civic engagement of MAS through the work of its 55 chapters, its ill effects will die down,” said Omeish.

    Omeish is the chief of general surgery at Inova Alexandria Hospital. He is the recipient of the 2007 Physician of the Year Award given by INOVA Alexandria Hospital to 1 out of 300 doctors yearly. A native of Libya, he graduated from J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church and earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from Georgetown University. He lives with his wife and four children in Fairfax County.

    Regardless of this unfortunate outcome, Omeish said he was well received by the interfaith community members including his Jewish neighbors and Christian colleagues who respect his right to voice his political opinions.


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