Arab American Institute

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The Arab American Institute, or AAI, represents the interests of Arab Americans in the United States, promoting voter participation of the community and involvement in policy making agendas. AAI provides information to government officials, media outlets, and policy makers. The organization is also involved in elections and policy formation through contributing to campaigns and conducting research.

It should be noted that the focus is on Arab Americans, who are not necessarily Muslim-Americans.


The Arab American Institute was co-founded by Dr. James Zogby in 1985 as a non-profit nonpartisan interest group seeking to encourage political involvement of the Arab American Community. Starting in the 1880's, Arabic-speaking immigrants have made the journey to the U.S. and now constitute around 3.5 million citizens.

Current objectives and activities

As stated in the AAI's Arab American Action Agenda, the organization recognizes a need to push issues of interest, both in the U.S. and abroad, to the Arab American community. These issues are broken into topics of activity:

Civil Liberties

  • Abolishing of NSEERS (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System) and to secure for those not registered or improperly registered immigration benefits previously denied
  • Institutionalization of oversight of Executive departments engaging in counter terrorism
  • Removal of policies encouraging profiling, selective law enforcement, and increased powers of search and seizure


  • Bolstering state institutions and promoting reforms strengthening the central government in the hopes of encouraging reconciliation
  • Offering support and recognition of independence for the state
  • The restoration of key infrastructure and economic aid aimed to assist opportunities and employment


  • Encouraging diplomatic negotiations between Israel and Palestine and to support peaceful elections in 2010.
  • Offering financial aid for the restoration of key infrastructure and a healthy economy
  • Make efforts to open borders between Israel and Gaza to allow food, electricity, water and medicine for Gaza civilians


  • Securing stable democratic government open to liberal practices and tolerance
  • Preventing ethnic violence within sectarian groups through the promotion of national reconciliation
  • Issue of U.S. visas to Iraqis who supported and worked for the U.S.

Organizational structure

Office of the President: Dr James Zogby

AAI Foundation:

-Executive Director of the Arab American Institute Foundation: Helen Hatab Samhan

-Program Manager for AAIF: Yasmeen Shaheen-McConnell

Government Relations:

-Director of Government Relations: Leigh O'Neill

-Government and Policy Analyst: Samia Makhlouf

Community Relations:

-Community Relations Associate: Hilary Robertson


-Director of Development for AAI and AAIF: Jane Kaddouri


-Hosting President Clinton and Vice President Gore at the first-ever addresses by a President or Vice President at national Arab American conferences.

-Hosted public addresses of international leaders including former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa

-Established a government relations department and national grassroots network to connect members of Congress with the Arab American community