9 Syrian Americans Who Have Changed The World & Will Help You Rethink The Refugee Crisis
The Syrian refugee crisis has brought about a heated debate over whether or not the United States should allow refugees into the country. A majority of governors are explicitly refusing to allow refugees into their states, and many GOP candidates are similarly stating their unwillingness to provide aid. Conversely, all three Democratic presidential hopefuls have voiced their support for admitting refugees. President Obama has condemned notions of not allowing Syrians fleeing their home country into the United States as well. With politicians becoming increasingly more divided on the issue, it's important to have a bit of perspective. Syrian refugees are certainly not bad people nor are they all in cahoots with ISIS or other terrorist organizations. In fact, many prominent Syrian Americans have changed the world.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' biological father immigrated from Syria, having grown up in Homs. His father would attend college in Beirut, then move to America to continue his studies at the University of Wisconsin. Jobs was not only a prominent Syrian American but a visionary idolized around the world. His innovations in technology paved the way for the smartphone as we know it in addition to tablets and aesthetically pleasing, efficient computers. It was Jobs who firmly placed a focus on design in tech.
That's just one example that shows once refugees or other immigrants are here, their contributions can literally transform our society. Here are eight more Syrian Americans' whose names you should know.
Movie maker Moustapha Akkad was born in Aleppo, the largest city in Syria. The prominent director helped produce the original Halloween movie in addition to its many sequels, serving as executive producer on every film up until Halloween: Resurrection, released in 2002. The series was a breakout hit when the first edition hit theaters in 1978, elevating the horror genre to whole new heights. It would not see the same exposure and cult status were it not for Akkad's involvement.
Aleppo-born artist Diana Al-Hadid is based in the United States, but her work has transcended the very country she currently resides. Using a bit of mixed media, her own personal experiences, and the very idea of myths themselves, Al-Hadid has created fascinating sculptures and projects that call into question the nature of greed, power, and the very way that humans plan and arrange their lives. She has exhibited around the world and was a 2009 Rockefeller Fellow representing United States Artists.
The multi-talented Paula Abdul can trace her roots back to Syria on her dad's side. Abdul's father was born in Aleppo, raised in Brazil, and immigrated to the United States. Prior to her stint as an American Idol judge, Abdul was best known as a singer-dancer and continues to inspire dancers around the world with her choreography.
You may not recognize Louay Safi's name right away, but the Georgetown Common Word Fellow is a frequent fixture on news shows. His perspective on Middle Eastern issues as well as the region's relationship to the Western world is an invaluable asset, providing an informed glimpse into the complex politics of a region sadly still steeped in conflict. Safi was born in Syria but immigrated to the United States in the 1980s.
Desperate Housewives superstar Teri Hatcher is a quarter Syrian and can claim her ancestry through her mother's side. A consummate entertainer, she first got her start as a cheerleader for the San Francisco 49ers. Hatcher is as much known for her work in Hollywood as for her humanitarian efforts and supports such varied causes as UNICEF and the Los Angeles Police Memorial Foundation.
Dr. Wafa Sultan
As with Louay Safi, Dr. Wafa Sultan has appeared on the likes of CNN, Al-Jazeera, and many prominent newscasts. She has been a vocal critic of what's happened in Syria, her home country, and was even named one of TIME magazine's 100 People Who Shape Our World in 2006. Sultan practiced medicine in Syria up until the late 1980s when she immigrated to the United States.
Chess grandmaster Yasser Seirawan found major success in the game in the United States. He has been professionally active for over four decades, winning the U.S. championship four times and has written books about the game, in addition to editing Inside Chess magazine.
Charla Faddoul was born in Syria, lives in America, and first dazzled audiences on the reality show The Amazing Race. Faddoul's tenacity, vibrant spirit, and joyful character was a treat for viewers and has launched a bit of an acting career for the reality show contestant, who has appeared on MADtv, The Comeback, and as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Faddoul serves as an inspiration for those with dwarfism, firmly showing that the condition does not inhibit her from not only living a normal life but thriving.