|Esam S. Omeish|
December 19, 1967 |
|Alma mater||Georgetown University
Georgetown University School of Medicine
|Employer||Inova Alexandria Hospital; Washington County Hospital; Esam S Omeish MD PC (President)|
|Known for||Resignation from Virginia Commission on Immigration
due to jihad controversy;
former President of
Muslim American Society; 2009 State Assemblyman primary election candidate in the 35th District of the Virginia House of Delegates.
|Home town||Falls Church, Virginia|
|Salary||More than $250,000 |
|Board member of||Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center|
|Children||Abrar, Anwar, Yousof, Ibrahim|
Esam S. Omeish (born December 19, 1967) is a Libyan-born American physician and chief of the Division of General Surgery at Inova Alexandria Hospital since 2006. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque and former President of the Muslim American Society (MAS).
As President of the MAS in 2005, Omeish represented the organization at a news conference announcing an anti-terrorism campaign launched by a coalition of US-based Muslim groups.
In August 2007, Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine appointed Omeish to the Virginia Commission on Immigration. In 2009, he unsuccessfully ran for State Assemblyman in a primary election in the 35th District of the Virginia House of Delegates.
Education and family
Esam Omeish was born in Tripoli, Libya. In 1982 he immigrated at the age of 15 with his family to the United States, not knowing any English. They settled in Falls Church, Virginia, where he attended J. E. B. Stuart High School. He and his brothers started the first Muslim Friday prayers in a high school in the Washington, DC area. He finished secondary school in two and half years, excelled in gifted programs and advanced placement courses, and graduated with a near perfect grade point average.
He attended Georgetown University. Upon graduating with a double major in government and biology in 1989, Omeish attended the Georgetown University School of Medicine. He was the only foreign student to gain admission from a pool of over 6000 candidates for less than 180 positions.
Omeish helped start the first chapter of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) at Georgetown. He chaired the MSA Council for the Washington, DC, metropolitan area during his years as a student at Georgetown.
He has, and continues to participate in several local and regional civic, religious and community organizations and has appeared on several media outlets. He has lectured extensively in various topics of Islamic activism, youth, community development and Islamic educational programs and continues to participate in programs nationwide.
Marriage and family
His wife is Badria Kafala, a scientist with a Ph.D. in molecular genetics. They have four children as of 2009: Abrar, Anwar, Yousof, and Ibrahim. In 2008 their daughter Anwar participated in an episode on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The show included children from across the U.S., of different ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds.
Omeish is a former Vice President and current board member of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church. He has consistently worked against extremist elements within the Muslim community, emphasizing that “we…are uniquely positioned and equipped to provide a comprehensive, multifaceted approach in pro-actively combating terrorism and eliminating its scourge." According to Omeish, the mainstream Islamic community needs to protect itself from extremist ideology and violent action.
In 2000, Esam Omeish was among those who recommended the board of directors hire Anwar al-Awlaki as the mosque's imam; at the time the American-born cleric espoused moderate Muslim views and appeared to bridge the American and Muslim cultures. Omeish said in 2004 that he was convinced that al-Awlaki: "has no inclination or active involvement in any events or circumstances that have to do with terrorism."
In 2004, at 36 years of age, Omeish was the youngest member of the mosque's Board of Directors. He said then that the mosque leadership needed to be more open and inclusive of younger people, including women. "The bottom line is that this is a mosque that is in the heart of Washington," he said. "Our goal is to make the congregation reflect that reality."
Omeish acknowledged that some mosque members raised reasonable questions about the mosque's constitution. In 2004, proposals for change under consideration included direct elections to the mosque's board of directors, director term limits, and phasing out the board seats that the constitution assigns to officials of certain Muslim organizations. As of December 2009, Omeish was still a member of the mosque's Board of Directors. In early 2010, he resigned from the Board of Directors because of lack of major reform in the center's policies.
Muslim American Society
In 2004, as President of the Muslim American Society, Omeish wrote a letter to the Washington Post in which he took issue with "inaccuracies" in the definition of the Muslim Brotherhood published by the paper. (It was discussed in John Mintz and Douglas Farah's article, "In search of friends among the foes, US hopes to work with diverse group," (September 11, 2004). Omeish wrote,
"The moderate school of thought prevalent in the Muslim Brotherhood represents a significant trend in Islamic activism in the United States and the West, and we in MAS accordingly have been influenced by that moderate Islamic school of thought as it applies to our American identity and relevance for our American reality."
"Omeish ... wrote that the reason MAS draws inspiration from the Muslim Brotherhood is 'in order to espouse the values of human dialogue, tolerance, and moderation.' Yet both MAS's curriculum and also the scholars that MAS requires its members to read openly flout these values."
As President of the MAS in 2005, Omeish represented the organization at a news conference announcing an anti-terrorism campaign launched by a coalition of US-based Muslim groups. He told reporters: "The fact of the matter is we know of no sleeper cells, we don't know of that phenomenon to exist in our community." He attributed this success in part to the teaching of moderate, authentic Islam: "What has protected our community far before 9/11 from extremism and violent ideology is that balanced mainstream advocacy of Islamic principles." He was still President of MAS as of 2007. In late 2008, Dr Omeish resigned from the presidency because he and his current team were unable to enact major changes in the organization.
Controversy re resignation from Virginia commission
In 2007, Omeish earned the prestigious "Outstanding Physician of the Year" award. That same year, Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine appointed him to the Virginia Commission on Immigration, which was evaluating issues related to illegal immigration.
Following public revelations of controversial remarks by Omeish in several videos, which criticized Israel and the United States government and appeared to encourage jihad, Kaine asked for Omeish's resignation from the commission on September 27, 2007, and he complied. A caller noted Omeish's remarks when the governor appeared on a radio show.
In one video, Omeish said to Washington-area Muslims:
"We must prosecute those who are responsible for this war. Impeach Bush today! Let us cleanse our State Department, our Congress, our Pentagon of those who have driven America into this colossal mistake."
Omeish was filmed at an August 12, 2006, rally in Washington near the White House, denouncing Israel's invasion of Lebanon that year and the "Israeli war machine." He accused Israel of genocide and massacres against Palestinians, and said the "Israeli agenda" controlled Congress.
In accepting the doctor's resignation, Kaine said, "Omeish is a respected physician and community leader, yet I have been made aware of certain statements he has made which concern me." He added that background checks of commission nominees would be more thorough in the future.
Omeish told a news conference that jihad traditionally was not about violence, but about the inner struggles leading to spiritual triumph. Omeish said his remarks were "taken out of context." He said Kaine was reacting to "speech excerpts taken out of context by proponents of a relentless campaign of ... Islamophobia." He accused his critics of perpetrating a "smear campaign" against him. The political commentator Cal Thomas disputed Omeish's assertion that his remarks were "taken out of context," saying that the meaning of the controversial phrase was clear.
Candidacy for state assemblyman
In 2009 Omeish ran for State Assemblyman in the Democratic Party primary election in the 35th District of the Virginia House of Delegates. Omeish raised $143,734 for his campaign from January 1 to May 27, 2009 ($52,000 of which was his personal money), the fourth-largest amount of fundraising statewide among all Virginia House of Delegates candidates. His third-highest contributor was the International Institute of Islamic Thought.
Upon starting his political candidacy, Omeish said, "I love Virginia and I've been involved in community activities since I came here. My candidacy is a continuation of a lifelong passion for public and community service." He also said, "As a physician and health care provider, I think this year health care is going to be one of the major issues we bring to the General Assembly."
Local Virginians described him as "a very logical person" that is very patriotic and who speaks the people's language. Jim Hyland, the Republican candidate for the seat, said Omeish was a poor choice to represent his region's growing Muslim community. "What criteria were they using to select people?" he said. "I think (his views) come from a small-minded perspective—got to fight Israel and all that sort of rhetoric. Some people have tried move beyond that." John Carroll, who ran against Omeish in the primary, said: "I was surprised (when I watched the video). He's about as nice a guy as you can meet," and "He's really championed health care for the uninsured."
Columnist Marc Fisher wrote in The Washington Post, in a column entitled "From Fairfax To Richmond, 'The Jihad Way?'":
A candidate who speaks with great pride and zest to an audience of fellow Muslims about people "giving up their lives..for the sake of the Muslim honor" should also be someone who happily delivers the same message to the Virginia voters he hopes will choose him for public office. But there is not a word in Omeish's campaign literature about this great passion of his life.
In June 2009, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited Omeish to join 100-200 invitees on a conference call that was billed as a forum in which to discuss how to bridge the divide between the United States and the Muslim community. Omeish expressed his support for President Barack Obama, and said that Muslim-Americans needed to get more involved in politics. A press statement from his campaign office included a message from him expressing his hope that,
[...] my friends on the far right and even some of those in the media, that continue to try and distort my record and my name, and continue to distort public perceptions of the Muslim community, will realize that we have a president and an administration, along with most of the American people, that are ready to move beyond divisive politics.
Work On Libya
Dr Omeish in an article published by the Washington Times said,
"Instead of allowing Libya to become another Lebanon or Syria we should strive to follow the model of Malaysia or Indonesia. Despite their strong ethnic and regional differences, those countries also cherish their national identity. Malaysians identify themselves as of Malay, Chinese or Indian ancestry, but they are Malaysians first. We Libyans can continue to be Cyrenacians, Misuratans and Tripolitanians, but we must first think of ourselves as Libyans rather than regional identities.
To achieve a unified Libya, we must rein in the armed groups before violence destroys our fragile nation. If we put Libya first and foremost in our thoughts and prayers, we can end the violence and create a truly prosperous and successful Libya."
Featured in a book,
" A Nation of Nations" by NPR journalist Tom Gjeltan and published by Simon and Schuster
Dr Esam Omeish is a byproduct of the immigration and assimilation experience of Fairfax County. He grew to be a Muslim American and civic leader of his community and at large.
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