Election 2008 The World is Watching

Video Dispatch

Obama vs. McCain: The Feeling Among Arab-Americans

BY Ahmed Shihab-Eldin and Yasmina HatemOctober 7, 2008


Ahmed Shihab-Eldin grew up in California, Kuwait, Egypt and Austria. Most recently he worked as a news producer for The New York Times and as a web producer for the PBS documentary series, Wide Angle. He graduated from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, where he now teaches. This election story is part of a partnership between FRONTLINE/World and the National Minority Consortia. Additional reporting by Yasmina Hatem.

Linda Sarsour, 28, is the director of the Arab American Association of New York. She is also a lifelong Brooklynite. Born in Brooklyn's Bay Ridge neighborhood, where her parents moved from Palestine more than 30 years ago, Sarsour says that she constantly surprises other Arab-Americans in her community with her outspoken demeanor and liberal attitude.

Like many New Yorkers, her life changed after 9/11. Following the attacks, she began providing support to Arabs and Muslims in New York City -- many of whom were facing deportation.

These days, she spends most of her time providing immigrant families with advice about local services. While much of the media focus has been on the presidential elections, Sarsour's role is to get people more involved in local politics.

"If there is something wrong, for example, in the New York Public School system, you can lobby the Mayor's office, you can lobby the department of education on a local level and change things," she says. Unabashedly passionate about politics, she has also been following the presidential race with particular interest.

In this video dispatch, reported by FRONTLINE/World fellow Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, with additional reporting by Yasmina Hatem, the fast-talking Sarsour speaks candidly about what transformed her from a staunch Obama supporter to a reluctant one.