It was with a deep sense of sadness and loss that I received the unexpected news of the passing of Professor Jack Shaheen. Jack was a good friend and colleague for close to five decades.
Jack was concerned about humanitarian issues everywhere. He was sensitive to the western and especially American perception of the Arab and Muslim condition, and this was illustrated in his groundbreaking publications where he strove hard to change the stereotyped images in the media, especially in Hollywood films and on TV. He was deeply concerned about the consequences of these negative portrayals on American policies towards the region. He authored seminal works such as the award winning book and DVD, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People and The TV Arab: Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture. His other groundbreaking books include Nuclear War Films and his recent work A is for Arab: Archiving stereotypes in US Popular Culture.
Jack was fair and courageous in speaking his mind about this subject. He spoke with genuine passion, eloquence, humility and humor. These attributes, along with his tireless efforts and sharp intellect, helped him to open some doors in Hollywood and among a number of mainstream journalists. He also was active in supporting and participating in the activities of a number of Arab American organizations. He established with his loving wife Bernice a scholarship to help students in Mass Communications.
I had the pleasure and privilege of collaborating with him on a few media related projects over the years, beginning in 1977 when he kindly contributed a chapter titled “The Image of the Arab on American Television” in my then forthcoming book Split Vision: Portrayal of Arabs in the American Media. We collaborated again in 1983 when he updated his chapter for the new and expanded edition of the book.
Recently, for the 30th anniversary of the publication of Split Vision and Jack’s book The TV Arab, the Jerusalem Fund invited Jack and me to speak about our books and the changes occurring in media coverage since their publication. His eloquent and informative presentation was warmly received.
The end of any life can be a cause of either sorrow for a life wasted, or gratitude and joy for a life well lived. Jack lived a full and fulfilled life ennobled by his service to humanity. We are in his debt, and we rejoice in the fact that we have not been deprived of receiving the gifts of Jack Shaheen’s mind and spirit that he so generously shared with us.
Our deepest condolences go to his wife Bernice and to his children and grandchildren and to the whole Shaheen family.