We at the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) are heartbroken to report on the passing of Othman Hasan (Abu Mohammad), longtime past president of the Arab Community Center, our precursor organization, and grandfather of current AAAN youth organizer Nesreen Hasan.
Abu Mohammad was born in Qalunya, Palestine, a village less than 4 miles west of Jerusalem, on April 20th, 1927, and was forced with his family into exile by zionist militias during the 1948 Nakba (“Catastrophe” in Arabic), when 750,000 other Palestinians became refugees upon the establishment of the apartheid state of Israel.
His family was exiled to East Jerusalem and then the village of Al Ram, and in 1967, when Israel illegally occupied the rest of historical Palestine, was forced to flee to Syria. From there, the family moved to Jordan and then settled in Chicago years later.
In 1972, Abu Mohammad became one of the co-founders of the Arab Community Center (Markaz, “Center” in Arabic), which provided a safe political, social, and cultural space in Chicago for new immigrants and refugees from across the Arab World. He was the elected president of the Markaz for decades, and led the organization at a time when its membership was in the thousands.
Much of the social services, youth development, community organizing, cultural outreach, and family empowerment programming of the AAAN owes a debt of gratitude to Abu Mohammad and the other leaders of the Markaz, who put Chicago’s Arab and Palestinian community on the national and even international map from the early 70s until the early 90s.
Dozens of the top organizers in Chicago’s Arab community during these years, including the majority of the founders of the AAAN and a number of his own children (who were also very active in the Markaz), were trained and mentored by Abu Mohammad.
A brilliant political analyst and historian, he published a demographic and political study of Qalunya a number of years ago, and even in the last weeks of his life, continued to impress everyone with his memory, his understanding of the world, and his sharp wit.
His dearly beloved wife, Fada Hasan (Um Mohammad), who was our matriarch for decades as well, passed away in 2011. Together, they left behind 11 children, 50 grandchildren, and 30 great- and great-great-grandchildren.
We offer our sincere condolences to Nesreen, to Abu Mohammad’s children, siblings, and extended family, to all of his other friends and loved ones, and to the entire Arab community of Chicagoland and beyond. As one of the AAAN board members, who was a student activist in the Markaz days, so eloquently stated today, “He was an anchor and source of strength for our community.”
We will miss him dearly.
Tuesday, June 27th, 2017