DETROIT — The longtime director of the Michigan office of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee retired Friday amid mounting pressure for him to leave over allegations of sexual harassment that have rocked the organization.
Imad Hamad, who spent 17 years with the biggest Arab-American civil rights group in the U.S., will no longer be with the organization that made him nationally known. A release issued from the national office of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said, "Imad Hamad … is no longer with ADC as of today. We acknowledge his many years of service."
Hamad, 52, confirmed to the Free Press that he's stepping down and said he's pursuing other opportunities, which he did not detail. He said he will address allegations that he sexually harassed at least 15 women over the years "at the due time."
"I'm very saddened that these unfounded allegations hurt the ADC, and hurt my family, and the cause," he said.
Hamad added: "I look forward to continue my service in a different capacity."
Hamad will be replaced by Fatina Abdrabboh, 32, a Dearborn attorney; like Hamad, she is a Palestinian-American Muslim. She did not return messages today left with her law office and by email, but said in the statement: "I realize much has happened in the last year, and I hope to be a force for positive change and a recommitment to the principles upon which ADC was founded."
Abed Ayoub, a Dearborn native who is the ADC's national legal affairs and advocacy director, and Safa Rifka, chair of the national board of the ADC, did not return calls seeking comment.
As first reported by the Detroit Free Press in June, several women came forward earlier this year to say Hamad sexually harassed or assaulted them over the years while serving as head of the Michigan office of the ADC. Hamad was accused of attacking female employees and women who came to him seeking help from the organization.
Hamad became the Michigan director in 1997 and was known for his close work with federal law enforcement in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
He survived an initial sexual harassment investigation in 2007 and was later named senior national adviser. Hamad was eventually accused of harassing or attacking at least 15 women during his tenure, according to women who said they were targeted by him.
Democratic state Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, who was among the women who said Hamad harassed her, joined with other Arab Americans in a protest Sunday outside a concert organized by the ADC in Washington, D.C.
"I'm relieved that Imad won't be in a position where he might hurt more women," Tlaib told the Free Press on Friday. "However, it should not have taken this long for ADC to push him out."
A petition drive was launched recently calling for Hamad to resign and for changes to the ADC's leadership. It has been signed by hundreds of Arab Americans across the U.S., including former members and leaders with the organization.
The petition and other efforts came after the ADC kept Hamad on staff, despite a second investigation in recent months to examine the allegations against him. ADC leaders said in September there was "insufficient evidence" to prove Hamad harassed women based on the report of an attorney they hired, Teri Gorman of Southfield. But Gorman told the Free Press she never concluded that and was just assigned to gather the facts.
Last month, four women who worked in the national office of the ADC stopped working in protest and resigned the first week of November. They were protesting how the ADC dealt with the matter and the firing of its national communications director, Raed Jarrar.
Jarrar said Friday that he filed a complaint this week with the National Labor Relations Board over his firing, which he says was because he raised questions about the handling of the Hamad case.
The issue of ADC's leadership also came up this week in connection with the ADC's Michigan banquet, scheduled for Dec. 13 in Dearborn.
Amy Goodman, a noted radio host with Democracy Now, a liberal news program, was set to keynote the dinner, Democracy Now's website said Thursday. But after complaints from Arab Americans upset over the ADC's handling of sexual harassment, the website no longer says she will speak. A message left for Goodman through the website this week was not returned.
Abdrabboh, Hamad's replacement, was featured by the U.S. State Department in a 2007 online discussion about Muslim Americans, according to a transcript of the chat posted by the department. She was described as a graduate student in Islamic studies and national security.
In the discussion, Abdrabboh is quoted as saying: "I think that Muslim women are uniquely situated to create … a woman's vision of being an American and of being a Muslim."
Hamad told the Free Press on Friday: "I extend my sincere congratulations to" Abdrabboh. "I had the pleasure and honor of working with her…. I see her as a rising star and hope she will move ADC forward….I hope this is the beginning of a new chapter."