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The Politics of hookah Lounge and City of Seattle.

Hookahs are the Middle Eastern water pipes used for smoking flavored tobacco, and the Health risks from smoking aside; the city believes the lounges are also magnets for violent crime. The recent press release of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is trying to close all the city's hookah lounges have created a wave of anger from civil right leaders and a community activist. Most business owners work hard, care for their families pay their taxes, and obey the law. Closing the hookahs real change for our society will not come to curve violence and gang related crimes. Using the Hookahs lounge as scapegoat for our social problems; is going to reinforcing the existing stereotype that the East Africa immigrant community as a trouble makers and shifts the problem to encourage to flourish underground activities.

On the contrary for some community activist it became an urgent calling that they feel all business must be shut down to turn back this tide violence.  As concerned citizen to their community they have to handle their move with care and patience as this unfortunate addictive substance continued to batter our community like freak act of nature and has become Achilles heel of the community. By the same token, according the recent Press release is nothing but political decoys that would pit one community to another community that none of us wanted to tear up against each other.

The Mayor and his supporters including Seattle Police Department Chief O Toole and few council members and alleged selected community members are linking the violent incidents to Hookah Lounges since 2012. The crackdown has support among members of the community on religious, health and moral ground.  What is great about America is we are not guided by religion nor by moral conviction but by the rule of law.  After Donald Chin's death must be investigated and City of Seattle must use and mobilize all the resource to apprehend the criminal thugs. Because it happened near hookah lounges and linking without verifiable evidence is truly mind boggling and has created discontent and mistrust among those communities and business owners. What the mayor needs to help the community is invite all community leaders, civic organizations and known community activists who are fare minded with vision instead of listening from few who wants to use this unfortunate social problem to advance their career in the Mayor office.

We need a panel discussion and concurrently create a task force to present the endemic social problems that our youths to escape the hard, bleak lives that many of them still face. We can lift their hopes and restore their dreams.  When we have the courage to face the truth about our failure and looked at our failure and say this is not why we are and we are better than that. We have to acknowledge the roots of our youth pain of false arrest and police brutality. We became victims of homicide and there are more East African men in corrections system than in our collages and unacceptable economic disparity and unfair in terms of employment are the issue that we must fight.  Closing the hookah lounges is not a solution for our youth failure such an action only makes them to mushroom underground.

Lets demonstrate our commitment that we must focus on education and economic opportunity that are necessary precondition and fight for more funds to navigate the youth to the right truck. Today, we face a choice between overcoming our failure and live up to our best ideas, move forward and restore the pride and optimism of our immigrant youth, or simply give up on our noble initiatives.

We should defend our community business owner who have lived by the rule and find alternative choices to support their families.  Closing their business must not be a remedy to our problems. We are creating more blink future to those business owners who have invested a lot for realization of American dream.

We urgently need leadership that, closely attuned that better reflects our values and interest and follow through on hard decisions instead of being used as parrot. 


Bereket Kiros

Ethiopian Observer editor,

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