Gabriella Naseem Akhtar van Rij’s “With All My Might”

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Gabriella Naseem Akhtar van Rij’s With All My Might chronicles the many instances of racism that she has encountered throughout her life as a woman born in Pakistan and raised by adoptive Dutch parents in the Netherlands.  When she was a child, a Frenchwoman asked her why she was dirty and had not washed herself properly because of her brown skin, and as an adult, the ignorance did not improve much, even living in different times, when race relations have ostensibly improved.
At the airport in Brussels, she learns a very important lesson about pride and not being ashamed of who she is.   Security personnel told her she was in the wrong line, not bothering to look at her EU passport; she notices a foreign looking man in the EU line who stands his ground in a “dignified” manner against the racist security guards, asking to see a supervisor, showing his army credentials that he is a colonel of the French army, and defends van Rij’s rights, telling them not to give her any trouble.
When he asked her if this happened to her often, he says, “he was ashamed that people would treat others like that and told me to stand up for who I was…And I always did after that!” She describes the experience of being “attacked for something you cannot change at all,” like the color of your skin, which “you cannot even begin to try to change” as a “crippling feeling.”  From this negative experience, van Rij gained valuable insight and learned an important lesson, that “we need to stand up for who we are and defend our rights.”  She discovers that “my pride is all I had” and that “no human should make us crawl and feel inferior because of race or colour.”
Although the tensions of race relations have superficially loosened, since 9/11, race has again become a heated issue and many Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent are treated with the same cruelty, ignorance, and prejudice with which blacks were treated before the Civil Rights Movement.  With All My Might offers readers important lessons about the value of courage, pride, and not allowing people to make others feel inferior; only in defending rights can the marginalized factions of society gain acceptance and respect and change the attitudes of the prejudiced.
Contact: Gabriella van Rij –
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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at, and at, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania