Maine’s first Arabic-language newspaper has published a new issue that reflects broadened support for the enterprise.

The front page of The Hanging Gardens features an article encouraging Arab Americans to vote in the upcoming presidential election, as well as a photo of a girl holding a U.S. flag and showing a two-fingered peace sign. It also includes a notice that texting while driving is illegal in Maine and a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

On the back page is a welcome column, written in English by Rosanne Graef, past president of the West End Neighborhood Association, who said she was excited to see the newspaper’s first issue when it was published in May. Graef was asked by Hanging Gardens publisher and editor Aqeel Mohialdeen to share information that would help immigrants adjust to life in Maine, including the expectations of some Americans.

After surveying 76 Mainers, Graef offered several suggestions, such as learning to speak English and making an effort to interact with people outside the immigrant community.

“Even if you just know the word ‘Hello,’ it can go a long way in helping you feel more comfortable,” Graef wrote. “Most people will respond positively and pretty soon you’ll start to feel like you’re becoming a part of things here. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort.”Graef quoted a 74-year-old woman whose mother was an Italian immigrant. “It was extremely important to her that she spoke perfect English,” the woman said. “While I mourn the fact that she didn’t teach me Italian, I retain her belief that immigrants should learn the language of the country they came to. Not forsake their native language/customs, but to do much to assimilate.”

The remainder of the 16-page paper includes information about how to vote in Maine, photos and statements of a variety of Mainers about World Refugee Day, an article about the importance of financial literacy, an opinion piece on freedom, interviews with members of the Iraqi Community Organization of Maine, and advertisements for an Iraqi math professor offering free lessons to people seeking a high school diploma and an Iraqi musician offering to teach people how to play the oud, a pear-shaped Middle Eastern stringed instrument.

The free newspaper is available at the Portland Public Library and several stores in the city.

When Mohialdeen published the first edition in May, it had no paid advertisements and he did not know how often he would be able to publish new editions. The second edition that is now circulating has two paid ads, one from Norway Savings and one from Ameera Bread, which made it possible to print 1,000 copies, Mohialdeen said.

In addition to the public library, copies of the newspaper are available at Ameera Bread, 845 Forest Ave., Sindbad Market, 710 Forest Ave., Ahram Halal Groceries, 630 Forest Ave., all in Portland; and Arabic Market, 11 Bridge St., Westbrook.


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