"We're just providing both candidates a forum to explain what their agenda is, why they should be elected, and we want to make sure that the Arab American community's concerns are met and their questions are answered," Al-Dabbagh said.
Mansoor, who is half Egyptian, has been criticized by some in the Arab American community for what they say is refusal to embrace his Arabic heritage — a claim he dismisses on grounds that he strongly identifies as an American since he was born and raised here.
Sami Bishara Mashney, editor-in-chief of the Independent Monitor, an English-language newspaper in Anaheim that caters to the Arab American community, criticized a blog post that Mansoor posted in January 2008 in which he took exception to an Orange County Register article that referred to him as an "Arab American candidate."
In his column, Mashney highlighted how Mansoor took exception to being called an Arab American and how the mayor noted that, even though his father was born in Egypt and has an Arabic name, he was influenced by European culture. Mansoor's mother came from a region of Finland influenced by Sweden.
Al-Dabbagh said that many Arab Americans view Mansoor as someone who is hiding his Egyptian heritage while embracing his mother's culture.
But in an interview Friday, Mansoor said that his past comments about his parents' heritage were taken out of context. If read in full, his words merely questioned the wisdom of the political correctness that requires one to hyphenate who they are, Mansoor said.