Arab American

Arab American

Infobox Ethnic group
group = Arab American

poptime =1,400,345 0.49% of U.S. population (2005) [ U.S. Census Bureau: Population by Selected Ancestry Group and Region: 2005] ]
popplace = California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia
langs = American English, Arabic, Syriac, others
rels = Predominantly Christianity. Minorities practicing Islam, Judaism, Druze and others
related-c = American Jews, Arab Brazilian, Arab Mexican, Arab Singaporean, British Arabs, other Arabs
An Arab American is a United States citizen or resident of Arab cultural and linguistic heritage and/or identity whose ancestry traces back to any of various waves of immigrants originating from one or more of the twenty-three countries comprising the Arab World (from the westernmost Morocco in North Africa to the southernmost Oman and easternmost Iraq in Southwest Asia). The overwhelming majority of Arab Americans, or some 70%, are Christians, while only 20% are Muslims, and the remaining 10% are of other faiths, agnostics or atheists.

Although Arab Americans comprises a highly diverse group of people, differing in ancestral origins, religious backgrounds and historic identities; Arab Americans hold a heritage that shares common linguistic, cultural, and political traditions, and it is these factors which are the ties that bind.

Due to a conflation of terms, in its broadest sense "Arab American" may include people who do not in fact identify as Arab.In this sense, it may include not only people of Arab cultural and linguistic heritage and/or identity, but also non-Arab identified peoples within what are deemed Arab countries, such as Assyrians/Syriacs, Kurds, or Berbers.


The majority of Arab Americans, around 62%, originate from the region of the Levant, comprising Syria, Lebanon, Palestine/Israel and Jordan. The remainder are made up of those from Iraq and other Arab nations, which are small in numbers but present nonetheless.

There are 3,500,000 Arab Americans in the United States according to The Arab American Institute. Arab-Americans live in all 50 states and Washington, DC - and more than 90% reside in the metropolitan areas of major cities. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 48% of the Arab-American population - 576,000 - reside in California, Michigan, New York, Florida and New Jersey, respectively; these 5 states collectively have 31% of the net U.S. population. Five other states - Illinois, Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania - report Arab-American populations of more than 40,000 each. Also, the counties which contained the greatest proportions of Arab-Americans were in California, Michigan, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the city with the largest percentage of Arab Americans is Dearborn, Michigan (southwestern suburb of Detroit) at nearly 30%. Other major communities are in Paterson, New Jersey/Clifton, New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York (New York City metro-area); Miami, Florida; Silicon Valley (San Francisco metro-area), ; Los Angeles County, California, Orange County, California (Los Angeles metro-area); the San Diego metro-area; Chicago and Bridgeview, Illinois (Chicago metro-area); Houston; Boston; Jersey City, New Jersey;Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Jacksonville, Florida. The cities with the highest percentages of Arabs are Sterling Heights, Michigan; Jersey City; Warren, Michigan; Allentown, Pennsylvania; Burbank, California and Glendale, California; Livonia, Michigan; Arlington, Virginia; Paterson; Peoria, Illinois; Phoenix, Arizona; and Daly City, California.

Many agricultural regions in California, like the San Joaquin Valley, Salinas Valley, Coachella Valley and Imperial Valley have a history of immigrants from Arab countries involved in the area's rich farming industry. Oklahoma had a sizable Arab-American population, mainly are immigrants in the oil business came in the 1980s and developed noticeable communities in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Fact|date=February 2007

Religious background

While the majority of the population of the Arab World consists of those adherent to the Muslim faith; contrary to popular belief, the overwhelming majority of Arab Americans are in fact Christian, not Muslim. [ [ The Arab American Institute ] ] .

According to the Arab American Institute, Muslims account for only 20% [ [ Presentation at Al ] ] of the Arab American population, while Christians account for 70%, and the rest of the 10% identify as other religion, or no affiliation. The number of Arab Muslims, however, has been faster growing. The breakdown of Christians by sect through percentage are as follows;
*35% Catholic Christian (Roman Catholics, Eastern Catholics - Maronites and Melkites)
*18% Orthodox Christian,
*10% Protestant Christian.

There are substantial numbers of American Jews originating from the Arab World, notably American Jews of Mizrahi Jewish extraction. Most migrated from their respective countries of origin to the United States during the late 20th century.

Racial status

Arab Americans in the United States are officially classified as White American by government agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau. Some have contested this designation and lobbied for the creation of a separate category, each with different motives. [ Ian F. Haney-Lopez, "White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race" (New York: New York University, 1996), Appendix "A".]

Some Arab Americans, especially those with darker complexions irrespective of their religious tradition, and more recently Arab Muslim immigrants regardless of their complexion, are not generally considered White in social terms. They have been increasingly targeted for discrimination and hate crimes. [ Paulson, Amanda. "Rise in Hate Crimes Worries Arab-Americans" (Christian Science Monitor, April 10, 2003). [] ]

A new Zogby Poll International found that there are 3.5 Million Americans who identify themselves as "Arab-Americans" or Americans of ancestry belonging to one of the 23 UN member countries of the Arab World. Poll finds that majority of those who identify themselves as Arab Americans are of Lebanese origin.


Arab Americans tend to split fairly evenly between the Republican and Democratic parties. Historically, they have tended to vote for Democratic Presidential candidatesFact|date=June 2007. However, a number of prominent Arab American politicians are Republicans, including New Hampshire Senator John E. Sununu, and California Congressman Darrell Issa, who was the driving force behind the state's 2003 recall election that removed Democratic Governor Gray Davis from office. The strong sense of family values characteristic of Arab Americans does not necessarily translate to Republican values in Arab American statesmen, however; the first woman Supreme Court Chief Justice in Florida, Rosemary Barkett, is known for her dedication to progressive values and has been publicly criticized by Republican politicians at various stages of her career. Ralph Nader is another example of a liberal Arab American politician.

According to a 2000 Zogby poll, 52% of Arab Americans are pro-life, 74% support the death penalty, 76% are in favor of stricter gun control, and 86% want to see an independent Palestinian state. [ [ Arab American Demographics - Community Outreach - Census ] ] Arab American Republicans often view the GOP as more in line with Arab culture, which tends to be more socially conservative and values entrepreneurship and free enterprise. Arab American members of the Democratic party may choose to do so through a sense of social justice, support of small businesses and traditional values of tolerence, or because of concerns over foreign policy and, in recent years, the Iraq War, Racial Profiling and the War on Terror.


While the spectrum of Arab heritage includes 22 countries, their combined heritage is often celebrated in cultural festivals around the United States.

New York City

The New York Arab-American Comedy Festival was founded in 2003 by comedian Dean Obeidallah and comedienne Maysoon Zayid. Held annually each fall, the festival showcases the talents of Arab-American actors, comics, playwrights and filmmakers, and challenges as well as inspires fellow Arab-Americans to create outstanding works of comedy. Participants include actors, directors, writers and comedians, including director Piter Marek.


Of particular note is in Seattle, begun in 1999. The festival includes all 22 of the Arab countries, with a souk marketplace, traditional and modern music, an authentic Arab coffeehouse, an Arabic spelling bee and fashion show. Lectures and workshops explore the rich culture and history of the Arab peoples, one of the world's oldest civilizations. Also of new interest is the Arabic rap concert, including the NW group Sons of Hagar, showcasing the political and creative struggle of Arabic youth.


In 2008, Six Flags Great America had a Muslim Day, which had traditional food and converted the auditorium into a mosque.

Famous Americans of Arab descent

Here are a few examples of famous Arab Americans. Arab Americans are involved in politics and are one of the wealthiest ethnic groups in the U.S. fact|date=August 2008

* Jerry Seinfeld, (Syrian Mother, Jewish) Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-winning comedian [,M1] , Seinfeld, The Making of an American Icon by Jerry Oppenheimer Page 11. Accessed February 20, 2008.]
*Ismail al-Faruqi, (Palestinian) philosopher and authority on Islam and comparative religion.
*Ahmed Zewail, (Egyptian) Scientist and winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
* F. Murray Abraham, Hollywood actor and Oscar winner for the film "Amadeus" (Syrian father)
* Jamie Farr, (Lebanese) Hollywood actor especially famous for his role as Klinger in the TV series "M*A*S*H"
* Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc. (Syrian father Abdulfattah Jandali)
* Danny Thomas, (Lebanese) actor and his daughter Marlo Thomas, actress
* Hoda Kotb, (Egyptian) correspondent on Dateline NBC.
* Paul Anka, (Lebanese) vocal performer
* George J. Mitchell, (Lebanese) U.S. Senator from Maine, Senate Majority Leader
* John H. Sununu, (Lebanese/Palestinian) Governor of New Hampshire and White House Chief of Staff under George H. W. Bush
* John E. Sununu, (Lebanese/Palestinian) Senator from New Hampshire
* Casey Kasem, (Lebanese) radio personality and voice actor
* Spencer Abraham, (Lebanese) Senator from Michigan and Secretary of Energy under Bush
* Ralph Nader, (Lebanese) consumer advocate, politician, first Arab American to run for President of the United States
* Joe Robbie, sports team owner
* John Jaha, sports athlete
* Farouk El-Baz, (Egyptian) Scientist who worked with NASA to assist in the planning of scientific exploration of the Moon.
* Tony Shalhoub, (Lebanese) an executive producer and actor of Monk.
* Edward Said, (Palestinian) literary theorist and outspoken Palestinian activist.
* Helen Thomas, (Lebanese) reporter, columnist and White House correspondent
* Sammy Hagar, (Lebanese), rock musician.
* John Abizaid, (Lebanese), retired General.
* Fredwreck, (Palestinian), hip hop producer
* Fawaz Gerges, ABC analyst, regular guest on Oprah's Anti-war series
* Chris Kattan, (Iraqi Jewish father), comedian and actor, best known for his work on "Saturday Night Live"
* Zainab Salbi, (Iraqi), co-founder and president of Women for Women International
* Kathy Najimy (Lebanese) actress in many American films that include Sister Act
* Rosemary Barkett, (Syrian), first woman Supreme Court Justice and Chief Justice for the state of Florida
* Heather Raffo, (Iraqi father) playwriter and actress
* Kaysar Ridha, (Iraqi) businessman and contestant on reality series "Big Brother"
* Wafah Dufour, (Saudi Arabian Father) supermodel and singer/songwriter famous as the niece of "Osama Bin Laden"
* Charles Elachi, (Lebanese) director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
* John Zogby, (Lebanese) founder and current President/CEO of Zogby International
* James Zogby, (Lebanese) founder and president of the Arab American Institute
* Najeeb Halaby, (Syrian) father of Queen Noor of Jordan Lisa Elhalabi, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. CEO, and chairman of Pan Am
* Doug Flutie, (Lebanese) NFL Player
* Jacques Nasser, (Lebanese) Former president and CEO of Ford Motor Company
* John Mack, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Morgan Stanley
* Khalid Khannouchi, (Moroccan) Marathon world record holder
* Lorraine Ali, (Iraqi) reporter, editor, culture writer, and music critic for "Newsweek."
* Wentworth Miller, (Syrian) actor
* Susie Gharib, co-anchor of the Nightly Business Report, 100 most influential business journalists
* Sanaa Hamri, (Moroccan) music video and movie director; her films include the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
* Elias Zerhouni (Algerian) current director of the National Institutes of Health
* Elias Shlayan (Palestinian) Co-founder and President of the Lesiure Center.


ee also

*American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
*Arab American Institute
*Arab lobby in the United States
*Arab diaspora
*Diaspora politics in the United States
*Hyphenated American
*Iraqi diaspora
*Refugees of Iraq
*Western Muslims

External links

* [ Your Home Away From Home (Arab American Community website)]
* [ 2000 U.S. Census Report on the Arab-American population]
* [ Learn more at the Arab American Museum located in Dearborn, Michigan.]
* [ 100 Questions and Answers about Arab Americans]
* [ A full definition of Arab Americans]
* [ Arab American Demographics]
* [ A collection of readings and A/V materials on Arab Americans]
* [ Comprehensive demographics of Arab Americans]
* [ ArabAmerican.Net]


* [ The Arab Americans (The New Americans)] High-school level look at Arab Americans

Festival Links

* [ New York Arab American Comedy Festival]
* [ Seattle ArabFest]
* [ Concert of Colors: Metro Detroit's Diversity Festival (ACCESS/AANM)]
* [ Dearborn Arab International Festival]

Arab American Organizations

* [ List of Arab American Organizations]
* [ American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee]
* [ Arab American Institute]
* [ / Aramica Newspaper: The Leading Arab American Newspaper on the East Coast]
* [ Arab American National Museum]
* [ Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military]

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