Arab American

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.

Arab Americans in the 2000 U.S. Census
Ancestry 2000 % of population
Iraqi 37,714 0.01%
Lebanese 440,279 0.2%
Palestinian 72,112 0.02%
Syrian 142,897 0.05%
Yemeni 15,000 0.005%
Other Arabs 424,807 0.2%
TOTAL 1,275,641 0.42%

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..

According to the Arab American Institute, Muslims account for only 20% 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;

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.

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.

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 candidates. 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 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 ArabFest 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.


See also

External links


Festival Links

Arab American Organizations

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