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An Arab American is a United Statesmarker citizen or resident of Arab cultural and linguistic heritage and/or identity. The ancestry of Arab Americans trace back to any of various waves of immigrants originating from the various countries comprising the Arab World in the Middle East (North Africa and Western Asia). Included among these countries are Moroccomarker, Algeriamarker, Tunisiamarker, Libyamarker, Egyptmarker, Lebanonmarker, Syriamarker, Palestine (Gaza Stripmarker and West Bankmarker, plus Arab Israelis within what is Israelmarker), Jordanmarker, Iraqmarker, Saudi Arabiamarker, Yemenmarker, Omanmarker, United Arab Emiratesmarker, Qatarmarker, Bahrainmarker, and Kuwaitmarker. Not included are countries where Arabic is not the spoken vernacular of the general population, but is merely an official language as a consequence of their membership in the Arab League.

Although the majority of the Arab World is Muslim, the overwhelming majority of Arab Americans is Christian, or some 65%, of various Christian denominations. Only 25% is Muslim, including Sunni, Shia and other denominations. The remaining 10% are of other faiths, including Jews and Druze.

Arab Americans are neither a homogeneous ethnicity nor a racial group. Arab Americans, and Arabs in general, comprise a highly diverse amalgam of groups with differing ancestral origins, religious backgrounds and historic identities. Instead, the ties that bind are a shared heritage by virtue of common linguistic, cultural, and political traditions.

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, irrespective of a Muslim or Christian religious identity, including such ethnic groups as Assyrians, Circassians, Kurds, and Berbers.


The majority of Arab Americans, around 62%, originate from the region of the Levant, comprising Syriamarker, Lebanonmarker, Palestine/Israelmarker and Jordanmarker. The remainder are made up of those from Egyptmarker, Iraqmarker, Libyamarker, Moroccomarker and other Arab nations, which are small in numbers but present nonetheless.

There are nearly 3.5 million Arab Americans in the United States according to The Arab American Institute. Arab-Americans live in all 50 states and Washington, DCmarker - and 94% 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 Californiamarker, Michiganmarker, New Yorkmarker, Floridamarker and New Jerseymarker, respectively; these 5 states collectively have 31% of the net U.S. population. Five other states - Illinoismarker, Texasmarker, Ohiomarker, Massachusettsmarker, and Pennsylvaniamarker - 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 Virginiamarker.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the city with the largest percentage of Arab Americans is Dearborn, Michiganmarker (southwestern suburb of Detroitmarker) at nearly 30%. The Detroit metropolitan area of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties is home to the largest concentration of Arab Americans (403,445) followed by Los Angeles (308,295) and New York (230,899).

Other major Arab-American communities are:

The cities of 100,000 or more of population with the highest percentages of Arabs are Sterling Heights, Michiganmarker 3.69%; Jersey City, New Jerseymarker 2.81%; Warren, Michiganmarker 2.51%; Allentown, Pennsylvaniamarker 2.45%; Burbank, Californiamarker 2.39% and nearby Glendale, Californiamarker 2.07%; Livonia, Michiganmarker 1.94%; Arlington, Virginiamarker 1.77%; Paterson, New Jerseymarker 1.77%; and Daly City, Californiamarker 1.69%.

Many agricultural regions in California, like the San Joaquin Valleymarker, Salinas Valley, Coachella Valley and Imperial Valleymarker have a history of immigrants from Arab countries involved in the area's rich farming industry. In these areas however, the community preferingly identified by their national origin, to explain a small proportion of Arab-Americans who wish to be classified as "Arab".

California has the most Moroccan Americans, Algerian Americans and Yemeni Americans, usually live in the San Fernando Valleymarker section of Los Angeles and the East Bay area of Oaklandmarker as well. Los Angeles is said to have the world's largest Saudimarker expatriate community, while San Diego is said to boost the most Libyanmarker expatriates in the Western Hemisphere; and finally, a large influx of Assyrians from Iraq, Syria and Jordan settled in the Sacramentomarker area.

Oklahomamarker had a sizable Arab-American population, mainly are immigrants involved in the oil and energy business came to the state during the 1970s/1980s and developed noticeable communities in Tulsamarker and Oklahoma Citymarker, each have an estimated 50,000 Arab-Americans alone.
2000 U.S. Census]]
Ancestry 2000 % of population
Iraqi 37,714 0.01%
Lebanese 440,279 0.2%
Egyptian 142,832 0.1%
Palestinian 72,112 0.02%
Syrian 142,897 0.1%
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 is composed of people of the Muslim faith, most Arab Americans, in contrast, are Christian.

According to the Arab American Institute, the breakdown of religious affiliation among Arab Americans is as follows:

The percentage of Arab Americans who are Muslim has increased in recent years, due to the fact that most new Arab immigrants tend to be Muslim; this stands in contrast to the first wave of Arab immigration to the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, during which immigrants were almost all Christians. Most Maronite Catholics tend to be of Lebanese or Syrian extraction; those Christians of Palestinian background are often Eastern Orthodox. A small number are Protestants, either having joined a Protestant denomination after immigrating to the U.S. or being from a family that converted to Protestantism while still living in the Middle East (European and American Protestant missionaries were fairly commonplace in the Levant in the late 19th and early 20th centuries).

There are substantial numbers of American Jews originating from the Arab World, notably of Mizrahi Jewish extraction. Most migrated from their respective countries of origin to the United States during the late 20th century. The number of Arab Jewish-Americans is difficult to determine. Overlaping identification as Jewish Americans (along with other American Jews of various backgrounds) and Arab Americans (along with other American Arabs of various religious traditions) seldom occurs for political reasons.

Racial status

In the United States, the system of assigning individual countries a racial value results in the classification of Arab Americans as White American by government agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau.

The U.S. government's official definition of "White American" includes peoples "having origins in any of the original people of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa". However, the ancestral and racial heritage of the peoples of not only each Middle East and North African country (Arab or otherwise) is a complex mosaic of elements indigenous to their respective regions, influenced to varying degrees by other elements introduced from historic interactions with Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, and Europe, either because of conquests, slave trade, or simply due to proximity. This is true also for different groups within each country.

In line with this reality, many disagree with the umbrella designation of Arab Americans as White Americans, and some, both Arab Americans and non-Arab White Americans have lobbied for the creation of a separate category, each with different motives.

In 1993 the Arab American Institute proposed that the 2000 US Census make a new Middle Easterner racial category. Effects of the adoption of the proposition included such things as Pakistani Americans being included within the new racial definition (as the AAI had recommended), while related Indian Americans would not. According to the 2000 US Census, 25% of 2nd generation South Asian Americans already mark the white race category,(pp. 76) with Pakistanis marking "white" in the 2000 US Census to a greater degree than Indian Americans. (pp. 72) Additionally, Mizrahi Jewish American would be split into a new racial category separate from Ashkenazi (European) Jewish American (as is already the case with American Jews of other race categories other than White American, such as Black American Jews, Asian American Jews, Indian American Jews). Ashkenazi American Jews would continue to be categorised as White Americans.

Others yet call for "Arab Americans" to be re-classified as an "ethnicity" with the option to then choose a racial category such as White, Black, mixed, or other, as "Hispanics" currently do.

Some Arab Americans, especially those with darker complexions (irrespective of their religious tradition), are generally not considered White in social terms. They have been increasingly targeted for discrimination and hate crimes after the September 11 attacks.

A new Zogby Poll International found that there are 3.5 million Americans who were identified as "Arab-Americans", or Americans of ancestry belonging to one of the 23 UN member countries of the Arab World. Poll finds that, overall, a majority of those identifying as Arab Americans are Lebanese Americans (largely as a result of being the most numerous group), although proportionally, as a groups by national origin, Lebanese Americans identifying as Arab Americans may be smaller than, for instance, Yemeni Americans.


Arab Americans tend to vote more Democratic than Republican. In a recent 2007 Zogby poll 62% of Arab Americans vote Democratic, while only 25% vote Republican.. The percentage is likely to have increased since the Obama election. However, a number of prominent Arab American politicians are Republicans, including former 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.

Arab Americans gave George W. Bush a majority of their votes in 2000. However, as a group they backed John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008.

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 and traditional values of tolerance, 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.


In June of each year Dearborn has: The Dearborn Arab International Festival, The Lebanese American Heritage Club, the Arab American Chamber of Commerce, ACCESS and The City of Dearborn transformed more than a half mile of Warren Avenue in the heart of East Dearborn into the largest Arab international festival in the nation.The Dearborn Arab International Festival is a free, family-centered cultural celebration that have attracted people of all ages from Michigan, the Midwest, and Canada since 1996.This celebration of cultures will feature ethnic performances representing the diverse heritage of the people of Metropolitan Detroitmarker.It boasts a great number of amusements, live musical acts both local and international, 30 international food booths, coffee cup readings, henna, arts and crafts, a children’s tent, artisans, Arab merchandise, and a giant old-fashioned Ferris wheel that overlooks East Dearborn.More than 300,000 people participated in the festival last year, a true representation of the many cultures that reside in Metro Detroit. The festival enjoyed press from all themedia outlets in Detroit and extensive exposure in the Arab World and Arab American communities in the United Statesmarker.

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 Seattlemarker, 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, the first annual Arab American Festival in Arizona was held on November 1 and 2nd in Glendale, Arizona. More than 40,000 attendees over the 2 days event, More than 35 international singers, dancers and musicians from all over the Arab World perform 20 Hours of live entertainment on stage. Activities include folklore shows, an international food court, hookah lounge, kids rides and booth vendors, open to the public, Free Admission, Official web site http://ArabAmericanFestival.Com

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.

Entertainment :

Sport :

Writers and thinkers :
  • Edward Said, (Palestinian) literary theorist and outspoken Palestinian activist.
  • Helen Thomas, (Lebanese) reporter, columnist and White House correspondent.
  • Ismail al-Faruqi, (Palestinian) philosopher and authority on Islam and comparative religion.
  • Susie Gharib, co-anchor of the Nightly Business Report, 100 most influential business journalists.
  • Hala Gorani, (Syrian) Journalist and anchor of CNN's International Desk.

Public Figures/Politicians :

Businessmen :

Scientists :

See also


External links


Festival Links

Arab American Organizations

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