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Arab American
Total population
1.14% of U.S. population (2009)[1]
Regions with significant populations
California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and scattered in others.

American English, Arabic, Syriac, Kurdish, French and others.

An Arab American is a United States citizen or resident of Arab cultural and linguistic heritage and/or identity. Arab Americans trace ancestry to any of the various waves of immigrants of the countries comprising the Arab World. Americans descended from immigrants of the Arab world via other countries are also included.

Countries of origin for Arab Americans include Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt in North Africa, and Lebanon, Syria, Palestine (Gaza Strip and West Bank, plus Arab Israelis within what is Israel), Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait in West Asia. Sudan and other countries where Arabic is an official language as a consequence of their membership in the Arab League, but where it is not the majority spoken vernacular, are not included.

Arab Americans are considered an ethnic 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 is erroneously employed to 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 more appropriate term for this context would be "Middle Eastern and North African American".




The majority of Arab Americans, around 62%, originate from the region of the Levant, which includes Syria, Lebanon, Palestine/Israel and Jordan, although overwhelmingly from Lebanon. The remainder are made up of those from Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco 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, DC - 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 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%. 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).[2]

Other major Arab-American communities are:

The cities of 100,000 or more of population with the highest percentages of Arabs are Sterling Heights, Michigan 3.69%; Jersey City, New Jersey 2.81%; Warren, Michigan 2.51%; Allentown, Pennsylvania 2.45%; Burbank, California 2.39% and nearby Glendale, California 2.07%; Livonia, Michigan 1.94%; Arlington, Virginia 1.77%; Paterson, New Jersey 1.77%; and Daly City, California 1.69%.[3]

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.[citation needed] In these areas however, the community preferringly identified by their national origin, to explain a small proportion of Arab-Americans who preferred to be classified as "Arab".

California has the most Moroccan Americans, Algerian Americans and Yemeni Americans, usually live in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles and the East Bay area of Oakland as well. Los Angeles is said to have the world's largest Saudi expatriate community, while San Diego is said to boost the most Libyan expatriates in the Western Hemisphere; and finally, a large influx of Assyrians from Iraq, Syria and Jordan settled in the Sacramento area.[citation needed]

Oklahoma 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 Tulsa and Oklahoma City, each have an estimated 50,000 Arab-Americans alone.[citation needed]

Arab Americans in the 2000 U.S. Census[4]
Ancestry 2000 % of population
Flag of Iraq.svg Iraqi 37,714 0.01%
Flag of Lebanon.svg Lebanese 440,279 0.2%
Flag of Egypt.svg Egyptian 142,832 0.1%
Flag of Palestine.svg Palestinian 72,112 0.02%
Flag of Syria.svg Syrian 142,897 0.1%
Flag of Yemen.svg Yemeni 15,000 0.005%
Other Arabs 424,807 0.2%
TOTAL 1,275,641 0.42%

Religious background

The religious affiliations of Arab Americans

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[5].

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, because 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

The Arab American National Museum celebrates the history of Arab Americans

The U.S. government's official definition of "Arab American" includes peoples "having origins in any of the original people of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa".[7] 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.

Arabs are definitely not classified as white. Arabs consist of countries in the Middle east as well as in North Africa.

In 1993 the Arab American Institute proposed that the 2000 US Census make a new Middle Easterner racial category.[8] 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)[9] with Pakistanis marking "white" in the 2000 US Census to a greater degree than Indian Americans. (pp. 72)[9] 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.

Many 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.[10]

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.[11]. The percentage of Arabs voting Democratic increased sharply after the iraq War and is likely to have increased further 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.[12] 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.

Festivals / Pageants

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


Miss Arab USA Pageant

In 2010 Mr. Ashraf Elgamal has founded the first Miss Arab USA Pageant. The Annual Pageant is founded on the basis of advancing the cause for women of Arab descent. The Pageant is a charity event for the community, uniting Arabs and friends of Arabs in celebrating the Arab cultural heritage in the great nation of The United States of America.

The Miss Arab USA Pageant is managed and produced by The Arab American Association (AAA), a Non-profit organization headquartered in the State of Arizona. The Mission of AAA is a Non-political, Non-religious, Non-profit Organization established to serve and present the Arab American Community, the mission is to document, preserve, celebrate, and educate the public on the history, life, culture and contributions of Arab Americans. AAA strive to serve as a central resource to the public and media to enhance knowledge and understanding about Arab Americans and their presence in USA.

The pageant is just one out many existing development projects that the AAA embarks on. The AAA takes Pageantry to the next level for young Arab women by grooming Arab Queens as great Ambassadors for humanity. The pageant redefines the image of the Arab woman as a leader and a vital partner in the development of The Middle East and the world.

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, 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.[citation needed]

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


  1. ^ Arab American Institute (AAI)
  2. ^ Arab American Population Highlights Arab American Institute Foundation
  3. ^ The Arab Population: 2000
  4. ^ Brittingham, Angela. Ancestry 2000:Census Brief. 2004. October 30, 2006. [1]
  5. ^ The Arab American Institute
  6. ^ Presentation at Al
  7. ^ Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity
  8. ^ Menon, Sridevi. Duke University. "Where is West Asia in Asian America?Asia and the Politics of Space in Asian America." 2004. April 26, 2007. [2]
  9. ^ a b Morning, Ann. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. "The Racial Self-Identification of South Asians in the United States." 2001. July 21, 2007. [3]
  10. ^ Paulson, Amanda. "Rise in Hate Crimes Worries Arab-Americans" (Christian Science Monitor, April 10, 2003). [4]
  11. ^ [5]
  12. ^ Arab American Demographics - Community Outreach - Census

External links


Festival Links

Arab American Organizations


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