Like all people, Arab Americans are too often described in simplistic terms. Although the Arab culture is one of the oldest on Earth, it is, in many parts of the United States, misunderstood. There are no easy, one-size-fits-all answers. Culture, language and religion are distinct qualities that act in different ways to connect Arabs, and to distinguish them from one another.

The differences that seem to separate Arab Americans from non-Arabs can be much smaller than the variations that at times differentiate them from one another. It takes time to learn the issues and to understand them, but it is essential and rewarding for us to do that. Misunderstanding ultimately hurts each one of us.

At the Detroit Free Press, published in the city with the United States' most concentrated Arab-American population, we try to better understand and explain these issues daily. After consulting with others, we offer this guide as a step toward more accurate journalistic portrayals of Arab Americans.

The 100 questions and answers contained herein only touch on the issues. We urge you to give these issues the attention they deserve by continuing to read, to interview sources on all sides and to make a long-term commitment to increasing your understanding. For it is only with understanding that we can practice fair and accurate journalism.

1. Who are Arab Americans?
2. How many Arab Americans are there?
3. Where do Arab Americans live?
4. What are the population centers for Arab Americans?
5. Do Arabs have a shared language?
6. Do Arabs have a shared religion?
7. What is the Middle East conflict all about?
8. How does conflict in the Middle East affect Arab Americans?

9. To which places do Arab Americans trace their ancestry?
10. Is Palestine a country?
11. Shouldn't Iran be in that list?
12. So, not all people from the Middle East are Arabs?
13. Are there other groups from the Arab region?
14. Who are Chaldeans?
15. So, are Chaldeans Arabs, or not?

16. Is Arabic the only language spoken within the Arab world?
17. So, do all Arab Americans speak one of these languages?
18. Many recently immigrated Arab Americans also know French. Why is that?
19. Do Arab schools teach other languages?
20. Is there any advice on pronouncing Arabic names?
21. Is there any trick to spelling Arabic words?
22. How is Arabic written?
23. Are characters in Arabic different than those used to write English?

24. When did Arab people come to the United States?
25. Why did Arabs first come to the United States?
26. What prompted the second wave?
27. What race are Arab Americans?
28. Are Arabs a minority group?
29. Are Arab Americans more closely tied to their country of origin, or to America?
30. Who are some well-known Arab Americans?
31. Does the U.S. Census Bureau collect data on Arab Americans?
32. What is the educational level of Arab Americans?
33. What occupations do Arab Americans pursue?
34. How do Arab Americans fare economically?

35. What is the role of the family in Arab culture?
36. Do Arab Americans maintain ties with their home countries?
37. What are gender roles like for Arab Americans?
38. Do Arab Americans have large families?
39. What kind of relationship does cousin mean to Arab Americans?
40. Do generations of Arab Americans live together?
41. Do Arab Americans typically get married at a younger age than non-Arabs?
42. Are marriages arranged?
43. Do Arab Americans prefer to marry each other?
44. Are there any Arab conventions for naming children?
45. What does the title Umm or Abu mean as part of a name?
46. What do Arabs mean when they refer to someone as Auntie?

47. Why do some Arab women wear garments that cover their faces or heads?
48. What garments might a woman wear to practice hijab?
49. Some Arab men wear a checked garment on their heads. What is that?
50. Why do some Arab women dress in black?
51. What is an appropriate way to greet an Arab American?
52. What are the customs for paying compliments?
53. What about gift-giving?
54. What is Middle-Eastern food like?
55. What is that pipe I sometimes see people smoking?

56. Do most Arab Americans belong to the same religion?
57. Is Islam mostly an Arab religion, then?
58. What is the Quran?
59. What is the difference between Islam and Muslim?
60. What are the five pillars of Islam?
61. What is Ramadan?
62. What is the proper greeting during Ramadan?
63. Must Arabs make a journey to Mecca?
64. What does hajj mean?
65. What is the difference between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims?
66. Are there restrictions on entering a mosque?
67. Is it OK to take pictures there?
68. Who is an imam?
69. What are important Islamic holidays?
70. Where is the headquarters for Islam?
71. Why do some Arab men decline to shake hands with women?
72. Is the Nation of Islam related to Islam?
73. What is Eastern rite or Eastern Orthodox?
74. Who are Coptics?
75. What does Allah mean?
76. Why do Muslims face east when they pray?
77. What are the other two holy cities?

78. Are Arab Americans active in U.S. politics?
79. Have Arab Americans won major political offices?
80. Who are some prominent Arab-American politicians?
81. Is there an Arab lobby?

82. Should I say Arab, Arabic or Arabian?
83. Is Arab American, or American Arab preferred?
84. How should I refer to an Arab-American individual?
85. What if the story is about Arab Americans whose ethnicity is not relevant to the story?
86. What does Mohammedanism mean?
87. Is it Muslim or Moslem?
88. Who is a sheik?

89. Are Arabs oil-rich?
90. Are Arabs mostly a nomadic people?
91. Do Arabs come from the desert?
92. Are Arabs frequently involved in terrorism?
93. What is meant by the phrase "Islamic fundamentalist"?
94. Is Islam a violent religion?
95. Are Arab-American women subservient to men?
96. What is that charm with the eye or an eye on a hand?

97. How can I find Arab Americans in my community?
98. Are there issues about the way Arab Americans are portrayed in the media?
99. Is there a coverage pitfall that reporters should avoid?
100. How can I learn more?


Contents :: Overview :: Origins :: Language :: Demographics :: Family :: Customs

Religion :: Politics :: Terminology :: Stereotypes :: Coverage :: Resources :: Credits


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