1. Who are Arab Americans?
Arab Americans are U.S. citizens and permanent residents who trace their ancestry to or who immigrated from Arabic-speaking places in southwestern Asia and northern Africa, a region known as the Middle East. Not all people in this region are Arabs. Most Arab Americans were born in the United States.

2. How many Arab Americans are there?
This is the subject of some debate. Estimates vary because the U.S. Census Bureau does not use an Arab American classification and because people identify themselves in various ways. Some Arab Americans identify themselves as Middle Eastern, for example. Recent immigrants from many countries are reluctant to give personal and confidential information to the government, and an increasing number of people have more than one ethnicity. Estimates of Arab Americans living in the United States are about 3 million.

3. Where do Arab Americans live?
Arab Americans live in all 50 states, but about a third are concentrated in California, Michigan and New York. Another third are in these seven states: Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.

4. What are the population centers for Arab Americans?
About half of Arab Americans live in 20 metropolitan areas. The top four are Los Angeles County in California; Wayne and Oakland counties in Michigan; Brooklyn, N.Y., and Cook County, Ill.

5. Do Arabs have a shared language?
The Arabic language is one of the great unifying and distinguishing characteristics of Arab people. Even so, colloquial Arabic differs from place to place. There are several categories: Levantine dialect (Jordan, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon), Egyptian and North African dialect, and Khalijji, or Gulf, dialect. Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is a pan-Arabic language used in formal letters, books and newspapers. It is also spoken at Middle East peace conferences and on television news. Quaranic Arabic, like MSA, also is a widely spoken form of the language, but it differs in style and lexicon from MSA. Not all Arab Americans know Arabic, of course, as many are second-, third- and fourth-generation Americans.

6. Do Arabs have a shared religion?
No. Arabs belong to many religions, including Islam, Christianity, Druze, Judaism and others. There are further distinctions within each of these, and some religious groups have evolved new identities and faith practices in the United States. Be careful to distinguish religion from culture. Although Arabs are connected by culture, they have different faiths. Common misperceptions are to think that Arab traditions are Islamic, or that Islam unifies all Arabs. Most Arab Americans are Catholic or Orthodox Christians, but this is not true in all parts of the United States. In some areas most Arab Americans are Muslim.

7. What is the Middle East conflict all about?
This handbook cannot adequately answer that question. The largest conflict in the Middle East is the Arab-Israeli conflict and the struggle over Palestine. In addition to conflicts between Arab countries and Israel, there is disagreement between and within Arab countries. The roots of these conflicts are in some of the world's oldest religions, ethnic differences and boundaries drawn during 20th Century colonialism. For more detailed answers, read some of the books listed in the back of this guide.

8. How does conflict in the Middle East affect Arab Americans?
Because Arabs maintain close family ties, even when separated, and because many Arab-American communities include recent immigrants, most people have a keen interest in news from the Middle East. Remember, too, that one reason many Arab American families immigrated was to escape the very conflicts that continue today. Mideast issues can unify the Arab vote in America. News coverage, including wire stories and headlines, must be balanced, accurate, detailed and fair. Reporters and editors must work to understand the issues.


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

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


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