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Arab Americans

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A website for K-12 educators featuring innovative resource on the culture, geography, history and religions of the Middle East, including essays, classroom activities, downloadable multimedia content and interactive Google Earth tours.


This section contains full-text readings from a variety of sources. Many of these texts have never been offered online before. They represent a range of scholarly views and interests, and are intended to offer a more in-depth view of selected topics covered in this module. Please be aware that these texts may not be reproduced in any way without the express permission of the original copyright holder, as indicated at the head of each reading.

The readings listed in grey are currently unavailable, as we work toward renewing copyright permission from the publishers.

  • The Arab Immigrant Experience
    Michael W. Suleiman

    This essay is an excellent introduction to the history of Arab immigration to the United States, from the first wave of largely Christian immigrants from Lebanon and Syria that started in the late 19th century, through the more diverse immigrations in the period following World War II. Suleiman considers the different motivations that compelled the two waves, as well as the responses of immigrants to the American context. This article, coupled with Helen Samhan’s article “Who Are Arab-Americans?” is an excellent introduction to the Arab community in the United States. 

  • "Who Are Arab Americans?"
    Helen Samhan

    While Michael Suleiman’s article is a historical overview of the Arab immigrant experience in the United States, this short article by the Executive Director of the Arab American Institute Foundation, is an excellent overview of the Arab American Community in the United States today. The article provides a demographic breakdown of Americans of Arab descent by their place of origin, religion, and places of residence in the United States. It also surveys attitudes of Arab immigrant communities toward aspects of American society, introduces the contributions of Americans of Arab descent in politics and culture, and addresses some of the issues faced by Arab Americans in terms of stereotyping and civil rights.

  • Interview with James Zogby
    Michael A. Toler

    This text is the transcript of an audio interview conducted with James Zogby, President and co-founder of the Arab American Institute in which he discusses the organization, its objectives, methods and successes. Zogby outlines some of the issues of concern to Arab-Americans at all levels, from international to local issues. He also briefly addresses the effect of September 11 on the Arab-American community, and responds to the idea of a “Clash of Civilization between the Islamic World and the West.” Zogby ends the interview on a personal note, when he is asked to comment on a text he wrote in 1999 after the death of his mother and her role in shaping his values.

  • Migration
    Elizabeth Boosahda

    This book by Elizabeth Boosahda, a writer, scholar and third generation Arab-American, focuses on the Arab-American community in Worcester, MA. Between 1880 and 1915, significant numbers of Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese immigrants, both Christian and Muslim, settled in the area establishing the vibrant community documented in the photographs and texts of this book. This text, the second chapter of the book, deals with the voyage of the immigrants from territories still under Ottoman rule to the United States, including the reasons that brought them and the challenges they faced on arrival. Through first hand accounts woven together by Boosahda, the reader is given a sense of what it must have been like to face the health inspections at Ellis Island that could well block their entry, and the communication difficulties that often resulted in people proud of their heritage saddled with mispelled or "Anglicized" versionos of their names. Also described are some of the communal networks that welcomed these new immigrants on arrival.

  • Attachment and Identity: The Palestinian Community of Detroit
    May Seikaly

    This essay focuses on one section of the Arab community in a single city, synthesizing the results of research conducted by the author into the attitudes and values of the Palestinian community in Detroit, Michigan. The essay begins with some demographic information on the Palestinian community in the region as well as a history of their immigration and settlement patterns, then discusses the results of the research in some detail. Those surveyed represented both Muslims and Christians, but all had been resident in Detroit for at least 15 years. They were interviewed on a wide range of topics, including their attitudes toward events in their homeland, their culture, American society, etc. There are extensive references to events in the Middle East. Readers in need of further background on the dates mentioned may wish to consult the timeline in the history unit.

  • The Dynamics of Islamic Identity in North America
    Yvonne Yazbeck-Haddad and John L. Esposito

    In this essay we broaden our focus, shifting from the Arab American community to the larger Muslim community in the United States. The article is a survey of the approaches taken by Muslim Americans to an American society that is increasingly defined as “Judeo-Christian” in spite of the ever-growing numbers of Americans who are Muslim. The essay does not focus on Americans of Arab descent, many of whom are not Muslim, but on the Muslim community as a whole. As the author points out, the Muslim community in this country is ethnically diverse, including immigrants and descendents of immigrants from Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries, as well as converts of all races and ethnicities. Demographics, however, are not the focus of the essay. Rather, it outlines the attitudes of Muslims in the United States with regard to defining Muslim identity, the interaction between Islam and other faiths, the position of Muslims within the larger American society, the degree to which they should participate in political and social structures, the foreign policies of the United States government, issues of race and ethnicity, and several other important issues.

  • Are Arab-Americans People Like Us?
    James Zogby

    In this article, originally published in the Foreign Service Journal of May 2000, James Zogby, the President and CEO of the Arab American Institute, discusses the depictions of Arabs in the media and popular culture, and the impact that such images have on Arab Americans. He analyzes in some detail the ways in which Arabs are portrayed in political cartoons, and in other areas of media and popular culture, finding that Arabs are not treated as “people like us.” Indeed, the depictions, insofar as Arabs are visible at all, are decisively negative. The author maintains that “there is a deep-rooted problem, with historic and religious roots.”

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