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Arab American

Arab Americans
عرب أميركيون
Total population


1.14% of the U.S. population (2009)
Regions with significant populations
California · Florida · Illinois · Massachusetts · Michigan · New Jersey · New York, Ohio · Oklahoma · Pennsylvania · Texas.
American English, Arabic
Christianity (Roman Catholicism · Orthodoxy · Protestantism)
Islam (Shi'a Islam · Sunni Islam· Atheism · Agnosticism

Arab Americans (Arabic: عرب أميركا`Arab Amrīkā) are Americans of Arab ethnic, cultural and linguistic heritage or identity, who identify themselves as Arab. 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.

According to the Arab American Institute (AAI), countries of origin for Arab Americans include Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.[2]

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there are 1,697,570 Arab Americans in the United States.[3] 290,893 persons defined themselves as simply Arab, and a further 224,241 as Other Arab. Other groups on the 2010 Census are listed by nation of origin, and some may or may not be Arabs, or regard themselves as Arabs. The largest subgroup is by far the Lebanese Americans, with 501,907,[1] followed by; Egyptian American with 190,078, Syrian American with 148,214, Iraqi American with 105,981, Palestinian American with 93,438, Moroccan American with 82,073 and Jordanian American with 61,664. Approximately 1/4 of all Arab Americans claimed two ancestries, 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.

A number of peoples from predominantly Arab countries resident in the United States are not classified as Arabs, including; Yazidis, Balochs,Greeks, Iranians and Kawliya/Roma. In addition many Lebanese Maronite Christians, Syrian Christians and Egyptian Copts also eschew an Arab ethnic identity, preferring Phoenician, Ancient Egyptian identities respectively.


  • Population 1
  • Religious background 2
  • Arab-American identity 3
  • Politics 4
  • Festivals 5
  • Famous Arab Americans 6
    • Pageants 6.1
    • Entertainment 6.2
    • Sports 6.3
    • Writers and thinkers 6.4
    • Public figures and politicians 6.5
    • Business 6.6
    • Scientists 6.7
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10
    • Festival Links 10.1
    • Arab American Organizations 10.2


The majority of Arab Americans, around 62%, originate from the region of the Levant, which includes Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan, although overwhelmingly from Lebanon. The remainder are made up of those from Egypt, Somalia, Morocco, Iraq, Libya, the GCC and other Arab nations.

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 in Washington, D.C. - and 94% reside in the metropolitan areas of major cities. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city with the largest percentage of Arab Americans is Dearborn, Michigan, a southwestern suburb of Detroit, at nearly 40%. The Detroit metropolitan area is home to the largest concentration of Arab Americans (403,445), followed by the New York City Combined Statistical Area (371,233), Los Angeles (308,295), Chicago (176,208), and the Washington D.C area. (168,208).[4] (NOTE: This information is reportedly based upon survey findings, but is contradicted by information posted on the Arab American Institute website itself, which states that California as a whole only has 272,485, and Michigan as a whole only 191,607. 2010 American Community Survey information from the American Factfinder website gives a figure of about 168,000 for Michigan.)

Sorting by American states, 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.

The cities with 100,000 or more in 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%.[5] Bayonne, New Jersey, a city of 63,000, reported an Arab-American population of 5.0% in the 2010 US Census.[6]

Arab Americans in the 2000[7] - 2010 U.S. Census[8][note 1]
Ancestry 2000 2000 (% of US population) 2010 2010 (% of US population)
Lebanese 440,279 0.2% 501,988 %
Syrian 142,897 0.1% 148,214 %
Egyptian 142,832 0.1% 190,078 %
Palestinian 72,096 0.04% 93,438 %
Jordanian 39,734 0.03% 61,664 %
Moroccan 38,923 0.03% 82,073 %
Iraqi 37,714 0.01% 105,981 %
Yemeni 11,654 0.005% 29,358 [9] %
Algerian 8,752 % 14,716 %
Saudi 7,419 % %
Tunisian 4,735 % %
Kuwaiti 3,162 % %
Libyan 2,979 % %
Emirati 459 % %
Omani 351 % %
"North African" 3,217 % %
"Arabs" 85,151 % 290,893 %
"Arabic" 120,665 % %
Other Arabs % 224,241 %
TOTAL 1,160,729 TOTAL 1,697,570 %

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.[10]

According to the Arab American Institute, the breakdown of religious affiliation among persons originating from Arab countries 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 almost all immigrants were Christians. Most Maronites 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 emigrating 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. Overlapping 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.

Arab Christians, especially from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Egypt, continue to immigrate into the U.S. in the 2000s and continue to form new enclaves and communities across the country.[12]

Arab-American identity

The Arab American National Museum celebrates the history of Arab Americans

The current U.S. Census definition of white is "people having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East or North Africa."[13] This definition differs from that of some other countries, such as the United Kingdom, which classify Arabs as an ethnic group distinct from whites.[14] The American definition stemmed from a legal battle won by Arabs in the early 20th century, where Syrians previously barred by courts from immigrating to the United States (owing to their alleged "Asiatic" racial ancestry), won the right to be classified as "white" under federal law. Today, many modern Arab Americans reject the U.S. Census classification, arguing that they are not perceived or treated as white by non-Arab Americans.[15] In 2010, a group of Arab-Americans in Orange County, California, launched a campaign with the slogan "Check it right, you ain't white"[16] to encourage Arabs to check the box that says "Other" when filling out their 2010 United States Census form and identify themselves as "Arab" or their specific country of origin.

The Arab American Institute and other groups have noted that there was a rise in hate crimes targeting the Arab American community as well as people perceived as Arab/Muslim after the September 11 attacks and the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq.[17]

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 (these are not necessarily therefore Arabs). 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 group by national origin, Lebanese Americans identifying as Arab Americans may be smaller than, for instance, Yemeni Americans.


In a 2007 Zogby poll 62% of Arab Americans vote Democratic, while only 25% vote Republican.[18] The percentage of Arabs voting Democratic increased sharply during the Iraq War. 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 first woman Supreme Court Chief Justice in Florida, Rosemary Barkett, who is of Syrian descent is known for her dedication to progressive values.

Arab Americans gave 2000. However, they backed John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012.

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.[19]


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

New York City

The Annual Arab-American & North African Street Festival was founded in 2002 by the Network of Arab-American Professionals of NY (NAAP-NY). Located in downtown Manhattan, on Great Jones Street between Lafayette & Broadway, the Festival attracts an estimated 15,000 people, in addition to over 30 Arab and North African vendors along with an all-day live cultural performance program representing performers from across the Arab world.

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.


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 2 in Glendale, Arizona. More than 40,000 attendees over the two-day 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


The Annual Arab American Day Festival is a three-day cultural and entertainment event held in Orange County. Activities include book and folk arts exhibitions, speeches from community leaders in the county, as well as music and poetry, dancing singing, traditional food, hookah and much more. Official website


Since 1996, Milwaukee's Arab World Fest has been part of the summer festival season and is held during the second weekend of August. This three day event hosts music, culture and food celebrating the 22 Arabic countries. The festival features live entertainment, belly dancing, hookah rental, camel rides, cooking demonstrations, a children's area and great Arabic food. A fun, family friendly festival on Milwaukee's lake front. Official website

Famous Arab Americans

Here are a few examples of famous Arab Americans and Americans with partial Arab ancestry in a variety of fields.




Writers and thinkers

  • Gibran Khalil Gibran, (Lebanese) writer, philosopher, and painter.
  • Suzy Kassem, (Egyptian) film director, writer and poet
  • Edward Said, (Palestinian) literary theorist and outspoken Palestinian activist.
  • Diana Abu-Jaber, (Jordanian) novelist, and professor.
  • Helen Thomas, (Lebanese) reporter, columnist and White House correspondent.
  • Ismail al-Faruqi, (Palestinian) philosopher and authority on Islam and comparative religion.
  • Laila Lalami, (Moroccan) novelist, journalist, essayist, and professor.
  • Hady Amr, (Lebanese father) diplomat and founding director, Brookings Doha Center.
  • Mona Simpson, (Syrian father Abdulfattah Jandali) novelist.
  • 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.Levantine Cultural Center.
  • Ameen al-Rihani, (Lebanese) writer
  • Abdisalam Aato, (Somali) film director, producer, entrepreneur and media consultant.
  • Steven Salaita, (Palestinian and Jordanian) expert on comparative literature and post-colonialism, writer, activist

Public figures and politicians



See also


  1. ^ In this list are not included Sudanese since, in 2000 and 2010, Sudan and South Sudan were yet one country and yet we only have quantitative data from these groups together. Only the people of Northern Sudan are Arabs, but most Sudanese Americans hailed from the South Sudan. The 2000 - 2010 US Census indicate not the number of Americans of Sudanese (excluding South Sudanese) origin or descent.


  1. ^ a b "B04003. TOTAL ANCESTRY REPORTED". 2008 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.  
  2. ^ "Arab American Institute – Texas". Arab American Institute. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Arab American Population Highlights Arab American Institute Foundation
  5. ^ The Arab Population: 2000
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Table 1. First, Second, and Total Responses to the Ancestry Question by Detailed Ancestry Code: 2000". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2010-12-02. 
  8. ^ "Total ancestry categories tallied for people with one or more ancestry categories reported 2010 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates".  
  9. ^ "CITIZENSHIP STATUS IN THE UNITED STATES: Total population in the United States. 2006-2010 American Community Survey Selected Population Tables.". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-12-06. 
  10. ^ The Arab American Institute
  11. ^ Presentation at Al
  12. ^
  13. ^ Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity
  14. ^ "Ethnic Group." Office for National Statistics
  15. ^ "Not Quite White: Race Classification and the Arab American Experience." Arab American Institute
  16. ^ NPR: Arab-American Census Activists Say 'Check It Right'
  17. ^ Paulson, Amanda. "Rise in Hate Crimes Worries Arab-Americans" (Christian Science Monitor, April 10, 2003). [1]
  18. ^ [2]
  19. ^ Arab American Demographics - Community Outreach - Census
  20. ^ Thomas Omestad (11 May 2011). "Boustany Calls for Clear U.S. Strategy on Lebanon". Retrieved 5 July 2012. 
  21. ^ Brandon Richards (28 August 2009). "Crowley native, wife of Kennedy at center of national spotlight". Retrieved 5 July 2012. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Steve Jobs' Father Regrets Adoption, Hasn't Met Apple Founder"
  24. ^ Sheridan, Mary Beth, "Leader Named at Mosque; Falls Church Site Selects Activist," Washington Post, June 11, 2005, accessed November 7, 2009
  25. ^ "A CONVERSATION WITH/NAWAL NOUR; A Life Devoted to Stopping The Suffering of Mutilation", The New York Times, Claudia Dreifus, July 11, 2000

External links

  • 2000 U.S. Census Report on the Arab-American population
  • Learn more at the Arab American Museum located in Dearborn, Michigan.
  • A full definition of Arab Americans
  • Arab American Demographics
  • Us4Arabs - Arab American Community Website

Festival Links

  • Arab American Festival
  • New York Arab American Comedy Festival
  • Seattle ArabFest
  • Concert of Colors: Metro Detroit's Diversity Festival (ACCESS/AANM)
  • Dearborn Arab International Festival
  • Arab-American and North African Cultural Festival

Arab American Organizations

  • Arab Center of Washington
  • Arab American Association
  • List of Arab American Organizations
  • American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
  • Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military
  • The Arab American Council Of Trade
  • Levantine Cultural Center
  • Network of Arab-American Professionals (NAAP)
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