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ARAB

AMERICAN
EXPERIENCE
OVERVIEW
• Definition of an Arab American
• Identify Arab American Demographics
• Arab American immigration
• Arab American cultural norms
• Identify the five pillars of Islam
• Definition of Muslim
• Sources of Anti-Arab sentiment in the U.S.
• Contemporary Arab American Issues
DEFINITION

ARAB AMERICAN is the term given to persons


who immigrated to the United States from a group
of independent nation-states in North Africa and the
Middle East. They have a common linguistic and cultural
heritage that has been shaped primarily by the religions
of Islam and Christianity.
ARAB AMERICAN
DEMOGRAPHICS
• Population
– Over 3 million, some estimate nearly 5 million
• Religious Affiliation
– majority (70%) have a Christian affiliation
– Muslim/Islamic affiliation (30%)
• Geographic Distribution
– the area’s where the majority have settled includes:
• New York, Los Angles, San Francisco, Detroit, Washington DC,
Houston, Chicago, and Jacksonville
ARAB AMERICAN
IMMIGRATION
• Early Immigration (1886-1914)

• Between World War I and World War II


(1915-1945)

• The later immigration period


EARLY IMMIGRATION
PERIOD (1886-1914)
• A majority of Arab immigrants came from greater Syria, Lebanon,
Palestine, Jordan, and occasionally Iraq.
• Reasons for immigration included, a neglect for the Christian religion,
the draft, a bloody war between religions, and the fact that American
Christian missionaries were active among the Syrian Christians who built
hospitals, schools and churches which left a favorable impression on
America. Many eventually lost their Islamic Identity as time went by.
• Most of these immigrants were poor, uneducated, and looking for new
opportunities. They had a big distaste for indoor factory work, many
chose door to door peddling and often made sufficient money to send for
family members. There were many working as slaves on plantations.
Eventually many opened MOM and POP type stores.
BETWEEN WWI AND WWII
(1915-1945)

• During this period, The United States Congress passed


legislation that restricted immigration. These laws had an
effect of slowing the movement of Arab Americans into the
country
THE LATER IMMIGRATION
PERIOD (1946 -)
• Most of these Arab immigrants came from Egypt, Iran, and Palestine .
• Major reason for immigration was to study in our universities and many
decided to stay .
• Most of these immigrants were largely educated, professional, and of
the Muslim faith. Most of this group has been able to retain more of
their culture and religion unlike the earlier immigrants.
• While the earlier immigrants found it easier and desirable to fully
assimilate into the American mainstream, the newer arrivals seem more
prone to retain their Arab culture.
ARAB AMERICAN
CULTURAL NORMS
• Values and beliefs
• Basic Arab self-perceptions
• Concept of Friendship
• Concept of Fatalism
• Men and Women
• Status of Women
• Social Class System
• Role of the Family
VALUES AND BELIEFS

• Basic Arab Values:


– Dignity, Honor, and reputation are of paramount importance to an
Arab. Typically an Arab will deport himself/herself in such a way as
to create a good impression.
– Loyalty to the family takes precedence over all personal needs
– Piety (devotion to religion) is one of the most admirable
characteristics.
– There is no separation between church and state in many Arab
Nations. Religion is taught in schools and promoted by the
Government.
– Religion is a way of life in both waves of immigration
BASIC ARAB SELF-
PERCEPTIONS

• Arabs are generous, humanitarian, polite, and loyal.


• Have a rich cultural heritage.
• Clearly defined cultural group i.e., “Arab Nation”.
• Have been victimized by the West.
• Arabs are misunderstood in the West.
CONCEPT OF FRIENDSHIP
• Concept of “save face”, let the other party find their own way out of a situation
• You should never refuse a request from a friend
• Introductions:
– social status is discussed at some length
– social connections are very important
– interested in family background and social connections before decision to become friends
• Business Relationships:
– a good personal relationship is the most important single factor in doing business with Arabs,
Americans traditionally want to get right down to business. This style will not bring success
CONCEPT OF FRIENDSHIP
cont...
• Criticism:
– Forthright criticism is always almost taken as personal
and destructive
– It is important to avoid direct and frank criticism.
– Tact must be employed to protect the other persons public
image, and avoid insult
CONCEPT OF FATALISM

• In the West we generally believe humans have the


right to control their environment and their destiny.
• Arabs do not believe in this Ideology.
• In fact, too much self-confidence may be interpreted
as blasphemy.
• This can sometimes enable Arabs to assert when
they fail that they were not at fault - rather, it was
“God’s will”
MEN AND WOMEN
• Accuracy of statements concerning the relationship between
men and women will vary based on the country discussed.
Saudi Arabia is the most conservative
• As a general rule women interact freely only with other
women and very close male relatives. Women and men are
never alone together even for a short period of time
• As a foreigner, if you are seen to be too familiar with
someone of the opposite sex you will lose respect.
MEN AND WOMEN cont...

• The public display of intimacy between men and


women is strictly forbidden by the Arab social code
• This code also applies to husbands and wives
• The maintenance of family honor is one of the highest
values in Arab society.
• In Arab cultures, misbehavior by women can do more
damage to family honor than misbehavior by men
THE STATUS OF WOMEN
• Statements here vary in applicability depending on the country
involved. For instance, in Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt, educated
women have been very active at all levels of society.
• In the Persian Gulf States, most women do not work. Those who
do, work only in all-female environments such as schools and
banks for women, except those in the medical profession
• Some changes in the work aspect are changing
• Typically, women's focus is in the house
• Traditionally-oriented men and women don’t see prevailing
customs as restrictive-rather as protection
• Western women are allowed some leeway
SOCIAL CLASS SYSTEM
• Four basic social classes in the Arab world:
– Upper class: Royalty and Wealthy
– Middle class: Govt.. workers, military officers, teachers and merchants
– Lower class: peasant farmers, urban and village poor
– Nomadic Bedouins: typically admired for preserving Arab traditions,
move from place to place
• Western foreigners are usually considered upper
• Not much tension between classes due to Arabs seeing their
position determines by fate (Allah)
• Upper class do not perform manual labor in public, and do not
socialize with lower class
THE ROLE OF THE FAMILY

• Family loyalty and obligation take precedence over


loyalty to friends or the demand of a job
• Family is seen as a persons ultimate refuge
• In all cases, one must defend the honor of family
members, even if you hate them or think they are wrong
• Arab man head of the household
• Wife operates behind the scenes
• Children are taught profound respect for adults
THE ROLE OF THE FAMILY
cont..
• Marriage
– Most Arabs still prefer arranged marriages
– This is done to keep dowry within the family
– The family always plays a major role in the decision of any member to wed
• Polygamy
– is becoming rare
– can be married to more than one women, but everyone is equal, no one gets
anymore than the other
• Divorce
– Is very controlled, must pay substantially to the wife, must be asked three
times in a public place w/witnesses
RELIGION AND SOCIETY
• Religious toleration
– Arabs truly believe in religion
– Do not have any tolerance for atheists or agnostics
• People of the book
– Mohammed is believed to be the last in a long line of
prophets sent from God which includes Jesus
– Respect other prophets as well
– Respect all faiths
RELIGION AND SOCIETY
cont..
• Koran
– Contains many of the same stories as the Bible
– Actual word of God given to Mohammed
• Two main sects of Islam are the Sunnis and the
Shiite
• Most Muslim Arabs belong to the Sunni sect
THE FIVE PILLARS OF
ISLAM
• These are the five basic tenets of the Islamic faith
– 1. FAITH There is only one God and Mohammed is the messenger of God
– 2. PRAYER Prayer five times a day
– 3. THE ZAKAT Giving charity to poor 2.5% yearly
– 4. THE FAST Fasting during the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month
of the Islamic lunar calendar. During Ramadan, Moslems do not eat, drink, or
smoke between sunrise and sunset. Purpose is to experience hunger and deprivation
and to perform acts of self-discipline, humility, and faith
– 5. PILGRIMAGE to Mecca at least once during ones lifetime if it is not a
financial hardship
DEFINITION OF MUSLIM
• Islam is not a new religion, both a religion and a way of life
• The word Islam means submission and derives from a word meaning
peace
• Allah is the Arabic name for God
• Islam and Christianity have the same origins , with Judaism they go back
to the prophet Abraham and their three prophets who are directly
descended from his sons Mohammed from the eldest, Ishmael, Moses,
and Jesus from Isaac
MUSLIM cont..
• Muslims believe in:
– In one unique, incomparable God
– In the angels created by him
– In the prophets through whom his revelations were brought
– In the day of judgement and individual accountability for actions
– In Gods complete authority over human destiny and in life after death
– Gods final message to man was revealed to the prophet Mohammed
through Gabriel
MUSLIM cont..
• Fatalism: belief or attitude that events are fixed in advance for all time in
such a manner that human beings are powerless to change them
• May become Muslim by simply saying “there is no God apart from God,
and Mohammed is the messenger of God.”
• Koran:
– Record of exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet
Mohammed. Memorized by Mohammed and dictated to his companions. Not one
word of its 114 chapters has been changed over the last 14 centuries
MUSLIM cont..
• The Koran is the last revealed word of God, and is the
primary source of every Muslims faith and practice
• Muslims respect and revere Jesus, and await his second
coming
• Muslims forbid the consumption of pig meat or any kind
of intoxicating drink
ANTI ARAB SENTIMENT IN
THE U. S.
• Political violence
– Extremists perceive their actions to be part of the wider Arab-Israeli conflict with the
struggle against the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people as a whole. Actions are
ideologically motivated and premeditated.
• Xenophobia
– (pertaining to Arab Americans) Locally inspired hostility and violence toward Arab
Americans, Muslims, and Middle Easterners and their institutions
• Jingoistic Racism
– A blend of knee jerk patriotism and home grown white racism toward non-European,
non-Christian, dark skinned peoples, which is normally premeditated
CONTEMPORARY ARAB
AMERICAN ISSUES
• Targeted in airports/bombings
• Arab-Israeli conflict
– Of all the issues considered, this is the most important
– Perception that Arab Americans only support a Palestine homeland and do not care about Israel
• American role in the Middle East
– Most Arab Americans feel the U.S. should continue to use political influence to resolve issues in the
Middle East

• Kuwait
– Arab Americans are in favor of the future democracy of the Kuwaiti Government and for other Arab states
as well
CONTEMPORARY ARAB
AMERICAN ISSUES cont..
• Discrimination in the U.S.
– The biggest concern of Arab Americans is the feeling, as a
whole, they are being discriminated against because of the
perception that terrorists are only Arabs. They feel they are
receiving the backlash of terrorism and of hostage taking
SUMMARY
• Definition of an Arab American
• Identify Arab American Demographics
• Arab American immigration
• Arab American cultural norms
• Identify the five pillars of Islam
• Definition of Muslim
• Sources of Anti-Arab sentiment in the U.S.
• Contemporary Arab American Issues