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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
Majority Roman Catholicism · Orthodoxy · Protestantism
Shi'a Islam · Sunni Islam · Judaism · Atheism · Agnosticism

An Arab American (Arabic: عرب أميركا`Arab Amrīkā) is a United States citizen or resident of Arab ethnic, cultural and linguistic heritage or identity, who identifies 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 2008 ACS, there are 3,500,000 Arab Americans, accounting for 1.14% of the American population.[1] The largest subgroup is by far the Lebanese Americans, with 501,907,[1] nearly a third of the Arab American population. Over 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.


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 and other Arab nations, which are small in numbers but present nonetheless.

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).[3] (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%.[4] Bayonne, New Jersey, a city of 63,000, reported an Arab-American population of 5.0% in the 2010 US Census.[5]

Arab Americans in the 2000 U.S. Census[6]
Ancestry 2000 % of population
Lebanon Lebanese 440,279 0.2%
Syria Syrian 142,897 0.1%
Egypt Egyptian 142,832 0.1%
Palestinian territories Palestinian 72,112 0.04%
Jordan Jordanian 39,734 0.03%
Morocco Moroccan 37,462 0.03%
Iraq Iraqi 37,714 0.01%
Yemen Yemeni 15,000 0.005%
Other Arabs 424,807 0.2%
TOTAL 1,500,641 0.42%

Religious background

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.[7]

According to the Arab American Institute, the breakdown of religious affiliation among Arab Americans 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 for political reasons.

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.[9]

Census category

The current U.S. Census definition includes white "people having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East or North Africa."[10] However, just like different groups within each country, some of the ancestral and racial heritage of the peoples of not only each Middle East and North African country (Arab or otherwise) is a complex mosaic of elements indigenous to their respective regions, influenced to varying degrees by other elements introduced from historic interactions with the Horn of Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, and Europe, either because of conquests, slave trade, or simply due to proximity.

In 2010, a group of Arab-Americans in Orange County, California, launched a campaign with the slogan "check it right, you ain't White"[11] 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 warned 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.[12]

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.


Today, Arab Americans as a group tend to vote more Democratic than Republican. In a recent 2007 Zogby poll 62% of Arab Americans vote Democratic, while only 25% vote Republican.[13] The percentage of Arabs voting Democratic increased sharply after the Iraq War and is likely to have increased further since the Obama election. 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 strong sense of family values characteristic of Arab Americans does not necessarily translate to Republican values in Arab American statesmen, however; the first woman Supreme Court Chief Justice in Florida, Rosemary Barkett, is known for her dedication to progressive values and has been publicly criticized by Republican politicians at various stages of her career. Ralph Nader is another example of a liberal Arab American politician.

Arab Americans gave George W. Bush a majority of their votes in 2000. However, as a group they backed John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008.

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.[14]

Festivals and pageants

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


Miss USA Pageant

On May 16, 2010 Lebanese American Rima Fakih won the 2010 Miss USA title, after winning the Miss Michigan USA title.She is said to be known as non-practising Muslim.


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

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.
  • Ahmed Ismail Samatar, (Somali), prominent writer, professor and former dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship at Macalester College.
  • 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) 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

Public figures and politicians



See also


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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