Arab American

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.

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.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there are 1,697,570 Arab Americans in the United States. 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, 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; Assyrians (aka Chaldo-Assyrians) Berbers, Jews, Kurds, Turkmen, Azeris, Mandeans, Circassians, Shabaki, Armenians, Turks, Mhallami, Georgians, Yazidis, Balochs, Greeks, Iranians and Kawliya/Roma.


Arab American

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

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.

According to the Arab American Institute, the breakdown of religious affiliation among persons originating from Arab countries is as follows:

  • 63% Christian
    • 35% Catholic (Roman Rite Catholics & Eastern Catholics â€" Maronites and Melkites)
    • 18% Orthodox (Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox)
    • 10% Protestant
  • 24% Muslim
  • 13% Other; No Affiliation

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).

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.

Non-Arab Americans from the Middle-East

Arab American

There are many immigrants to America from Middle-East countries who are not classified as Arabs. Among these are Armenian Americans, Kurdish Americans, Azeris, and Jewish Americans of Mizrahi origin. It is very difficult to estimate the size of these communities. For example, some Kurds immigrated from Iraq, but also from Turkey and other non-Arabic speaking countries. Estimates place these communities at least in the tens of thousands. Other smaller communities include Assyrians (aka Chaldo-Assyrians) Berbers, Turkmen, Mandeans, Circassians, Shabaki, Turks, Mhallami, Georgians, Yazidis, Balochs, Greeks, Iranians and Kawliya/Roma.

Most of these ethnic groups speak their own native languages (not Arabic) and have their own customs, though some (for example, Berbers) speak their own dialect of Arabic. Nor is the distinction between Arab and non-Arab identity always clear-cut. For example, Aviva Uri, in her study of Mizrahi Jews in America, writes that "activists and writers in the United States, both gentile Arab and Jewish, are legitimizing through their various activities and publications the identity of Mizrahim as Arab Jews."

Arab-American identity

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." This definition differs from that of some other countries, such as the United Kingdom, which classify Arabs as an ethnic group distinct from whites. Additionally, Arabs were not considered to be white as a matter of law for most of American history. The change in legal classification of Arabs, from nonwhite to white, arose in 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 Arab Americans reject the U.S. Census classification, arguing that they are not perceived or treated as white by non-Arab Americans. In 2010, a group of Arab-Americans in Orange County, California, launched a campaign with the slogan "Check it right, you ain't white" 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. In 2014, the US Census Bureau announced it may establish an additional new racial category for populations from the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab world.

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.

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.

The Paterson, New Jersey-based Arab American Civic Association runs an Arabic language program in the Paterson school district.


In a 2007 Zogby poll 62% of Arab Americans vote Democratic, while only 25% vote Republican. 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 George W. Bush a majority of their votes in 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.

The values of Arab Americans are more similar to those of the Arab world than those of the American population on average, by being more closely aligned to the strong traditional and strong survival values. This diminishes with secularization and second and subsequent generations.

Arab American Heritage Month

In 2014, Montgomery County, Maryland designated April as Arab American Heritage Month in recognition of the contributions that Arab Americans have made to the nation.


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. There were more than 40,000 attendees over the two-day event; more than 35 international singers, dancers and musicians from all over the Arab World performed 20 hours of live entertainment on stage. Activities included folklore shows, an international food court, hookah lounge, kids rides and booth vendors, open to the public, and admission was free.


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.


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

Famous Arab Americans

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


  • Rima Fakih, (Lebanese) winner of 2010 Miss USA title, after previously being crowned as Miss Michigan USA.


  • Adam Saleh, (Yemeni) Youtuber in NYC.
  • Ferras, (Jordanian) Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter.
  • Iman, (Somali) model and actress.
  • RedOne, (Moroccan) Producer, Songwriter, Music Executive.
  • Najee Mondalek, (Lebanese) Actor/Producer/Playwright.
  • Jawahir Ahmed, (Somali) model.
  • Moustapha Akkad, (Syrian) film producer and director.
  • Zaida Ben-Yusuf, (Algerian mother) portrait photographer.
  • Malek Jandali, (Syrian) recording artist, composer and pianist.
  • DJ Khaled, (Palestinian) rapper, music producer.
  • Frank Zappa, (half Arab father) musician.
  • Mohammed Fairouz, (Arab) musician/composer.
  • Kassem Gharaibeh, (Egyptian/Jordanian) comedian and actor and the 18th Most Subscribed of all time on YouTube.
  • Paul Anka, (Lebanese) singer/songwriter.
  • Vince Vaughn, (partially Lebanese) actor.
  • Ronnie Khalil, (Egyptian) stand-up comedian.
  • Shannon Elizabeth, (Syrian father) actress.
  • Tony Shalhoub, (Lebanese) executive producer and actor of Monk.
  • Fredwreck, (Palestinian) hip hop producer.
  • Qusai Kheder. (Saudi) rapper, singer/songwriter, record producer, television personality, and DJ
  • Hoda Kotb, (Egyptian) television news personality for Dateline NBC and the Today Show.
  • Jamie Farr, (Lebanese) Hollywood actor especially famous for his role as Klinger (also Lebanese) in the TV series "M*A*S*H".
  • Danny Thomas, (Lebanese) actor and his daughter Marlo Thomas, actress.
  • Casey Kasem, (Lebanese) radio personality and voice actor.
  • Anissa Jones, {Lebanese maternal grandparents} actress Family Affair.
  • Vic Tayback, (Syrian), actor.
  • Mohammed Amer, (Palestinian parents, born in Kuwait) Comedian, writer, actor. Rolling Stone, Al Barnameg, Allah Made Me Funny.
  • Michael Ansara, (Syrian), actor.
  • Fawaz Gerges, (Lebanese) ABC analyst and regular guest on Oprah's Anti-war series.
  • Kathy Najimy, (Lebanese) actress in many American films that include Sister Act.
  • Wafah Dufour, (Saudi Arabian father) supermodel and singer
  • Lorraine Ali, (Iraqi) reporter, editor, culture writer, and music critic for Newsweek.
  • Wentworth Miller, (Part Syrian/Lebanese) actor.
  • Sanaa Hamri, (Moroccan) music video and movie director; her films include the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.
  • George Noory, (Lebanese) radio host, host of Coast To Coast AM with George Noory.
  • Hala Gorani, (Syrian) CNN International news correspondent.
  • Yousef Abu-Taleb, (Jordanian) actor lonelygirl15, Film Producer
  • Rima Fakih, (Lebanese) Miss USA 2010
  • Remy Munasifi, (Iraqi father/Lebanese mother) comedian also known an GoRemy.
  • Wendie Malick, (Egyptian father), actress and fashion model
  • Sean Yazbeck, (Lebanese), winner of Donald Trumps 'The Apprentice', NBC (2006)
  • Yasmine Bleeth, (Algerian mother), actress
  • Dick Dale, (Part Lebanese), musician, known as the "King of the Surf Guitar."
  • French Montana, (Moroccan) New York rapper
  • Stephan Said, (Iraqi descent), musician, writer, global justice activist


  • Ahmed Kaddour, (Lebanese) professional boxer, from NBC show The Contender
  • Bill George, NFL player and Hall of Famer
  • Drew Haddad, (Jordanian) of the Indianapolis Colts
  • Doug Flutie, (Lebanese father) NFL Player of the Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers.
  • Gavin Maloof, businessman and owner of the Sacramento Kings
  • George Maloof, Sr. businessman and former owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets
  • Isra Girgrah, female boxer.
  • Jeff George, quarterback for several NFL teams
  • Jim Harrick, UCLA’s coach
  • Joe Robbie, former owner and founder of the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
  • John Jaha, sports athlete, of the MLB Milwaukee Brewers.
  • Justin Abdelkader, (Jordanian) ice hockey forward playing for the NHL's Detroit Red Wings.
  • Brandon Saad, (Syrian) ice hockey winger playing for the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks. 2013 Stanley Cup champion.
  • Khalid Khannouchi, (Moroccan) marathon world record holder.
  • Oday Aboushi, (Palestinian) NFL Player of the New York Jets.
  • Omar Sheika, (Palestinian) professional boxer, four-time world title challenger.
  • Rich Kotite, NFL coach
  • Rocco Baldelli, (Syrian) professional baseball Red Sox.
  • Rony Seikaly, (Lebanese) Former NBA Player, now DJ
  • Ramsey Nijem (Palestinian) Mixed Martial Artist and UFC fighter.
  • Amir Khillah (Egyptian) Mixed Martial Artist and The Ultimate Fighter Contestant
  • Sarah Attar (Saudi Arabian father) Track and Field athlete
  • Soony Saad, (Lebanese) soccer forward playing for Sporting Kansas City in Major League Soccer.
  • Damien Sandow, (Lebanese) WWE wrestler

Writers and thinkers

  • Gibran Khalil Gibran, (Lebanese) writer, philosopher, and painter.
  • Suzy Kassem, (Egyptian) film director, philosopher, and writer.
  • 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

  • Victor G. Atiyeh, (Syrian) former Governor of Oregon.
  • Victoria Reggie Kennedy, (Lebanese) attorney and widow of late Senator Ted Kennedy.
  • Charles Boustany, (Lebanese) US Representative from Louisiana. Cousin of Victoria Reggie Kennedy
  • Selwa Roosevelt, (Lebanese) former Chief of Protocol of the United States and wife of the late Archibald Bulloch Roosevelt, Jr., grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt.
  • Jill Kelley, (Lebanese) Global Advocate and American Socialite.
  • John E. Sununu, (Palestinian) senator from New Hampshire.
  • Spencer Abraham, (Lebanese) senator from Michigan and Secretary of Energy under Bush.
  • Nick Rahall, (Lebanese) congressman from West Virginia.
  • Justin Amash (Palestinian/Syrian) United States Congressman from Michigan
  • John H. Sununu, (Palestinian) Governor of New Hampshire and White House Chief of Staff under George H. W. Bush.
  • George J. Mitchell, (Lebanese) United States of America special envoy to the Middle East under the Obama administration, U.S. senator from Maine, Senate Majority Leader.
  • James Jabara, (Lebanese), colonel and Korean War flying ace.
  • John Abizaid, (Lebanese), retired general.
  • George Joulwan, (Lebanese), retired general, former NATO commander-in-chief.
  • Zainab Salbi, (Iraqi), co-founder and president of Women for Women International.
  • Rosemary Barkett, (Syrian), U.S. federal judge and the first woman Supreme Court Justice and Chief Justice for the state of Florida.
  • James Zogby, (Lebanese) founder and president of the Arab American Institute.
  • Nadya Suleman, (Iraqi father), "Octomom"
  • Donna Shalala, (Lebanese), Secretary of Health and Human Services under Bill Clinton


  • Abdulkadir Ali, (Somali) entrepreneur; former President of the Somali American Chamber of Commerce.
  • Steve Jobs, (Syrian biological father Abdulfattah Jandali) co-founder of Apple Inc. .
  • Moose Scheib, (Lebanese) founder and CEO of
  • Mohamed A. El-Erian, (Egyptian) CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO.
  • Kaysar Ridha, (Iraqi) businessman and contestant on reality series Big Brother.
  • John Zogby, (Lebanese) founder and current President/CEO of Zogby International.
  • Najeeb Halaby, (Syrian) father of Queen Noor of Jordan Lisa Elhalabi, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. CEO, and chairman of Pan Am.
  • Manuel Moroun, owner of CenTra, Inc., the holding company which controls the Ambassador Bridge and Michigan Central Depot.
  • Jacques Nasser, (Lebanese) former president and CEO of Ford Motor Company.
  • John J. Mack, (Lebanese) Chairman of the Board and CEO of Morgan Stanley.
  • Ray R. Irani, (Palestinian) Chairman and CEO of Occidental Petroleum.


  • Mohammed Adam El-Sheikh, (Sudanese) executive director of the Fiqh Council of North America.
  • Ali Said Faqi, (Somali) leading scientist and researcher in toxicology.
  • Mohammad S. Obaidat, (Jordanian) President of and a Fellow of the Society for Modeling and Simulation International (SCS). Obaidat has received many awards, including the SCS McLeod Founder's Award for his outstanding technical contribution to Computer modeling and simulation.
  • Charles Elachi, (Lebanese) director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  • Elias Zerhouni, (Algerian) current director of the National Institutes of Health.
  • Elias James Corey, (Lebanese) winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
  • Ahmed Zewail, (Egyptian) winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
  • Farouk El-Baz, (Egyptian) scientist who worked with NASA to assist in the planning of scientific exploration of the Moon.
  • Fawwaz T. Ulaby (Syrian) winner of the 2006 IEEE Edison Medal and former Vice President of Research for the University of Michigan.
  • Nawal M. Nour, (Sudanese) an obstetrician and gynecologist and 2003 Genius Award winner (Sudanese).
  • Ali H. Nayfeh, (Palestinian) a well-known scholar in mechanics and recipient of numerous awards

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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