THE ARAB IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE Michael W Suleiman
Questions to Consider
Since 9/11, the media seem to have newly discovered the Arab-American population in the United States, even though this group has been a signifi- cant presence in this country for almost one hundred and fifty years. This article maps Arab migration to the United States and the process of ”Ameri- canization” that this group, like almost all immigrant groups to this coun- try, has experienced. In this article, Michael Suleiman suggests that an ambiguous racial status and racism were used to deny Arab immigrants of citizenship. How and why did this happen?
In 1977, William E. Leuchtenburg, the prominent American historian, remarked, “From the perspective of the American historian, the most striking aspect of the relationship between Arab and American cultures is that, to Americans, the Arabs are
From “The Arab Immigrant Experience,” by Michael Suleiman as it appears in Arabs in Amer- ica: Building a New Future, edited by Michael Suleiman. Reprinted by permission of Temple University Press. Copyright © 1999 by Temple University. All rights reserved.
a people who have lived outside of history.”l Professor Leuchtenburg could have just as accurately made the same observation about Arabs in America.
Ignorance about Arab Americans among North Americans at large means that, before looking at more detailed accounts of the Arab-American experience, we may benefit from a quick overview of Arab immigration to North America and what the Arab- American communities here have been like.
There have been two major waves of Arab immigration to North America. The first lasted from the 1870s to World War II and the second from World War II to the
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present. Members of the two waves of im- migrants had somewhat different character- istics and faced different challenges in the social and political arena. Any examination of the immigrant communities must take into account these differences. As we shall see, the two communities began to come to- gether in the 1960s, especially after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war/ and this rapprochement must also be taken into account.
The term”Arab Americans” refers to the immigrants to North America from the Ara- bic-speaking countries of the Middle East and their descendants. The Arabic-speaking countries today include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, pre- 1948 Palestine and the Palestinians, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Somalia and Dji- bouti are also members of The League of Arab States and have some Arabic-speaking populations. Most Arab immigrants of the first wave came from the Greater Syria re- gion, especially present-day Lebanon, and were overwhelmingly Christian; later immi- grants came from all parts of the Arab world, but especially from Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Yemen, and had large numbers of Muslims among them. Al- though most Muslim Arab immigrants have been Sunni (reflecting the population in the region), there is a substantial Shi’a minority. Druze started immigrating in small num- bers late in the nineteenth century.
Immigrants from the Arabic-speaking countries have been referred to and have re- ferred to themselves by different names at different times, including Arabs or Arabi- ans, but until World War II the designation Syrian or Syrian-Lebanese was used most often. The changeability of the name may in- dicate the absence of a definite and endur- ing identity, an issue that is discussed later. For the purposes of this chapter, the various names are used interchangeably, but the
community primarily is referred to as Arab or Arab American.3
It is impossible to determine the exact number of Arab immigrants to North Amer- ica, because u.s. and Canadian immigration officials have at different times used differ- ent classification schemes. Until 1899 in the United States, for instance, immigration sta- tistics lumped the Arabs with Greeks, Arme- nians, and Turks. For this and other reasons, only estimates can be provided.
According to U.S. immigration figures, which generally are considered to be low, about 130,000 Arabs had immigrated to the United States by the late 1930s.4 Estimates of the size of the Arab-American community by scholars and community leaders vary widely. A conservative estimate is that there were approximately 350,000 persons of Arab background in the United States on the eve of World War IJ.S In the 1990s, the size of the Arab community in the United States has been estimated at less than one million to the most frequently cited figure of two and one-half to three million.6
Numerous reasons have been given for the first wave of Arab immigration to Amer- ica, which began in large numbers in the 1880s, but the reasons usually fall into two categories: push and pull factors, with the push factors accorded greater weight.
Most scholars argue that the most im- portant reasons for emigration were eco- nomic necessity and personal advancement.7 According to this view, although the econ- omy in geographic or Greater Syria (a term encompassing the present-day countries and peoples of Syria, Lebanon, the Palestini- ans, Israel, Jordan, and possibly Iraq) regis- tered some clear gains in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this progress was uneven in its impact and did not mani- fest itself in a sustained manner until”after emigration to the New World began to gather momentum.”s The economy of Mount Lebanon suffered two major crippling blows
in the mid-1800s. The first was the opening of the Suez Canal, which sidetracked world traffic from Syria to Egypt and made the trip to the Far East so easy and fast that Japa- nese silk became a major competitor for the Lebanese silk industry. The second blow came in the 1890s, when Lebanese vineyards were invaded by phylloxera and practically ruined.9
Also contributing to the economic stress in the Syrian hinterland was a rapid increase in population without a commensurate increase in agricultural or industrial produc- tivity. Many families found that the sub- sistence economy could support only one child, who eventually inherited the farm or household. Other male children had to fend for themselves, and emigration to a New World of great wealth became an irresistible option.10
Many Lebanese Christians, who consti- tuted most of the early Arab arrivals in North America, emphasize religious perse- cution and the lack of political and civil free- dom as the main causes of their emigration from lands ruled by an oppressive Ottoman regime.n Under Ottoman rule, Christians in the Syrian province were not accorded equal status with their Muslim neighbors. They were subjected to many restrictions on their behavior and often suffered persecution. These oppressive conditions worsened and discriminatory actions occurred more often as the Ottoman rulers became weaker and their empire earned the title of the “Sick Man of Europe.” As the power of the sultan declined, the local rulers began to assert greater authority and power, which they at times used to suppress and oppress further their subjects, particularly Christians. In part, this persecution took place in response to the increased power and prestige of “Christian” Europe and the encroachment of its rulers on Ottoman sovereignty. This ef- fect, combined with the Christian popula- tion’s desire for greater equality, threatened
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the Muslim public’s sense of security. Like the “poor white trash” of the American South at the time of the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, the Muslimpopu- lation in the Syrian province was poor and oppressed-but it still enjoyed a social sta- tus that was superior to that of the non- Muslims, particularly the Christians. The threat of losing that “high” status made many Muslims susceptible to suggestions from local Ottoman rulers that their Chris- tian neighbors were the cause of rather than companions in their troubles. The worsened social and economic conditions in Syria in the mid-1800s and the beginning of the dis- integration of feudalism, especially among the Druze, produced social turmoil that erupted in sectarian riots in which thou- sands of Christians perished.12 Many Chris- tian Lebanese, especially Maronites, cite the 1860 disturbances and massacres as the main factor contributing to the exodus from their homeland.
In addition to the economic, political, and social causes of the early Arab immigra- tion to North America, some incidental fac- tors should be cited. Among these are improved transportation and communica- tion facilities worldwide, development of steam navigation that made the sea voyage safer and shorter, and aggressiveness of agents of the steamship companies in re- cruiting new immigrant passengers. AI- thoughAmerican missionaries often actively discouraged Syrians or Arabs from migrat- ing to the United States, their very presence as model Americans, their educational activ- ities, and their reports about American life ignited a desire, especially among the grad- uates of American schools and colleges in Syria, to emigrate to America.
After the feasibility and profitability of immigration to the United States and to “America” in general were well established, chain migration became the norm, with im- migrants making it possible for the ambitious
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and the disgruntled in the old homeland to seek newer horizons. Those wanting to es- cape military service in the Ottoman army and those craving freedom from oppression and the liberty to speak and publish with- out censorship or reprisal left their home- land quickly and stealthily and sought what they thought would be a temporary refuge in America.
The Early Arab Community in America
Before World War II, most Arabs in America were Christians who came from the Mount Lebanon region of geographic Syria. Espe- cially until the turn of the century, these travelers were mainly poor, uneducated, and iIIiterate in any language. They were not trained for a particular profession. As unskiIIed workers, after they learned the rudiments of the English language, they could work in factories and mines. How- ever, such jobs were taxing and monotonous and, most importantly, did not offer oppor- tunities for the fast accumulation of wealth, which was the primary objective of these early Arab arrivals. Farming presented them with the added hardships of isolation, lone- liness, and severe weather conditions. Peddling therefore was an attractive alter- native. It did not require much training, capital, or knowledge of English. With a few words of English learned on the run, a suitcase (Kashshi) full of notions (e.g., needles, thread, lace) provided by a better- established fellow Lebanese or other Arab supplier, probably a relative who helped bring them to the New World, many new arrivals often were on the road hawking their wares only a day or so after they landed in America. Success in peddling required thrift, hard work, very long hours, the stamina to endure harsh travel condi- tions (mostly walking the countryside on
unpaved roads), and not infrequently, the taunting and insults from children or dis- gruntled customers. These conditions were made tolerable for most early Arab arrivals by their vision of a brighter economic future and the concomitant prestige they and their families would eventually acquire in the old country. When they could afford to do so, they switched to the “luxury” of a horse and buggy and later to a dry-goods store,13
Before World War I, Arabs in North America thought of themselves as sojourn- ers, as people who were in, but not part of, American society. Their politics reflected and emulated the politics of their original homeland in substance and style, because they were only temporarily away from home. In New York, Kawkab America (Kawkab Amirka), the first Arabic-language newspa- per established in North America, declared in its very first issue its unequivocal support for the Ottoman sultan, whose exemplary virtues it detailed at length.14 All other newspapers had to define in one way or an- other their attitude toward and their rela- tionship with the Ottoman authorities. Although Kawkab America was pro-Ottoman, at least initially, Al-Ayam (al-Ayyam) was the most vehement opponent of the Ottoman authorities, a role it later shared with Al- Musheer (al-Mushir).15 It excoriated the cru- elty and corruption of Ottoman rulers, especially in the Mount Lebanon region. It also called for rebellion against the Turkish tyrants and urged its readers to exercise their freedom in America to call for freedom back home. Other newspapers, including Al-Hoda (al-Huda) and Meraat-ul-Gharb (Mir’at al-gharb), fell between these two ex- tremes of total support or clear rejection of Ottoman authority.
The orientation of early Arab Ameri- cans toward their homeland meant that their political activities were also focused on issues that were important in their country or viIIage of origin. There was communal
solidarity, but the community was a collec- tive of several communities. The sectarian and regional disputes that separated the Arabs back home were also salient in this “temporary” residence. The newspapers they established were in the main socializ- ing agencies conveying the messages of their sectarian leadership. Because the Or- thodox already had their Kawkab America, Al-Roda was set up to represent and speak for the Maronites. Later, Al-Bayan (al-Bayan) proclaimed itself the newspaper of the Druze.16 Within each community there were rivalries and competing newspapers, each claiming to be the best defender or repre- sentative of its sect.
World War I was a watershed event for Arabs in North America, cutting them off from their people back home. This separa- tion from the homeland became almost complete with the introduction of very re- strictive quota systems in the United States and Canada after World War I, which prac- tically cut off emigration from Arab regions. These developments intensified the commu- nity’s sense of isolation and separation, simultaneously enhancing its sense of soli- darity. One consequence was a strengthen- ing of the assimilationist trend-a trend already reinforced by the American-born children of these Arab immigrants.
The substance and style of the Arab community’s politics changed after the war, with a clear realization that they had be- come part of American society. Intersectar- ian conflicts became less intense and fewer in number. Calls for unity were heeded more often. For instance, Syrian-Lebanese clubs formed regional federations that joined together to form a national federa- tionP A process of socialization into Ameri- can politics resulted in greater participation in voting and party membership and in public and political service at local or state levels. “Syrian” Republican and Democratic Clubs were formed in the United States, and
The Arab Immigrant Experience 477
the arena for political competition changed as the Arab community became part of the American body politic. There also emerged a clear change in matters of style-generally for the better. By the 1930s and 1940s, con- flicts became fewer and somewhat less per- sonal, and the language of discourse became much less offensive.
Whereas first-generation Arabs in America managed as best they could in an alien environment, their children were thor- oughly immersed in American society and culture-and their first or only language was English. Consequently, English-language newspapers and journals were established to cater to young Americans of Arab her- itage.18 Eastern churches began to translate some of the liturgy and conduct part of the services in English to prevent the loss of members,19 although many members left the church nonetheless. Some intellectuals, in- cluding some of the most celebrated Arab- American writers and poets, took advantage of the blessings of freedom and democracy in North America to attack the tyranny and corruption of the clergy, especially in the old homeland but also in America. Some also expressed atheistic or agnostic views, and others left their old churches and joined new ones.20
As Arabs assimilated in American soci- ety, they also worked harder for a better image of themselves and their people in the old homeland. More effort was spent on campaigns to inform Americans about the rich Arab heritage. In the political arena, es- pecially in the United States, there were many, serious efforts to get the government to support foreign policy positions favored by the Arab community, especially in regard to Palestine. During World War I and its af- termath, the main political preoccupation of the Arabic-speaking groups in North Amer- ica was to achieve the liberation of their homelands from Ottoman rule and to pro- vide economic assistance to their starving
478 Michael W. Suleiman
relatives, especially in the Mount Lebanon region. To accomplish these objectives, their leaders set up relief committees, raised funds, and sent money and supplies when- ever it was possible to do so. They also urged Arab young men in the United States to join the American armed forces to help their new country and to liberate their old homeland.21 Leaders organized campaigns to have their people buy American Liberty bonds to help with the war effort.22
After the war, the Arabs in America were divided over the destiny of the regions liberated from Ottoman rule. In general, there was a strong sentiment among the Ma- ronites to support French control over Syria and Lebanon under the League of Nations’ Mandate.23 Others argued for complete in- dependence, viewing France as a new occu- pying power.24 On the question of Palestine, there was general agreement in support of the Palestinian-Arab population and for eventual, if not immediate, independence. There was widespread opposition to Zion- ism as a movement bent on establishing a Jewish state there.25 Arabs in America showed their support for the Palestinians through lectures, publications, fund raising, and political lobbying, especially with U.S. government officials.26
Until World War I, Arabs in North Amer- ica may be considered sojourners exhibiting many traits of a middleman minority-a community whose members primarily en- gage in one particular specialized activity such as migrant farm work or peddling. Substantial numbers of Arabs in America engaged in commerce, most often beginning as peddlers commissioned by their own countrymen. Their objective was to make the greatest amount of money in the short- est possible time to help their families in the old country and eventually to retire in com- fort in their village or neighborhood. In the meantime, they spent as little as possible of their income in America, often living in
crowded tenements and, while on the road, in barns or shacks to avoid expensive hotel costs. They did not live rounded lives, al- lowing themselves no luxuries and finding contentment and solace in family life. Be- cause they could pull up stakes anytime, they sought liquidity in their economic enterprises. Long-term investments were avoided. For that reason, in addition to other advantages, they preferred peddling, dry goods stores, restaurants, the profes:” sions, and a cottage industry in lace and needlework. In all of these activities, their primary contacts were with other Arab Americans, especially relatives or people from the same town, religious sect, or geographic region.27 They developed few lasting relationships with “Americans.” Al-Nizala, the term the Arab-American com- munity used to refer to itself, is a name that clearly describes its status and purpose. It means a temporary settlement, and it was used in contrast to “the Americans” to indi- cate the alien or stranger status of Arabs in America. At first, Arabs in America formed their own residential colonies, especially in New York and Boston. Even when they did not, they encouraged within-group mar- riage, frequently praising its virtues and es- pecially pointing out the disadvantages of marrying”American” girls. In other words, they resisted assimilation, even after their intellectuals began to urge acculturation to life in America.28
Arabs in America, sharing an attitude common to other middleman or sojourner communities, were charged with being “clannish, alien, and unassimilable.”29 Such attitudes were fairly common among influ- ential American journalists and public offi- cials, who also viewed Arabs as inferior to whites. In the economic field, Arabs were sometimes seen as parasites, because they allegedly did not engage in any productive industry, merely being engaged in trade. They were sometimes attacked as a drain on
the American economy, because they sent part of their income back home.3o
The Process of Americanization
Arab immigrants soon found out that the land of opportunity was also strewn with hardship and an “unwelcome” mat. In response to insults and charges of inferior- ity, they did occasionally defend them- selves.31 However, to add injury to insult, the u.s. and Canadian authorities began to claim that Arabs had no right to naturaliza- tion and citizenship because they allegedly were Asian and did not belong to the white race.32 This problem of racial identification and citizenship traumatized the Arabic- speaking community. In their attempt to resolve this crisis, the “Syrians” searched for their roots and found them in their Arab background, which ensured them Cau- casian racial status and therefore eligibility for U.S. citizenship-or so they argued.33
Beginning in 1909, Arabic-speaking individ- uals from geographic Syria began to be challenged in their citizenship petitions. It was not until 1914, however, that George Dow was denied a petition to become a U.S. citizen because, as a “Syrian of Asiatic birth,” he was not a free white person within the meaning of the 1790 U.S. statute.34 In InS, the Dow decision was re- versed based on the argument that the per- tinent binding legislation was not that of 1790 but the laws of 1873 and 1875, and in accordance with these, Syrians “were so closely related to Europeans that they could be considered ‘white persons.’ “35 Despite this precise and authoritative language, “Syrians” in the United States continued to be challenged and to feel insecure about their naturalization status until the period of 1923 to 1924.36
Even during World War II, the status of Arabs remained unclear. In 1942, a Muslim
The Arab Immigrant Experience 479
Arab from Yemen was denied U.s. citizen- ship because”Arabs as a class are not white and therefore not eligible for citizenship,” especially because of their dark skin and the fact that they are “part of the Mohammedan world,” separated from Christian Europe by a wide gulf.37 On the other hand, in 1944, an “Arabian” Muslim was granted citizenship status under the 1940 Nationality Act, be- cause”as every schoolboy knows, the Arabs have at various times inhabited parts of Eu- rope, lived along the Mediterranean, been contiguous to European nations and been assimilated culturally and otherwise by them.”38
Apart from the legal battles to ensure they were allowed to reside in their new homelands, especially in the United States, Arabic-speaking persons had to figure out what identity best fit their indeterminate status. They knew who they were and had a very strong sense of personal identity cen- tered first and foremost in the family. There were, however, other lesser but still impor- tant identities related to clan, village, or sect. Because these identities were strong, a “na- tional” identity could remain amorphous or at least indeterminate, shifting from one ori- entation to another with relative ease and without much psychological dislocation. In practical terms, the Arabic-speaking people in North America functioned as a collective of communities whose bonds of solidarity beyond the family were mainly related to sect or country, such as Maronite, Orthodox, Muslim, Druze, and Palestinian affiliations. Before World War II, the primary or most ac- ceptable designation for the group was “Syrian.” However, when Lebanon emerged as a country in the 1920s, some Maronites, especially N. Mokarzel, the editor and pub- lisher of Al-Hoda, spearheaded a campaign to get the community to change its name to Lebanese, because Lebanon was where most of its members originally came from. 39 The campaign was not a big success, although,
480 Michael W. Suleiman
many of the clubs did change their name to Syrian-Lebanese.4o
Another and more important identity crisis occurred when these peripatetic so- journers realized that they had to decide whether to become”settlers” or return to the old homeland. It had become increas- ingly difficult for them to function as tem- porary aliens. After World War I, it became clear to large numbers of Arabs in North America that it was not possible to go “home” again and that the United States and Canada were their homes.41 This change from sojourner to permanent settler necessi- tated and was accompanied by other changes in the way Arabs in America thought and in the way they behaved. The substantial in- vestments they had made in homes, prop- erty, and real estate in the old country lost their original purpose, and much more at- tention was paid to material improvements and investments in their new countries. In the United States, one manifestation was the migration by substantial numbers of the New York Arab community from the run- down and extremely crowded tenements of Manhattan to the nicer environment of South Ferry in Brooklyn and beyond.42
Arabs in America saw that they had to become full-fledged Americans. Assimila- tion became strongly and widely advocated, and citizenship training and naturalization were greatly encouraged. Although out- marriage was still not favored, some now claimed that success in such situations was possible if the American partner (usually fe- male) was a “good” person who behaved in a conservative or traditional manner.43 Along the same lines, Arab women were told to retain the modesty code of the old homeland.44
Although Arab women in America con- stituted a major asset to their kinfolk, they also presented the community with many difficulties, primarily related to issues of honor and modesty. This problem was most
acute among the Druze, some of whom asked to restrict or totally ban the immigra- tion of Druze women to America. Among Christians, women peddlers were a big con- cern. The complaints and areas targeted for reform included the act of peddling itself, the personal appearance and dress of the woman peddler, the distance she covered and whether she had to stay away from home overnight, and her demeanor or be- havior. These problems were viewed as es- . pecially serious because large numbers had decided to stay in America and wanted to become”acceptable” to the host society. The preference was for Arab women to help their kinfolk by crocheting or sewing at home or by minding their family’s store. Work in factories was also acceptable, al- though not favored, especially among the rising middle-class Arab Americans.45
The decision to settle in America meant setting a higher priority on children’s edu- cation for boys and girls. This was viewed as more important than any contribution the children might make to the family’s eco- nomic welfare. The result was a marked im- provement in women’s education and an increase in the number of male and female graduates from universities and profes- sional institutions.
Another consequence of the decision to stay in America was that parents and chil- dren had to learn to be good Americans, and they flocked to citizenship classes. Parents attended English-language classes and stud- ied the American governmental system in preparation for their new role as American citizens. Americanization was seen as a process of shedding old loyalties, the tradi- tional culture, and the Arabic language. The children therefore grew up barely aware of their Arabic heritage.
Although the assimilationist approach began to gain favor and was encouraged by the leadership, it was not presented in ideo- logical terms. Often, it took the form of a
suggestion that Arabs should no longer feel like strangers in their new country and that they should make a positive contribution to American society.46 Nevertheless, in the hey- day of the melting pot approach to assimila- tion, the Arabs in America strove to remove any differences, except perhaps food and music, that separated them from the general American population. They also neglected or chose not to teach their children Arabic or to instill into them much pride of heritage.47
The result was that, by World War II, Arabs in North America were, for all practical pur- poses, an indistinguishable group from the host society. It took a second wave of immi- gration and other developments to rekindle interest in their Arab heritage and to revive them as an ethnic community.
Post-World War II Immigration
The second wave of Arab immigration brought to North America a much more diverse population, one that differed greatly from the early pioneering group. Whereas the first-wave immigrants came almost exclusively from the area of Greater Syria and were overwhelmingly Lebanese, the new immigrants came from all parts of the Arab world, including North Africa. Unlike early arrivals, who were predominantly Christian, the new immigrants were Chris- tians and Muslims.
The two groups’ reasons for immigra- tion were also somewhat different. In addi- tion to economic need and the attraction of a major industrial society, new immigrants often were driven out of their homes as a re- sult of regional conflicts (e.g., Palestine- Israel, Arab-Israeli, Iraq-Iran, Iraq-Kuwait) or civil wars (e.g., Lebanon, Yemen) or as a consequence of major social and political changes in the homeland that made life dif- ficult, especially for the wealthy or the mid- dle class in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and other
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countries. The search for a democratic haven, where it is possible to live in freedom without political or economic harassment and suppression by the government was a strong motivation, even more so than during the earlier period, that affected much larger numbers of individuals. To these political and economic motivations can be added a psychological one. The great improvements in transportation and communication facili- tated the process of immigration, and by making the world seem smaller, they made it much easier for people to accept the notion of migration to other parts of the world, es- pecially to the United States and Canada.
Whereas the early Arab immigrants were mainly uneducated and relatively poor, the new arrivals included large num- bers of relatively well-off, highly educated professionals: lawyers, professors, teachers, engineers, and doctors. Many of the new im- migrants began as students at American universities who decided to stay, often as a result of lack of employment opportunities back home or because of the unstable politi- cal conditions in the homeland-conditions that often threatened imprisonment or death for returnees.48 Besides these compar- atively affluent immigrants, especially in the 1990s, relatively large numbers of semi- educated Arabs, primarily engaged in com- merce, came to North America as political refugees or as temporary residents to escape the wars and violence of the Middle East region.
An important difference between mem- bers of the two immigration waves is the way each group thought of itself in terms of American society and politics. First-wave immigrants were viewed and thought of themselves as mere sojourners staying in the United States on a temporary basis with the primary or sole purpose of making a fortune they could enjoy back home. This orientation remained dominant at least until World War I and probably well into the 1920s. Such a
482 Michael W. Suleiman
stance meant that they avoided participa- tion in American society beyond taking care of basic needs such as commerce. They were “Syrians” or “Arabians” and sought to es- tablish their own churches, clubs, or news- papers. They sought (and preached to their people) not to “meddle” in the affairs of the host society. They were anxious not to of- fend their hosts, not to break the law, and not to behave in a manner offensive to Americans, but they also tried not to imitate American social customs (i.e., Americanize), not to mix socially with Americans, and not to intermarry. Although most did not partic- ipate in politics much beyond voting, they nevertheless expressed pride in the occa- sional Arab who was able to make it as a city alderman, political party functionary, or a candidate for local political office.
The change from these conditions came slowly and as a result of changes in the world around them, especially World War I, the Ottomans’ oppressive treatment of their subjects in the Syria-Lebanon region, and the success of Zionism in securing Western, especially British and American, support for its objective of establishing a Jewish home- land in Palestine.
Immigrants who arrived after World War II came with a well-defined view of democracy and the role of citizens in it- ideas they had learned in their homeland but that had originally been imported from Europe and America. Their higher level of education and social status gave them greater confidence about participating in American politics almost as soon as they ar- rived in their new country. Even when they thought about returning to their Arab home- land, they were anxious to live full and pro- ductive lives in the United States or Canada for themselves and their children. The Arab- American community today constitutes a combination of the diversities of the early and more recent immigrants. In addition to the sectarian and mainly social clubs that
the early immigrants formed, new political organizations were gradually established. In the United States, Syrian Democratic and Syrian Republican clubs were formed in the 1920s and 1930s. These were, as the Arab Democratic and Arab Republican clubs are today, adjuncts to the main two major par- ties designed to encourage political partici- pation and to integrate Arabs into the American body politic. What was new and significant was the establishment of bona· fide Arab-American pressure groups and voluntary associations whose main function has been to protect themselves against ha- rassment from private groups or public agencies and to influence policy in the United States and Canada concerning differ- ent parts of the Arab World or Middle East.
As World War I had marked a water- shed for the early Arab immigrants, the 1967 Arab-Israeli war did for the entire commu- nity. The older and newer Arab-American communities were shocked and trauma- tized by the 1967 war. In particular, they were dismayed and extremely disappointed to see how greatly one-sided and pro-Israeli the American communications media were in reporting on the Middle East.49 The war itself also produced soul-searching on the part of many Arab Americans, old and new, and often reinforced or strengthened their Arab identity. This group included many members already active in various Palestin- ian, Syrian, and Lebanese clubs, which were mainly social in nature.
By 1967, members of the third genera- tion of the early Arab immigrants had started to awaken to their own identity and to see that identity as Arab, not “Syrian.” El- ements of this third generation combined with politically sophisticated immigrants to work for their ethnic community and the cau~s of their people in the old homelands. The result was establishment of the Associa- tion of Arab-American University Gradu- ates (AAUG) in late 1967, which was the
first post-World War II national, credible, nonsectarian organization seeking to repre- sent diverse elements of the Arab-American community and to advance an Arab rather than regional or country orientation.
To the AAUG, however, American hos- tility to “Arabs” and the concept of Arabism was so extreme and so widespread among policy makers and the general public that influencing the political process or public policy, especially in the United States, seemed futile. The Republican and Demo- cratic parties were almost completely and solidly one sided in their support of Israel and in their hostility to Arab causes, even though the United States had huge eco- nomic and military assets in the region and was on the friendliest terms with most lead- ers and countries of the Arab world. The AAUG sought support from or identified with other individuals and groups. Among these were a few politicians such as Senator William Fulbright and others who were courageous enough to voice criticism of u.s. policy in the Middle East, other minority or disenfranchised groups in American society, and some intellectuals who began to criti- cize the administration and its policies.
The AAUG’s first priority was the need to provide accurate information about the Arab world and Arabs in North America and to distribute this literature to the public at large, wherever access was possible. It sought to educate the Arab countries and people about the true nature of the problems facing the region and to educate Arab intel- lectuals and political leaders about U.S. and Canadian policies and the American politi- cal process. While the AAUG sought mainly to inform and educate, it also performed other tasks, because no other organizations existed to perform them. Among the tasks to which the AAUG devoted some time and effort were political lobbying, attacks against defamation of and discrimination against Arabs and Arab Americans, and ac-
The Arab Immigrant Experience 483
tivism among Arab Americans to get them to participate in politics.
These ancillary tasks were later champi- oned and performed by newer organiza- tions. The National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA) was formed in 1972 in the United States to act as a political lobby to defend and advance Arab-American in- terests and causes. In 1980, in response to the continuing slanders and attacks against Arabs and Arab Americans, the American- Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) was established and quickly drew wide- spread support from the varied elements of the Arab community. In 1985, the Arab American Institute (AAI) was formed, primarily to encourage Arab Americans to become active in the American political arena.so
Building a New Future
To get a feel for how the Arab community has fared in America, it is useful to review some of the challenges and concerns that Arabs have faced in their new homeland and how they have coped with building a new future. Among the most important issues with which Arabs in America have had to wrestle is the definition of who they are, their sense of identity as a people, espe- cially as they encountered and continue to encounter bias and discrimination in their new homeland.
Although Arabs in the United States and Canada constitute an ethnic group, they were not an ethnic minority in their old homeland. Their new identity has been shaped by many factors but especially by continuing interactions between conditions in the old and new homelands and by the interplay between their perceptions ()f themselves and how others see them. The early immigrants spoke Arabic and came from a predominantly Arabic culture and
484 Michael W. Suleiman
heritage, but they did not think of them- selves as “Arabs.” The main bond of solidar- ity among them at that time was based on familial, sectarian, and village- or region- oriented factors. The plethora of names by which they were known in the New World reflects their lack of “national” identity and ignorance or confusion on the part of the host society. Another factor in this process was the American, especially U.S., obsession with the idea of race and the various at- tempts early in this century to classify every immigrant group, no matter how small, by its racial composition.51 The early Arabic- speaking groups were called Asians, “other Asians,” Turks from Asia, Caucasian, white, black, or “colored.”
Although immigration officials and the general press looked down on Arabic- speaking peoples, they nevertheless viewed them as part of the “white race,” at least for the first thirty years or so of their presence in North America. These authorities then decided those immigrants were not white. With their very identity questioned and ma- ligned, the reaction of the early Arab Ameri- cans was to try to refute what they saw as demeaning and untrue charges. They ar- gued that they were very much part of the white race.52 Stung by accusations of inferi- ority in terms of scientific and technological accomplishments, Syrian-Arab Americans developed a two-cultures thesis long before C. P. Snow discussed it.53 Their argument, which became popular in the community, especially among Arab literati, was that, al- though America was the most advanced country in the world in science, technology, and industrialization, the East was spiritu- ally superior.54 Coming from the Holy Land, they offered themselves as guides and in- structors to Americans in their search for and desire to experience the life and times of Jesus-where he was born, preached, was crucified, and rose from the dead.55 Arab Americans spoke and wrote about the”spir-
itual” East in terms that suggested perpetu- ity: it was always so and would always be so. By accident or not, these writers in essence condemned the East to an absence of material progress and desire to produce such for all time.
The emphasis on Eastern spirituality, al- though useful in making Arabs feel good about themselves compared with “material- ist” Americans, still left Arabs in America with little cultural heritage to offer their American-born children. The result often was to ignore their Arab heritage and, espe- cially beginning in the 1920s, to emphasize almost full assimilation in American society. As the children grew up immersed in Amer- ican society and culture while simultane- ously exposed to a smattering of Arabic words at home and some Arabic food and music, they often found themselves experi- encing an identity crisis of some kind, mainly resulting in rootlessness, ambiguity, and a fractionalized personality.56 These were the reactions of some of the Arab- American literati of the post-World War II period. The very culture of their own coun- try denied them the privilege of being openly proud of their heritage. They some- times dealt with this awkward situation by complaining about American prejudice and discrimination against Arabs and by simul- taneously denigrating their own people and heritage-if only to ingratiate themselves with their readers, their fellow Americans.57
The 1967 war changed the situation rad- ically. Israel, in the short period of seven days, defeated the Arab armies. The Arab people generally felt let down and humili- ated. Arabs in America, both newcomers and third-generation descendants of the early pioneers, deeply resented the extreme partisanship America and Americans (espe- cially the U.S. government and people) showed toward Israel and the occasional hostility toward Arabs. The consequence was for Arab Americans to shake off their
malaise and to organize. Their first goal was to fight against the negative stereotyping of Arabs. Their second was to help modify American policy toward the Middle East and make it more balanced. In the process, sectors of the well-established older com- munity de-assimilated. They began openly to call themselves Arab and to join political groupings set up to defend Arab and Arab- American causes.58 Arab Americans also began to organize conferences and publish journals and books in defense of their cause. They wrote fiction, poetry, and memoirs de- claring pride in and solidarity with Arabs and the Arab community in America.
Open Arab-American pride in their her- itage and activism on behalf of their cause does not, however, mean that prejudice against them ceased. On the contrary, many in the community feel that prejudice and discrimination have increased. Different reasons have been advanced to explain the prejudice and discrimination that Arabs en- counter in North America, and different in- dividuals and groups have emphasized what they believe to be the main cause or the one most pertinent to their situation.
The most popular explanation for the negative stereotypes Americans hold about Arabs is that they are ignorant of the truth because they have not read or have read in- accurate and false reports about Arabs and have not come into contact with Arabs. Ac- cording to this view, the stereotypes are mainly the result of propaganda by and on behalf of Zionist and pro-Israeli supporters. The primary objective of this propaganda has been to deprive Arabs, especially Pales- tinians, from presenting their case to the American public and the American political leadership.59
In this view, the attempt to deny Arabs and Arab Americans a public voice also extends to the political arena. In this way, it becomes a “politics of exclusion” in an attempt to prevent debate on any issues
The Arab Immigrant Experience 485
that reflect poorly on Zionists or Israel. It also smears and defames Arab candidates for political office to defeat them and ex- clude them from effective participation in political decision making. This “political racism” is presumed to be ideological in na- ture and not necessarily directed against Arabs or Arab Americans as a people or as an ethnic community. 60
Another view sees hostility and vio- lence against Arabs and Arab Americans as anti-Arab racism. This hostility is seen as part of the native racist attitudes and is be- lieved to be present in all sectors of Ameri- can society, not just among fringe groups. Somewhat related to this view is “jingoistic racism,” which is directed at whatever for- eign enemy is perceived to be out there.61
Because of the many recent conflicts in the Middle East in which the United States di- rectly or indirectly became involved and where incidents of hijacking and hostage taking occurred, many Americans reacted negatively against a vaguely perceived enemy next door, often not distinguishing between Arabs and Muslims or between Arabs and any foreigner who “looks” Arab.62
Still another view of negative Arab stereotypes, at least in the United States, ar- gues that these ideas are”rooted in a core of hostile archetypes that our culture applies to those with whom it clashes.”63 According to this argument, most of the elements that constitute the Arab image in America are not unique to Arabs but also have been ap- plied to other ethnic groups, especially blacks and Jews in the form of racism and anti-Semitism. These negative stereotypes have been transferred to a new group, the Arabs or Arab Americans.
Part of the negative stereotyping and hostility many Americans harbor toward Arabs is based on the latter’s alleged mistreatment of their women. It is rather ironic, therefore, that Arab-American women find themselves the subject of prejudice,
486 Michael W. Suleiman
discrimination, and hostility at the hands of American men and women. This is often the result of hostility based on race, color, or religion.64
Arab-American women have had more problems than their male counterparts in defining an acceptable or comfortable iden- tity. The problem is multifaceted and affects different sectors differently. Women who have come from the most traditional coun- tries of the Arab world have experienced a greater restriction of their freedom in the United States. This is primarily the result of an inability on the part of traditional hus- bands, fathers, and brothers to deal with the nearly complete freedom accorded to women in American society. Just as impor- tant is the inability of the women to partici- pate fully in the United States because they do not know the language, lack the neces- sary education, and are unfamiliar with American customs. They are not psycholog- ically ready to countenance, let alone inter- nalize, certain mores pertaining to the public display of affection and male-female interaction. Because many cannot drive and probably do not have a car, they find them- selves much more isolated than they were back home, where they often had a vibrant and full life, albeit within the confines of the family and female friends. 65
Among middle-class, first-generation Arab-American women, there is perhaps not much adjustment necessary. They usu- ally follow the somewhat liberal mores they brought with them from the old homeland. On the other hand, Arab girls reaching their adolescence in the United States are likely to experience more problems as a result of the potential clash between traditional child-rearing practices and the freer atmos- phere found in North America.66
Among better-educated, young Arab- American women, the issue of identity is both more subtle and more openly dis- cussed. Like their male Arab-American coun-
terparts, these women suffer from and are of- fended by the hostility against Arabs and Arab Americans. They also find American views of how women are allegedly treated in the Arab world to be inaccurate and grotesque. Nevertheless, they would like to expand the rights of Arab women and to im- prove the quality of their lives. They resent and reject any attempt on the part of Arab- American men to define what their role should be in maintaining Arab culture and mores in North America. In particular, they want to reject the notion that family honor re- sides in women and that the way a woman behaves, especially concerning her modesty and sexuality, can bring honor or dishonor to the family. They do not wish to be the con- veyors or transmitters of tradition and cul- ture-at least not as these are defined by men or as they prevail in the old homeland.67
Women and men in the Arab-American community of the 1990s find that the “white” racial classification that the early Syrian-Arab community worked so hard to attain is flawed. In practical daily inter- actions, Arabs in America are often treated as “honorary whites” or “white but not quite.”68 In reaction to this situation, at least four different orientations have been advo- cated. For the majorit)’J especially among the older and well-established Christian com- munity, there is some disgruntlement but general passivity about the discrimination and the prejudice that accompany their “white but not quite” status, and they work to remove these negative attitudes. Others, especially the Arab American Institute, have argued for a special designation of Arabs in the United States as a minority (e.g., the His- panics) or as a specific census category encompassing all peoples of the Middle East.69 Still others, especially some young, educated Arab-American women, have ex- pressed a preference for the designation “people of color.”70 This would place them as part of a larger category that includes
most of the federally recognized minorities in the United States. There are also those who resent being boxed into one category. Their sense of identity is multifaceted; they are men or women; Arab, American, Mus- lim or Christian; white or dark skinned; and so on. They think of themselves in different ways at different times or in different con- texts, and they argue for getting rid of such categories or for the use of more descriptive categories that recognize different aspects of their background, culture, or physical ap- pearance.71
The search for an adequate or comfort- able identity for Arabs in America has been guided and perhaps complicated by the need to feel pride in their heritage and si- multaneously avoid prejudice and discrimi- nation in their new homeland. For most, the search is neither successful nor final. They continue to experience marginality in Amer- ican society and politics, and they try to overcome this in various ways. Some resort to ethnic denial; they de-emphasize their Arab or Islamic background by claiming a connection with what they believe is a more acceptable appearance in America. Instead of proclaiming their Arabism, for instance, they claim that they are Lebanese or Egypt- ian. Some may even deny their heritage al- together, claiming to be Greek or Italian. Some new arrivals instead choose ethnic iso- lation. They are unwilling to change them- selves and do not believe they can change the host society.
Among those who want full integration or assimilation into American society, espe- cially middle-class Arab Americans, many emphasize the strong cultural link between Arabs and Americans. They refuse to give up and continue to work hard to show where the dominant American view is wrong. For most, accommodation is the eas- iest and most comfortable stance. These men and women consciously or subconsciously act in ways that reduce their difference from
The Arab Immigrant Experience 487
the American dominant group. They at- tempt” to pass.”n Others, especially those who seek material success, especially those who are in public professions (e.g., televi- sion, radio, movies), often give in and con- vert to the prevailing view. Not infrequently, the very individuals who are looked down on by the Arab-American community are se- lected to speak for and represent the Arabs in America.73
The Arab-American Community in the 1990s
After more than a century of immigration, it is clear that the basic reasons Arabs came are no different from those that drove or attracted other groups to come here. They came because of the promise of a quick for- tune and a sense of adventure; the threat of war or economic disaster; education, train- ing, technology; and the thrill of living in a free democratic system. Whatever their rea- sons, true integration and full assimilation have eluded them. In part, this is the result of the many developments leading to the debunking of the notion of a melting pot and the greater tolerance of a multicultural society. The more important reason, how- ever, has been the hostility the host society has shown toward Arab immigrants.74
Nevertheless, Arabs in America have done very well. Since the 1960s, there has al- ways been at least one representative of Arab background in the U.s. Congress (e.g., James Abourezk, Mary Rose Oakar, Mark Joe [Nick] Rahall II). Others have served as state governors (e.g., Victor Atiyeh, OR) or on the White House staff (e.g., John H. Su- nunu). Similarly, individuals of Arab de- scent have been elected to the Canadian parliament (e.g., Mac Harb, Mark Assad) and to provincial legislatures. Many of these individuals have faced difficulties in attain- ing their positions because they were of
488 Michael W. Suleiman
Arab background. Some have found it use- ful to de-emphasize or deny that back- ground to get or maintain their positions. Most also have not been strong or vocal sup- porters of Arab or Arab nationalist causes. Nonetheless, ethnic pride is more openly displayed by an increasing number of polit- ical candidates at local, state, and national levels.75
Arab Americans have done well and fared better economically than the general population average in many areas. The 1980 and 1990 u.s. census data show that Arab Americans reach a higher educational level than the American population as a whole. According to the 1990 census, 15.2 percent of Arab Americans have”graduate degrees or higher”-more than twice the national average of 7.2 percent. Household income among Arab Americans also tends to be higher than the average. Arab Americans have also done well in professional, man- agement, and sales professions.76
Although many Arabs in America have reached the highest level of their profession in almost all professions,77 the American media primarily highlight the negative achievements of Arabs and Muslims. Quite often, the media announce the Arab or Is- lamic origin or affiliation of anyone accused of a terrorist act-even before they know whether the perpetrator is Arab or Muslim. In the case of positive role models such as Michael DeBakey or Ralph Nader, the media often never mention their Arab background. One reason is that “some [too many] have found it necessary to hide their origins be- cause of racism.”78 Lists of prominent Arab Americans occasionally are published in the press to inform the public about the commu- nity’s accomplishments, but the fact that such lists are compiled indicates that Arab Americans feel the sting of negative stereo- typing and try to correct the bad publicity. Despite the fact that Arabs have lived in America for more than a century and de-
spite their major successes, they are still struggling to be accepted in American soci- ety. Full integration and assimilation will not be achieved until that happens.79
1. See William E. Leuchtenburg, “The American Perception of the Arab World.” In George N. Atiyeh, ed., Arab and American Cultures (Wash- ington, DC: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1977), p. 15.
2. Although it is possible to speak of several waves of Arab immigration to North Amer- ica (e.g., 1880s to World Warl, World War I to World War 11,1945 to 1967, 1968 to the pres- ent), there have been two main waves: from the 1880s to World War II and from World War II to the present. The major differences in the character and composition of the immigrant populations can be detected pri- marily between these two groups.
3. Unless otherwise indicated, references to the Arab community include the Arabs in Canada and those in the United States. Because of the much smaller numbers of Arabs in Canada, leadership on major issues usually has come from the Arab community in the United States.
4. See appendixes 1 and 2 in Gregory Orfalea, Before the Flames: Quest for the History ofArab Americans (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1988), pp. 314-15. There were about 11,000 Arabs in Canada in 1931. For more on the subject of Arab immigration to Canada, see Baha Abu-Laban, An Olive Branch on the Family Tree: The Arabs in Canada (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1980).
5. This is the official U.S. government figure cited in Philip Hitti’s “The Emigrants,” pub- lished in the 1963 edition of the Encyclopedia of Islam and reproduced in AI-Hoda, 1898- 1968 (New York: Al-Hoda Press, 1968), p. 133. A much larger estimate of 800,000 (Lebanese) was given by Ashad G. Hawie, The Rainbow Ends (New York: Theo. Gaus’ Sons, 1942), pp. 149, 151.
6. This figure does not include the Arab com- munity in Canada, which has fewer than 400,000 persons today. For estimates of Arab immigration to Canada, see Baha Abu- Laban, An Olive Branch on the Family Tree: The Arabs in Canada (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1980) and Ibrahim Hayani’s chapter
in this book. Philip M. Kayal gave the low estimate in 1974 for Arabs in the United States but provided a revised estimate much closer to the generally accepted figure in 1987. See his “Estimating Arab-American Population,” Migration Today 2, no. 5 (1974): 3, 9, and “Report: Counting the’Arabs’ Among Us,” Arab Studies Quarterly 9, no. 1 (1987): 98-104.
7. See Philip K. Hitti, The Syrians in America (New York: George H. Doran, 1924), p. 48; Alixa Naff, Becoming American: The Early Arab Immigrant Experience (Carbondale, IL: South- ern Illinois University Press, 1985), p. 83; Samir Khalaf, “The Background and Causes of Lebanese/Syrian Immigration to the United States before World War 1.” In Eric J. Hooglund, ed., Crossing the Waters: Arabic- Speaking Immigrants to the United States before 1940 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institu- tion Press, 1987), pp. 17-35; and Charles Issawi, “The Historical Background of Lebanese Emigration: 1800-1914.” In Albert Hourani and Nadim Shehadi, eds., The Lebanese in the World: A Century of Emigration (London: LB. Tauris, 1992), pp. 13-31. See also Baha Abu-Laban, “The Lebanese in Montreal.” In Albert Hourani and Nadim Shehadi, eds., The Lebanese in the World: A Century of Emigration (London: LB. Tauris, 1992), pp. 227-42.
8. Charles Issawi, “The Historical Background of Lebanese Emigration: 1800-1914.” In Albert Hourani and Nadim Shehadi, eds., The Lebanese in the World: A Century ofEmigra- tion (London: LB. Tauris, 1992), p. 22.
9. Philip K. Hitti, The Syrians in America (New York: George H. Doran, 1924), pp. 49-50. See also Akram Fouad Khater, “‘House’ to ‘God- dess of the House’: Gender, Class, and Silk in 19th-Century Mount Lebanon,” International Journal ofMiddle East Studies 28, no. 3 (1996): 325-48.
10. For an informed and intelligent discussion on this and related issues, see Louise Sey- mour Houghton’s series of articles entitled “Syrians in the United States,” The Survey 26 (1 July, 5 August, 2 September, 7 October, 1911), pp. 480-95, 647-65, 786-803, 957-68.
11. For an early account of Arab immigration to the United States and to North America in general, which cites religious persecution as the reason for migration, see Basil M. Kherbawi, “History of the Syrian Emigra- tion,” which is part seven of Kherbawi’s
The Arab Immigrant Experience 489
tarikh al-Wilayat al-Muttahida (History of the United States) (New York: al Dalil Press, 1913), pp. 726-96, published in Arabic.
12. See Leila Tarazi Fawaz, An Occasion for War: Civil Conflict in Lebanon and Damascus in 1860 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995). See also, Mikha’il Mishaqa, Murder, Mayhem, Pillage and Pluder: The History of Lebanon in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Trans- lated by Wheeler M. Thackston, Jr. (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1988).
13. See Louise Seymour Houghton’s series of articles entitled “Syrians in the United States,” The Survey, 26 (1911), pp. 480-95; and Alixa Naff, Becoming American: The Early Arab Immigrant Experience (Carbondale, IL: South- ern Illinois University Press, 1985), pp. 128- 200. For Canadian statistics, see Baha Abu- Laban, An Olive Branch on the Family Tree: The Arabs in Canada (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1980).
14. Kawkab America (15 April 1892): 1, English section. The English titles of Arabic news- papers cited here are provided as originally used. The titles in parentheses are the translit- erations used by the Library of Congress.
15. Even though Kawkab America was published for about seventeen years, only copies of the first four years are available, the others have been lost.
16. See Motaz Abdullah Alhourani, “The Arab- American Press and the Arab World: News Coverage in Al-Bayan and Al-Dalil” (mas- ter’s thesis, Kansas State University, Manhat- tan, KS, 1993).
17. For a history of the organizational and politi- cal activities of Arabic-speaking groups in the United States during this period, see James Ansara, “The Immigration and Settle- ment of the Syrians” (master’s thesis, Har- vard University, Cambridge, MA, 1931).
18. Among these, the most important journal was The Syrian World, published and edited by Salloum Mokarzel. A useful publication is the Annotated Index to the Syrian World, 1926-1932 by John G. Moses and Eugene Paul Nassar (Saint Paul, MN: Immigration History Research Center, University of Min- nesota,1994).
19. See Philip M. and Joseph M. Kayal, The Syr- ian-Lebanese in America: A Study in Religion and Assimilation (Boston, MA: Twayne Pub- lishers,1975).
20. A good account of the most prominent of these writers is provided by Nadira Jamil
490 Michael W. Suleiman
Sarraj, Shu’ara’ al-Rabitah al-Qalamiyah (Poets of the Pen League) (Cairo, Egypt: Dar al- Ma’arif, 1964), published in Arabic.
21. See, for instance, Ameen Rihani, “To Syrians in the [American] Armed Forces,” As-Sayeh (al-Sa’ih) (16 September 1918): 2, published in Arabic.
22. Advertisements and editorials in support of American Liberty bonds were found in most Arabic publications of that period, including Al-Hoda and Meraat-ul-Gharb.
23. See, in particular, Syria Before the Peace Con- ference (New York: Syrian-Lebanese League of North America, 1919).
24. This was the view often voiced after French entrenchment in Syria and Lebanon in the late 1920s and the 1930s.
25. For a summary of these views, see “Editors and Arabian Newspapers Give Opinions on Zionism,” The Jewish Criterion (5 July 1918): 16-17.
26. Among the more active participants in pub- lic lectures and writings on this issue were Ameen Rihani and F. L Shatara. The Arab National League was established in 1936, and members spoke out on Palestine and other issues. For coverage of these and other activi- ties related to the Palestine issue, see Pales- tine & Transjordan for that period. See also”A Communique from the Arab National League,” As-Sayeh (6 August 1936): 9.
27. On the occupations of emigrant Arabs, espe- cially in North America and specifically about those engaged in commerce, see Sal- loum Mokarzel, Tarikh al-tijara al-Suriyya fi al-mahajir al-Amrikiyya (The History of Trade of Syrian Immigrants in the Americas) (New York: Syrian-American Press, 1920), pub- lished in Arabic. On peddling activity, see Alixa Naff, Becoming American: The Early Arab Immigrant Experience (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985), pp.128-200.
28. The Arabic press of the period was replete with such advice.
29. Edna Bonacich, “A Theory of Middleman Minorities,” American Sociological Review 38 (1973): 591.
30. Prejudice against Arabs .in America was widespread, and there was also some dis- crimination, especially in the southern United States. See, for instance, Nancy Faires Conklin and Nora Faires, “‘Colored’ and
. Catholic: The Lebanese in Birmingham,
Alabama.” In Eric J. Hooglund, ed., Crossing the Waters: Arabic-Speaking Immigrants to the United States before 1940 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987), pp. 69-84.
31. See, for instance, H. A El-Kourie, “Dr. El- Kourie Defends Syrian Immigrants,” Birm- ingham Ledger (20 September 1907) and “El-Kourie Takes Burnett to Task,” Age-Herald (Birmingham, AL) (20 October 1907): 6.
32. In 1908, Canada issued the Order-in-Council, p.e. 926, which severely restricted Asiatic immigration. Negative attitudes about “Syri- ans,” mistaking them for “Turks,” also were a factor in reducing the level of Arab immi- gration to Canada. See Baha Abu-Laban, “The Lebanese in Montreal.” In Albert Hourani and Nadim Shehadi, eds., The Lebanese in the World: A Century ofEmigration (London: LB. Tauris, 1992), p. 229.
33. See Kalil A Bishara, The Origins of the Mod- ern Syrian (New York: Al-Hoda Publishing House, 1914), published in English and Arabic.
34. See Ex Parte Dow, 211 F. 486 (B.D. South Car- olina 1914) and In Re Dow, 213 F. 355 (B.D. South Carolina 1914).
35. Dow v. United States et ai, 26 F. 145 (4th Cir. 1915).
36. See Joseph W. Ferris, “Syrian Naturalization Question in the United States: Certain Legal Aspects of Our Naturalization Laws,” Part II, The Syrian World 2, no. 9 (1928): 18-24.
37. In Re Ahmed Hassan, 48 F. Supp. 843 (B.D. Michigan 1942).
38. Ex Parte Mohriez, 54 F. Supp. 941 (D. Massa- chusetts 1944).
39. See the Arabic edition of Al-Hoda, 1898-1968 (New York: Al-Hoda Press, 1968).
40. The Syrian Voice changed its name to The Syr- ian and Lebanonite Voice in the late 1930s.
41. See M[ichael A] Shadid, “Syria for the Syri- ans,” Syrian World 1, no. 8 (1927): 21-24, and see” ‘Syria for the Syrians’ Again: An Expla- nation and a Retraction,” Syrian World 3, no. 4 (1928): 24-28.
42. For an excellent early study of New York Arabs, see Lucius Hopkins Miller, “A Study of the Syrian Communities of Greater New York,” Federation 3 (1903): 11-58.
43. This was the message often presented in Al- Akhlaq (al-Akhlaq) (Character) in the 1920s.
44. See the various articles in the Arabic press by Afifa Karam and Victoria Tannous.
45. This issue occupied the Arab community for a long time and was almost a weekly subject in the main newspapers until peddling activ- ity dwindled in the late 1920s. See, for instance, Afifa Karam’s (untitled) article about women peddlers and the Kashshi in Al- Hoda (14 July, 1903): 2.
46. See, for instance, Habib 1. Katibah, “What Is Americanism?” The Syrian World 1, no. 3 (1926): 16-20; W. A. Mansur, “The Future of Syrian Americans,” The Syrian World 2, no. 3 (1927): 11-17, and see “Modern Syrians’ Con- tributions to Civilization,” TheSyrian World 4, no. 5 (1930): 7-14.
47. The question about whether to teach Arabic to their children was a controversial issue in the 1920s and hotly debated in two main journals, The Syrian World and Al-Akhlaq.
48. See Michael W. Suleiman, “A Community Profile of Arab-Americans: Major Challenges and Concerns,” Arab Perspectives (September 1983): pp. 6-13.
49. See Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, ed., The Arab- Israeli Confrontation ofJune, 1967: An Arab Per- spective (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1970).
50. Michael W. Suleiman, “Arab-Americans and the Political Process.” In Ernest McCarus, ed., The Development of Arab-American Identity (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1994), pp. 37-60.
51. See “Dictionary of Races or Peoples.” In United States Reports of the Immigration Com- mission (Washington, DC: Government Print- ing Office, 1911).
52. The details of these appeals are discussed in Michael W. Suleiman, “Early Arab- Americans: The Search for Identity.” In Eric J. Hooglund, ed., Crossing the Waters: Arabic- Speaking Immigrants to the United States before 1940 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institu- tion Press, 1987), pp. 37-54.
53. C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1961).
54. This became a popular theme among many Arab-American writers. See, for instance, Abraham Mitry Rihbany, A Far Journey (Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin, 1914).
55. Abraham Mitrie Rihbany, The Syrian Christ (Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin, 1916).
56. See Evelyn Shakir, “Pretending to Be Arab: Role-Playing in Vance Bourjaily’s ‘The Frac- tional Man,’” MELUS 9, no. 1 (1982): 7-21.
The Arab Immigrant Experience 491
See also Vance Bourjaily, Confessions ofa Spent Youth (New York: Bantam Books, 1961).
57. See, for instance, William Peter Blatty, Which Way to Mecca, Jack? (New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1960).
58. See Ali Shteiwi Zaghel, “Changing Patterns of Identification among Arab Americans: The Palestine Ramallites and the Christian Syr- ian-Lebanese” (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1977).
59. Much has been written in this vein. For a lengthy bibliography, see Michael W. Suleiman, The Arabs in the Mind of America (Brattleboro, VT: Amana Books, 1988). For a Canadian-Arab activist’s view, see Sheikh Muhammad Said Massoud, I Fought as I Believed (Montreal: Sheikh Muhammad Said Massoud,1976).
60. Helen Hatab Samhan, “Politics and Exclu- sion: The A~abAmerican Experience,” Jour- nal ofPalestine Studies 16, no. 2 (1987): 11-28.
61. Nabeel Abraham, “Anti-Arab Racism and Violence in the United States.” In Ernest McCarus, ed., The Development of Arab- American Identity (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1994), pp. 155-214.
62. For documentation, see, for instance, 1990 ADC Annual Report on Political and Hate Violence (Washington, DC: American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, 1991). For Canadian statistics, see Zuhair Kashmeri, The Gulf Within: Canadian Arabs, Racism and the GulfWar (Toronto: James Lorimer & Co., 1991).
63. Ronald Stockton, “Ethnic Archetypes and the Arab Image.” In Ernest McCarus, ed., The Development ofArab-American Identity (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1994), p. 120.
64. See the various essays and poems in Joanna Kadi, ed., Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1994).
65. See Louise Cainkar, “Palestinian Women in the United States: Coping with Tradition, Change, and Alienation” (Ph.D. diss., North- western University, 1988).
66. See Charlene Joyce Eisenlohr/’The Dilemma of Adolescent Arab Girls in an American High School” (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1988).
67. For an excellent study on Arab-American women, see Evelyn Shakir, Bint Arab: Arab and Arab American Women in the United States (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997).
492 Michael W. Suleiman
68. Joseph Massad, “Palestinians and the Limits of Racialized Discourse,” Social Text 11, no. 1 (1993): 108.
69. The attempt has failed, at least so far. See the 16 September 1997 letter to Katherine K. Well- man of the Office of Management and Budget sent on Arab American Institute (AAI) sta- tionery and signed by Helen Hatab Samhan (AAI), Samia EI Badry (Census 2000 Advisory Committee), and Hala Maksoud, American- Arab Anti~DiscriminationCommittee.
70. Lisa Suhair Majaj, “Two Worlds: Arab- American Writing,” Forkroads I, no. 3 (1996): 64-80. See also different entries in Joanna Kadi, ed., Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1994).
71. See, for instance, Pauline Kaldas, “Exotic.” In Joanna Kadi, ed., Foodfor Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1994), pp. 168-69.
72. See Nabeel Abraham, “Arab-American Mar- ginality: Mythos and Praxis.” In Baha Abu- Laban and Michael W. Suleiman, eds., Arab Americans: Continuity and Change (Belmont, MA: AAUG Press, 1989), pp. 17-43.
73. See Michael W. Suleiman, “American Views of Arabs and the Impact of These Views on Arab Americans,” AI-Mustaqbal AI-Arabi 16 (1993): 93-107, published in Arabic.
74. Milton Gordon states that the absence of a hostile attitude on the part of the host society is a key factor in the integration and assimi-
lation of immigrants. See his Assimilation in American Life: The Role ofRace, Religion, and National Origins (New York: Oxford Univer- sity Press, 1964).
75. These attitudes were evident in a 1998 sur- vey of Arabs active in U.S. politics, an analy- sis of which I plan to publish.
76. For analyses of some of the 1980 and 1990 U.S. census data, see John Zogby, Arab Amer- ica Today: A Demographic Profile ofArab Ameri- cans (Washington, DC: Arab American Institute, 1990), and Samia EI-Badry, “The Arab-American Market,” American Demo- graphics (January 1994): 22-27, 30. See also “CPH-L-149 Selected Characteristics for Per- sons of Arab Ancestry: 1990,” U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census of Population and Housing, c-p-3-2, Ancestry of the Population in the United States: 1990.
77. Examples include Michael DeBakey in medi- cine (heart surgery); Elias Corey in chemistry (1990 Nobel Prize winner); Casey Kasem, Danny Thomas, and Paula Abdul in enter- tainment; Helen Thomas in journalism; Doug Flutie in sports (1984 Heisman Trophy win- ner); and Ralph Nader in consumer advocacy.
78. Casey Kasem, “We’re Proud of Our Her- itage,” Parade (Kansas City Star) (16 January 1994): 1.
79. See Lisa Suhair Majaj, “Boundaries: Arabi American.” In Joanna Kadi, ed., Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1994), pp. 65-84.
RETHINKING THE COLOR LINE Readings in Race and Ethnicity
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