Stereotypes in the media. Vandalism against mosques. Being called “terrorists.” These are just some of the ways Arab Americans experience prejudice in the United States. April is Arab American Heritage month. Let’s look how we can help with this important issue to Arab Americans.
Arab Americans are Americans who came to the United States from Arab nations or are descendants of Arab immigrants. Arab nations are 22 nations in an area from North Africa and Southwest Asia. Many of these nations are Islamic nations. Twenty-five percent of Arab Americans are Muslims, or people who follow the religion of Islam.
While Arab Americans always experienced prejudice, it increased drastically after September 11, 2001. On that day, members of the extremist Islamic terrorist group called al-Qaeda carried out the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history. In the aftermath of the attacks, many people became angry and afraid. They used those feelings to lash out at Muslims and Arab Americans.
At the time, President George W. Bush spoke to the nation. He reminded all Americans that the terrorists did not represent Arab Americans or the Muslim faith. “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” Bush said. “That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.” Nevertheless, hate crimes [a crime against people because they belong to certain groups, races, or ethnicities] against Arab Americans increased over 1,000 percent in 2001. These crimes have remained high for the past twenty years.
Prejudice against Arab Americans has not just come from individuals. Many government actions have affected Arab Americans. Arab Americans are frequently singled out for extra security screening while trying to board a plane. Some have had their bank accounts frozen for being mistakenly identified as a terrorist. In 2016, the United States government enacted a controversial travel ban. It made it harder to travel to the United States from Arab nations to visit or seek asylum from war or disasters. Some Arab Americans could not even have their relatives visit them.
Many Americans are working to combat prejudice against Arab Americans. Some groups help Arab Americans go to court against unfair treatment. Interfaith groups [groups of people from different religions] work to build friendships between people of different faiths. Other groups have demanded changes in the portrayals of Arab Americans in the media. Soon there will be an Arab American superhero on TV.
What Do You Think? What are ways that you can stand up against anti-Arab American prejudice?
Photo Credit: David Grossman/Alamy Stock Photo