MI: Arab-Americans are Diverse



A two-year, $1-million study of metro Detroit Arab Americans concludes that
these thousands of families are far more diverse, more settled and more
eager to embrace American life than many observers around the world had
assumed.

"Some of these findings are astounding. It's a real landmark. We've never
had anything like this to help us look at this complex community that so
many people are trying to understand," said Ron Stockton, a professor of
political science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and an architect
of the study, released today.

"This information is priceless," said Siham Awada Jaafar of Dearborn
Heights, an official with several Arab-American groups who served on a U-M
advisory panel throughout the study. "Even those of us who work with the
community are learning a lot."

The study focused on in-depth interviews with 1,016 men and women whose
families came from Arabic-speaking countries, including several hundred
Chaldeans -- Catholics from Iraq.

The U-M researchers did not conduct an ethnic census, so they do not
estimate how many Arab Americans live in metro Detroit. But the study
offers a vivid snapshot of how these families fit into American life.

Contrary to stereotypes of an oppressed community, isolated by language and
tradition and largely Muslim, the study showed that 58 percent of Arab
Americans in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties are Christian. And,
although 75 percent of the Arab Americans living here were born outside the
United States, 79 percent now are U.S. citizens, and 80 percent are fluent
in English.

While long associated with the Dearborn area, nearly half of the community
now lives in Oakland and Macomb counties.

Generally, these families report getting along comfortably with their
neighbors.

Some were hit with painful ethnic slurs after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror
attacks, which left nearly half of Arab Americans feeling insecure. But the
U-M scholars were surprised to find that 33 percent of Arab Americans
received expressions of support from non-Arabs in late 2001. That was far
more than the 15 percent who reported slurs and other bad experiences.

Now, nearly 9 of 10 Arab Americans say they feel at home in this country.

 


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