Studies & Degrees in American-Arabic Studies

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If you are enrolled in a curriculum for Arab American Studies, you probably will know some of the notable 3.5 million Arabs and Arab Americans residing in the United States. They include Ralph Nader, former presidential candidate and a consumer activist; George Mitchell, former senator, Donna Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services during the term of U.S. President Bill Clinton; Helen Thomas, a noted White House reporter for the news wire agency United Press International; John Sununu, former New Hampshire governor; Christa McAuliffe, first teacher-astronaut who died when the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986; and Candy Lightner, founder of a movement called Mothers Against Drunk Driving. History says that they are part of the Arabic-speaking people and persons of Arab descent in the U.S. mainland.

Arabic speaking communities have been existing in the U.S. since many long years ago but no schools have offered a curriculum for Arab American Studies. This is so because many American schools have not yet acknowledged Arab culture and history. It was only after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that interest in Arab American Studies has been heightened. A study on Arab Americans in Detroit in 2003 provides information about their opinions and experiences since the attacks, and their trust and confidence in American institutions. According to the American Arab Forum, a non-partisan, non-sectarian organization, Arab Americans in the U.S. schools now represent more than 20 countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa, with some Muslim Arab American parents sending their children to private Muslim schools where they could receive education that is consonant with religious beliefs of their family.

Students of Arab American Studies can now find various guides and handbooks. They include Arab American Almanac, Arab American Bibliographic Guide, Annotated Bibliography on Arab American Experience in the U.S. and Canada, Arabs in America 1492-1977, Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, and Atlas of America’s Ethnic Diversity. These complement a formal Arab American Studies program in some colleges and universities that focus on diverse local, national and worldwide events that have inspired Arab immigration to American soil. In the University of Michigan, the program highlights Arab American cultural expressions, the importance of media and art to Arab American individuals and communities in the U.S., and the links between race, sexuality, class gender and religion. Its courses include an interdisciplinary study of Arab American histories, literatures and cultures, and why they hate the U.S., with perspectives on 9/11.

The University of Minnesota’s Immigration History and Research Center has established an endowment or the Arab American Studies Fund to preserve and promote the history of Arab Americans. An Arab studies program in the American University attempts to capture the heterogeneity, complexity and the importance of the Arab region through its different courses of study. An Arab American Institute claims to also promote active participation of Arab Americans in the U.S. electoral system.