Advertisement Close

Ethnic Identity of Arab Americans: Gender, Religion and Age Differences

posted on: May 22, 2024

Arab American Ethnicity. Source: pixels

By: Raisa Sami/ Arab America Contributing Writer

In the US, Arab Americans make up a sizable and diverse ethnic minority. Gender differences existed in attitudes toward being Arab American, with women reporting lower public and higher private regard than men. Due to Muslims’ status as a religious minority in the US, those who were raised in Muslim households reported higher ethnic centrality and cultural practices than those who were raised in Christian households. The findings indicate that young adults’ ethnic identity may evolve into adulthood or be influenced by growing up in American society after 9/11, as they were found to be less central and private regard than older adults. According to the Arab American Institute (2018), there is a lack of research on the ethnic identity of over 3.5 million Arab Americans. Many ethnic-racial minority groups, including Arab Americans, rely heavily on their ethnic identity for their sense of self and overall well-being. Many Arab Americans identify mainly with their national identity or religion or as Middle Eastern or North African (MENA). MENA identity, which encompasses traditionally Arab nations as well as adjacent non-Arab nations like Armenia, Iran, and Turkey, has been evaluated in earlier research. Arab Americans are highlighted because of their common cultural values and customs, as well as their experiences with discrimination brought about by their unfavorable representation in Western news and media.

Ethnic Identity: Gender Differences

Instead of concentrating on a single identity in isolation, identity researchers stress the significance of examining the intersection of important social identities, such as gender, religion, and national identity. The ethnic identity of Arab Americans is probably interconnected with their national, racial, gender, and religious identities. Political and religious conflict in the Arab world makes it challenging for many Arab Americans, particularly Muslims, to identify with their national and religious identities. As a result, many Arab Americans do not self-identify as White. The last 20 years of American sociopolitical context have further influenced how people identify and express their Arab American identity. After 9/11, Arab Americans faced more discrimination as they were made “visible” in the media and news. Because they have experienced injustice together, Arab Americans may become more supportive of one another as a result. Younger Arab American adults may identify with their ethnicity less strongly or positively than older Arab Americans as a result of growing up in this environment where anti-Arab sentiment is evident. The purpose of this current research is to determine whether ethnic identity content varies among Arab Americans according to age, gender, and religious upbringing.

Ethnic Identity: Religion

Since Christianity is the most common religion in the United States, Muslims and Christians have different ethnic identities based on their religious classifications. Earlier waves of Arab migration to the United States were led by Christians who left the Middle East, so the majority of Arab Americans are now Christian rather than Muslim. As a stigmatized religious minority in the United States, Muslims face difficulties; Muslim experiences of discrimination are more common than those of Christian Arab Americans. This shows that Muslims and Christians experience American society differently, which explains why Muslim Arabs report higher levels of negative public opinion than Christian Arabs. Muslims identify more strongly than Christians with their Arab heritage, and because Islam is closely associated with Arab culture, Christian Arabs may report lower levels of ethnic identity. Many non-Arabs mistakenly believe that being Muslim in America refers to being a Muslim due to the racialization of Islam in American society. This has created the false impression that Christian Arabs identify more strongly with their religion than with their Arab ethnicity. Because of this, Muslim Arab Americans might have a higher ethnic centrality than Christian Arab Americans; however, this theory hasn’t been verified yet.

Ethnic Identity: Age Differences

Differences in historical birth cohorts or phases of development can be the cause of age differences in ethnic identity. The initial stages of young adulthood are critical for the formation of ethnic identity, especially Arab American identity. Later in adulthood, Arab Americans may grow to feel better about their ethnic group. Nevertheless, no research has examined the age differences in adult Arab American ethnic identity. Developmental stage or cohort differences. may also account for generational or age differences. Stronger ethnic identity has been linked to the aftermath of 9/11, which included an increase in hate crimes, negative media exposure, and stereotyping. Growing up in the following years of 9/11, however, might cause lower ethnic centrality, unfavorable public and private opinions, and a decreased participation in cultural practices due to the stigma related to Arab Americans.


Check out our Blog here!