Strengthening America: How are Arab Americans influencing Political Life?
By: Noureldin Mohamed/Arab America Contributing Writer
Like all immigrants, the Arab American diaspora living within the U.S. borders have come for a better opportunity. Fulfilling the American dream while still owning to their heritage and culture they carried with them from abroad. Ultimately, they have not escaped racism and dealt with several stereotypes that were forced upon them by the media ever since the 9/11 attacks. Arab Americans are not only Christians or Jews but also Muslims that were most exposed to the stereotyping of “terrorists”. Many are educated, participated in political activism, and community engagement to get their voices heard on issues that matter. They are doctors, scientists, politicians, professors, teachers, fathers, and mothers. In addition, Arab entrepreneurs who are lobbying to be included in minority small-business loan programs.
Arab Americans, Activism & Politics
Today, many Arab Americans are now part of everyday American political life. Representing the democratic party in Michigan, congresswoman Rashida Tlaib who is of Palestinian descent. Ilhan Omar from Minnesota and of Somali descent. Donna Shalala from Florida and of Lebanese descent. Ralph Abraham of the Republican party in Louisiana. These politicians represent the Arab American diaspora and influence the political agenda of the United States of America. They have pushed bills for education, gender empowerment, community engagement, health. And many others that affect not only Americans but also the Arab diaspora within the United States. This leaves out an important aspect of American political life, American foreign policy, which needs a lot of work.
According to an article by the Wilson Center, “lobbying for Arab American needs and Arab nations that works to unify a message in the world”. National Association of Arab-Americans, a lobbying organization founded in 1972 in large part due to the efforts of former U.S. Senator James Abourezk; and the political American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (1980) and Arab American Institute (1985).
What About Muslim Arab Americans?
A sense of validation and pride has weathered upon many Arab Americans, especially Muslims who would appreciate their voices being heard across the U.S. For many, it means that they can practice their religion as well as, preach their problems, voicing their opinions. An important organization that assists Arab Americans in voicing their opinions is the Arab American Institute. Founded in 1985 by James Zogby, James Zogby, director of the Arab American Institute, pointed out that “the major takeaway is how Arab-Americans are like the rest of America … we vote for the reasons why everybody else votes, for the issues that everybody else votes.”
According to a report by the task force, Farooq Kathwari, and Lynn M. Martin on Muslim American Civic and Political Engagement Muslim Americans have been fearful and chosen not to speak out. Because their patriotism has frequently been called into question—and because of the inexperience and limited resources of their institutions—many Muslim Americans have shied away from the media and any public statements that may be construed (or misconstrued) as critical of the U.S. government and its foreign policies.
Some Arab Americans find it hard to be represented by even their own diverse communities. For example, many Muslim Egyptian Americans feel shy to stand out as most of the immigrants come from Coptic and Jewish religions. This makes it quite hard to intertwine as one, but regardless of the religion, they are still also Egyptian and American. Another example is the minority groups of the MENA region like Yemenis, Sudanese, Libyans that have not had their voices heard in America or their own home country.
Empowerment and Census 2020
As Zaha Hassan, who works at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace pulled on a patterned red, orange, and white gown, she said [Rashida] Tlaib’s swearing-in helped contradict negative perceptions of Palestinian Americans in an interview with the Washington Post. “What she represents to me is a shattering of the walls that kept us from participating” in politics, said Hassan. Despite a resurgence in nativism in the United States and abroad that Hassan called “troubling,” she said Thursday symbolized “the hope of something better.”
Furthermore, dedication to political participation, community engagement, and an oath to protecting national security in America will further empower the ethnic minorities, especially Arab Americans. It is 2020 and the census is one of the most important tools that will provide Arab Americans with funding, population logistics, and be included in bills that relate to congress and so on.
In Arab America, advocacy is not the main mission, but rather it pursues one that envisions cultural awareness among Americans who do not know who Arab Americans are. Through education, it provides a “bridge” with Arab Americans different and alike.
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