Do Arab Americans represent the Middle East? Or America generally?

Dearborn mosque door and window “Is Dearborn the Arab capital of America?” I asked this question yesterday because the affirmative answer in the U.S. State Department’s video signaled the persistence of stereotypes—even in an Administration as knowledgeable as Obama’s. (Scroll down to read our earlier posts this week.)
    Greg disagrees with my view that Dearborn is not the Arab capital of America, even though he agreed that Arabs in Dearborn are not representative of Arabs in America:
“As to Dearborn being the Arab capital of America, I can’t think of any place else in the U.S. where they are so integrated into the life and flow of an area. They might not be representative of the rest of the Arabs in the country, but the question should be: Are they representative of Arabs in the Arabic countries?”
    It is true that Arabs in Dearborn are well integrated into the life and flow of the area. This is also true for Arabs throughout the greater Detroit region—and in the state of Michigan. This integration is one reason why the 9/11 backlash was less severe here than it was elsewhere in the country—something we learned in our survey and write about in our new book.
    Greg’s specific question has a complicated answer. It depends on what one means by representative. If we focus on religion alone, then yes, Dearborn Arabs are representative of Arabs in the Middle East—Islam is the majority religion in both places.
    If we focus on values—say, traditional values—then Dearborn Arabs are similar to those who live in Arab countries. But their traditional values mean they are also similar to Arab Christians here and elsewhere—and also similar to Americans in general.
    For example, Arab Americans, like most other Americans, tend to be religious and patriotic.
Of course, there are big differences between America and Muslim countries, such as attitudes about gender equality.
The traditional values of Arabs in America actually reinforce the traditional values of America as a whole.
    If you want to find stark differences, compare the secular values of most Europeans with the traditional values of Arabs, Arab Americans, and other Americans.
Surprised? What do you think?

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