Arabs have been immigrating into the Latin America from the Middle East since the beginning of the 20th century. Some of them came following their dreams to establish a better life for themselves, while others were forced to flee the war-torn countries of the Middle East like Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, and Yemen. Those immigrants kept their traditions alive, and, like many other immigrant communities, faced the challenge of passing such traditions on to their children while integrating into the Latin Americans way of life. Arab Americans in Latin America schools represent more than 20 countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa. They share many similarities with other immigrant groups seeking to establish an ethnic identity in a heterogeneous country, but they also face additional challenges. These result especially from negative stereotyping; racism and discrimination; widespread misinformation about their history and culture; and, for the majority who are Muslim, the need to find ways to practice their religion in a predominantly Judeo-Christian country.
Some Muslim Arab American parents send their children to private Muslim schools so they can receive an education consonant with the family’s religious beliefs, but most opt for public schools (Zehr, 1999).
As the number of Arab American students in public schools has increased, so has the array of strategies and materials for successfully integrating them. Still, many schools have not yet acknowledged Arab culture and history or counteracted Arab stereotyping. This digest reviews the resources available to provide Arab Americans with a supportive school environment and all students with an accurate and unbiased education on the Middle East. Although Arab Americans may be one of the smaller minorities in schools, they should be represented in multicultural courses and activities to validate their culture and educate all students about the Middle East. Field trips can include visits to Arab community institutions, assembly speakers can include Arab American leaders, and film series can include Arab contributions, for example.
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Schools can involve Arab American families to familiarize students with the various groups’ celebrations, foods, and history (ADC, 1993a).
Schools can provide professional development training and make available to their staff accurate resource materials about the Middle East, Islam, the various Arab groups in the Latin America, and the nature and extent of anti-Arab sentiment. Middle East organizations and centers at local colleges offer schools a range of services, including training, often at no cost. For example, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has produced a substantial Middle East bibliography for educators (1993b) and a guide for helping Arab parents serve as a resource for teachers (ADC, 1993a).
Followers of Islam in particular (Arab Americans as well as other Muslim communities) want to feel respected, and providing teachers with information about the religion promotes understanding. Several groups, such as the Arab World and Islamic Resources and School Services, conduct workshops; others, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (1997), have published materials for educators.
Arab American is a long and proud history. Arab Americans have made significant contributions to society. They are doctors, lawyers, and educators to name just a few. What Ill be discussing will be not only their contributions to society, but their stereotypes as well. To start off, Arab Americans have been assimilated into the American culture and society over the past hundred plus years. During this time there has been general loss of their historical culture.
As generations continue to thrive, it was noticed that Arab Americans was losing touch with their past. An idea was formed ten years ago to create a cultural center where Arab Americans could go to study their heritage. These studies would include language and many other aspects of the Arab culture. The hardest part of this venture would be funding. Through years of fundraising, lobbying on capital hill and donations, the Arab American cultural center will become a reality in Houston Texas. When the cultural center opens in 2001, it will be the culmination of many hard years of work and sacrifice to give Arab Americans a way to reflect on their past, present and future.
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Arab Americans have been stereotyped for many, many years and are still undergoing the same treatment. In movies they are depicted as terrorists. In society as a whole they are seen as cab drivers and convenience store clerks (7-eleven).
While Arab Americans do occupy some of these positions, so do whites and blacks. It is unfair to depict them in such an negative aspect because their contributions are much greater to society as a whole. Another stereotype is linking all Arab Americans to terrorist activities.
Only 1% of Arab Americans has been linked with their counterparts in Southeast Asia. This is yet another typical yet unfair stereotype. Arab Americans are also thought of as being a large population in the prison system. This is the worst stereotype of them all. Arab Americans make up only 2 percent of the overall prison population in the Latin America. I think this could stem from the older generation of Arab Americans pasting down their customs of what was done to thieves in their homeland.
In Southeast Asia you can lose a hand for thievery. The Arab Americans practice one religion. The name of the religion is Muslim. Their bible is called the Torah and their god is Allah and he is their salvation. Every year the Muslims practice a tradition called Ramadan where they fast during the day light hours for two weeks. When its over, they have a celebratory feast. In their lifetime, every Muslim would like to take the journey to the Holy Land.
By the way, Muslims do not eat pork. They view the pig as an unholy and unclean creature. Arab Americans have been discriminated on for many years. It has been stated that until the media takes a stance to support the Arab Americans and their quest for equality in the Latin America, the Arab Americans will have to work twice as hard to be noticed and obtain Equality within society. Alpher, Joseph. “American Arabs” Foreign Affairs, 60, No. 5, 1982, 1110-23.
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Antonius, George. The Arab Awakening. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1955. Arendt, Hannah. Antisemitism. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1951.
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