Arab Americans - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Traditionally, the primary loyalties and affiliations of Middle Eastern peoples have been to local areas, the village or urban quarter, which were usually homogeneous religious and ethnic units. Not surprisingly, Arabs in America tended to establish ethnically homogeneous church- and mosque-centered communities. In addition, they formed hometown and village clubs and associations. Because immigrants from the same village or town were often scattered in many parts of the United States and elsewhere, these associations often acquired a national or even international scope. Hometown and village affiliations remain strong among recent arrivals and the immigrant population generally, and less so among assimilated Arab Americans.

Political Organization. There is no overarching political structure that groups all Arab Americans. The Christian denominations are separately organized in hierarchical groups that are essentially extensions of churches based in the Middle East. Lacking the hierarchical structure of the Christian churches, local congregations of Muslims are loosely federated with one another according to sect (Sunni, Shia) and to competing Islamic federations in the Middle East.

In the late 1960s Arab Americans began establishing national organizations that transcend religious and hometown/village affiliations. The Association of Arab-American University Graduates (AAUG), founded by a group of academics and professionals, was the first such organization. Eventually larger organizations appeared in the 1970s and 1980s (American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; National Association of Arab-Americans; American Arab Institute). The impetus behind the emergence of these organizations was the perceived need to present an Arab-American voice on U.S. foreign policy, combat demeaning stereotypes and discrimination, and encourage Arab Americans to become actively involved in the electoral process. Although these groups are highly visible, they represent only a small fraction of the Arab American population.

Social Control and Conflict. Arab Americans generally resolve disputes through the legal system. The population is law-abiding, and contrary to popular images, Arab Americans have not been involved in terrorist activities. Rather, they have been the targets of sporadic intentional violence, including several bombings and arson fires that killed two people and injured nearly a dozen others in the 1980s.

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