An Arab American April



A mosaic.

Bella Kim, Co-Editor

Throughout the month of April, Arab Americans are recognized for their contributions and heritage. Many people are unaware of what sets Arab culture apart.

Arab Americans have ancestors from the 22 Arab nations, which are located on the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabian Peninsula includes countries from western Asia to northern Africa that are diverse, but share a common language and culture. 

Contrary to many assumptions, the word Arab is not synonymous with Middle Eastern because not all countries in the Middle East are located on the Arabian Peninsula, and vice versa. For example, the Middle East includes some countries that are non-Arabic (Iran, Israel, Turkey and others), and some Arab nations are not in the Middle East (Egypt, Morocco and more). The Middle East is a geographical region bordered by Asia, Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean Sea, and Arab refers to a group of people who descend from the Arabian Peninsula or speak Arabic as their primary language.

Also, it is common for Americans to misuse the words Arab, Arabic and Arabian. Arab describes the people and can also be used as an adjective, for instance, “Arab countries” or “Arab traditions.” Arabic is the name of their language and Arabian is only used to name their region of origin, the Arabian Peninsula. It is incorrect to refer to Arabs as “Arabics” or “Arabians.”

Furthermore, not all people who are Arab are Muslim. Muslims are people who practice the religion of Islam. Only about a fourth of Arab Americans are Muslim, most are Christian. “Arab” is not a religion or ethnicity, but a way to describe a group of people that come from the same area and speak the same language. It is similar to how someone could identify as American because they live in the U.S. and speak English, even though their ethnicity might be different because their ancestors came from a foreign country. 

National Arab American Heritage Month started in 2017 to recognize the contributions of Arab Americans in all areas of study. Arab Americans are one of the most educated populations, with over 40% having a college degree and 17% having a postgraduate degree. Of the approximately 331.42 million people in the U.S., about 3.7 million are of Arab descent. 

“Mosaic” is the 2021 theme for Arab American Heritage Month. According to an article by the University of Michigan’s Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA), a mosaic is “a perfect metaphor for the community – we are composed of thousands of individual beautiful pieces, each unique in their own way while creating a greater whole.” Mosaics are pictures made by putting together small pieces of stone or glass. Muslims are known for the beautiful geometric patterns on their mosaic art. 

Ultimately, Arab American heritage and history should be shared during April to celebrate their diverse culture and many contributions to our society.