Arabs and Muslims: Not the same

As Arab American Heritage Month concludes, James Zogby writes in The Nation about a lifetime of slights, large and small, over his ethnicity. Zogby is a pollster and founder and president of the Arab American Institute.

Portrait of James Zogby

James Zogby, author of Arab Voices, speaks to the Microsoft Political Action Committee at Microsoft campus in 2020.
Photo by BankingBum, licensed under Creative Commons

He recounts slurs, being excluded or marginalized and discrimination. He recalls The Rev. Martin Luther King’s observation that people can be alternately excluded or included not because of their qualifications but because of their ethnicity.

Zogby tries to set the record straight on a major misconception in the United States. Recently, rather than recognize Arabs in the United States for who they are, a group tweeted a celebration of AMEMSA Heritage Month. That stands for Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian.

Zogby wrote this amalgamation is “not a shared heritage but rather a rubric created as a product of targeting by government national security policies. By choosing to recognize this invented category, they in effect canceled our decades of work to achieve recognition for our ethnic community.”

Islam is one of many religions practiced by Arab Americans. The also belong to many Christian faiths and, like more and more Americans, many are nonreligious. South Asia is a puzzler because there are no Arab countries there at all.

Zogby sees the mistake or misidentification as a denial of the Arab identity.

Who are Arab Americans? Learn more reading “100 Questions and Answers About Arab Americans,” which Zogby helped shape. “100 Questions and Answers About Arab Americans” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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