April is a time to celebrate the rich culture and contributions of the Arab peoples to the United States as we observe National Arab American Heritage Month, first recognized nationwide in April 2021 by President Joe Biden.
Currently, Robbinsdale Area Schools has 49 families who speak Arabic. Worldwide, Arab Americans trace their ancestry to Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The largest group, representing close to one-third of the Arab American population in the U.S., is Lebanese Americans.
Arab immigration to the United States has taken place over more than a century. Arab American Foundation notes that early Arab immigrants to America were primarily Christians from what is today Lebanon and Syria. A second wave, in the first part of the 20th century, was more diverse and included Muslims as well as Christians. Some Arab peoples also practice Judaism.
The contributions of Arab peoples to the world at large include discoveries in math, astronomy, medicine, architecture and navigation. The Arab-American Anti-Defamation Committee points out the Arab world “enhanced and developed the arts and sciences and preserved the libraries of the early centuries of the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine cultures. Indeed, during the Dark Ages of Europe, much learning was preserved for the world through the Arab libraries in the universities of Morocco (Fez), Mali (Timbuktu) and Egypt (al-Azhar).
“From this period of Arab influence, new words such as orange, sugar, coffee, sofa, satin, and algebra filtered into the languages of Europe and eventually into our own. New discoveries were made in the sciences and arts which improved the life and condition of [humanity], and thousands of Arab contributions have become an integral part of human civilization.”
Here are some ways to learn more about Arab American culture: