The US State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, announced in a video statement, at the beginning of April, that the US State Department will recognize April as the national Arab-American heritage month. "The United States is home to more than 3.5 million Arab Americans representing a diverse array of cultures and traditions;” said Price. Despite this important recognition by the State Department and some American states, on an individual basis, the US federal system, as a whole, has not officially recognized the Arab-American month, yet. For many years, lawmakers and Arab-led advocacy groups have been calling to observe the month to honor the culture, history, and contributions of Arab Americans to the United States and the world.
Accommodating Americans of Arab and Muslim origins was an important item on the agenda of the Biden-Harris electoral campaign. Unlike his predecessor, Donald Trump, Joe Biden showed greater interest in celebrating the Arab-Muslim culture as an integral part of the American culture. In 2020, the Biden-Harris campaign proposed “a plan for partnership” between Joe Biden, as president, and the Arab-American community. In the proposal, Biden pledged to fight against anti-Arab bigotry and “embrace the partnership of Arab Americans in his campaign and to include Arab Americans across his administration.” The campaign, also, promised to review the resolutions made by the Trump Administration, that hurt the interests of Arabs, either those flying to the US or those living in the US; including the review of Homeland Security’s “watchlist” and “no-fly list” processes.
Despite the very limited number of Arabs and Muslims as voters, this smart approach by the Biden-Harris electoral campaign towards the Arab and Muslim community played a tangible role in Biden’s victory in the presidential elections, last November. On one hand, it highlighted the great contrast between Biden's policy of tolerance against Trump’s policy of discrimination. That attracted a lot of voters from different ethnic origins, not only Arabs, who felt suppressed under the Trump Administration. On the other hand, the actual voter weight of Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans exceeds their percentage of 1.1% of the total American population. Their actual impact is multiplied by the number of American youth groups they are active members of and the vast ethnic communities they are involved in.
According to Pew Research Center, adults between 18 to 39 years old make up 60% of the Muslim American adult population, compared with 38% of the US adult population as a whole. According to statistics by the Migration Policy Institute, Arab Americans came to the US from twenty-two Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. According to Pew Research statistics, the majority of Muslim Americans are of Arab origins. Also, it is a proven fact that Muslims are the vast majority of the people living in MENA, including in Arab and non-Arab countries, such as Iran and Turkey. Even in Hebrew-speaking Israel, Arabs represent 21% of the population, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).
In the Middle East, the hopes are rising high that this decision by the US State Department to celebrate Arab culture may contribute to melting the currently growing blocks of ice between MENA leaders and the Biden Administration. Ironically, the Trump Administration which shamefully discriminated against Arabs and Muslims inside the United States, was the most successful US Administration in containing and accommodating the ruling regimes of the Middle East. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration which is exerting a huge effort to ease and please the Arab and Muslim community in the US, is adopting an almost hostile stance towards Arab and non-Arab regimes of the MENA region.
The Biden Administration should be careful that this lack of balance in its stances towards Arabs, at home and abroad, may open the door once against for political Islamists, who are dominating a huge space in the American civil society, to abuse the situation to promote their extremist anti-America rhetoric, especially against secularism, liberalism, and democracy.
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