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Arab American #yallavote

The intersection of Muslim and American has led to an increase in Arab American organizations working diligently on today’s most important issues.

If you’ve heard of Ralph Nader, Shakira or Doug Flutie, chances are you don’t realize that they’re Arab American. Arabs are a prominent ethnicity among Americans. Their background ranges from Iraqi to Lebanese, Palestinian to Egyptian, Tunisian to Yemeni. They hail from 22 different countries and speak a wide variety of Arabic dialects.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are about 1.9 million people of Arab descent in the United States today. The Arab American Institute estimates upwards of 3.7 million Americans trace their roots to an Arab country. The initial migration of Arabs to this country came in the 19th century, mostly in the form of Christians. Today, the demographics of migration have changed, and the majority of Arabs are born in the U.S.

Despite popular stereotypes, Arab Americans are among the most informed, educated and contributing members of American society. Names like Linda Sarsour and Nihad Awad regularly make headlines for championing a number of civil rights issues, not limited to terrorism or Islamophobia but civil rights in general. Sarsour and other Arab American women, for instance, are forming the face of a new generation of women’s-rights and minority-rights advocacy, including Black Lives Matter.

This intersection of Muslim and American has led to an increase in Arab American organizations working diligently on a wide range of issues. Here are four Arab American organizations to keep an eye on in the current political climate:

1. The Arab American Institute

The AAI is an advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., that aims to increase the visibility of Arab-American involvement and candidates in the American political system. Its activities include: monitoring discrimination, promoting voting rights, and more. Visit the website here.

One cool thing they’re doing: #YallaVote is a media-savvy grassroots campaign to encourage voting and political activism.

2. The Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services

ACCESS is a human services organization in Detroit, Michigan, that aims to help newly arrived immigrants adapt to life in the United States. Its activities include social, mental health, educational, artistic, employment, legal and medical services. Visit the website here.

One cool thing they’re doing: The Arab American National Museum offers amazing community programs such as culinary walking tours, summer programs and a Concert of Color series promoting hip-hop artists.

3. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

This one’s a Washington, D.C.,-based organization that aims to combat discrimination and bias against Arab-Americans, including stereotypes of Muslims. Touted as the largest Arab-American organization in the United States, the ADC was founded in 1980 by James Abourezk, the first Arab-American U.S. Senator. Its activities include counseling and fighting cases of discrimination, defamation and hate crimes. Visit the website here.

One cool thing they’re doing: College students can apply for the Jack G. Shaheen Mass Communications Scholarship Awards and follow in the footsteps of Shaheen’s Reel Bad Arabs project, which highlights stereotypes of Arabs in Hollywood.

4. Arab American Family Support Center

This organization provides services to immigrant communities in New York City. Its activities include protective family services, low-income health programs, adult literacy classes and youth programs. Services are provided to people of all backgrounds and not only the Arab community. Visit the website here.

One cool thing they’re doing: Under a partnership with New School’s Engage Media Lab, a program called “I Need To Be Heard!” allows students to use storytelling to express their lived experiences through filmmaking.


Saadia is an interfaith activist, cultural sensitivity trainer, and author of the book Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan.

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