Article on Arab-Americans Important in Various Ways

By Clark, Mike | The Florida Times Union, September 30, 2001 | Go to article overview

Article on Arab-Americans Important in Various Ways


Clark, Mike, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Mike Clark, Times-Union Reader Advocate

Last Sunday, the Times-Union published a front-page story on Jacksonville's Arab-American community. It described some of the backlash against them following the Sept. 11 terrorism attack and provided some basic facts about the Islam faith.

The news value of the story was clear, but there were two other reasons to report the story prominently:

1. The news media have a duty to report on the entire community for journalistic reasons. Years ago, minorities were ignored or marginalized.

2. There is a public service in informing readers that the Muslim faith does not endorse terrorism and that innocent local residents should not be blamed.

For those interested in learning more, I recommend a Web site from the Detroit Free Press (http://freep.com/jobspage/arabs/index.htm). It includes 100 questions and answers about Arab history, culture, geography and language.

The Free Press produced this primer for its newsroom staff, since the Detroit area includes a high concentration of people with Arabic ancestry. Since the Sept. 11 attack, the Free Press posted it on its Web site.

The journalist's guide begins this way: "Like all people, Arab-Americans are too often described in simplistic terms. Although the Arab culture is one of the oldest on Earth, it is, in many parts of the United States, misunderstood."

Here are a few facts from the Free Press guide with a few additions.

-- Though the 2000 census included 126 racial and ethnic categories, it did not include one for Arab-Americans. Therefore, the population of Arab-Americans can only be estimated at about 3 million people, though some estimates go as high as 8 million.

-- While Arabic is the common language for many Arabs, their religion may include Islam, Christianity, Druze, Judaism and others. There are further distinctions within each of these religions. …

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