April is Arab-American Heritage Month. Let us take this opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the many contributions Arab Americans, at 3.5 million strong, have made to this great country.
Sadly, this is an uphill battle. Despite our long presence and significant contributions to the United States, we are too often seen as outsiders.
But our history is part of American history, and it includes such memorable figures as Pvt. Nathan Badeen, who died fighting against the British in the Revolutionary War, to the early Yemeni community in Dearborn, Mich., which greatly contributed to building the Ford Motor Co.
Arab-American innovations include the invention of the ice cream cone (Ernest Hamwi) and the development of the artificial heart (Dr. Michael DeBakey). In fact, Arab Americans have excelled in every facet of American life.
Here's a quiz you can take to test your knowledge of Arab Americans.
1) In the United States today, are there more Arab-American Muslims or Arab-American Christians?
2) Approximately when did Arab Americans begin arriving in significant numbers on the shores of the United States?
3) Which Arab-American poet authored one of the best-selling books of all time?
4) Name the Arab-American actor who had the lead role in a long-running TV show about an obsessive-compulsive investigator.
5) Who's the first women's studies professor at Harvard Divinity School?
6) A famous Arab American has been a visionary consumer activist and four-time presidential candidate. Name him.
7) This Arab American is the executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. Who is she?
8) What major international award did the Arab-American chemistry professor Ahmed Zewail win in 1999?
9) This poet was showcased on Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam on Broadway.
10) This state saw the first ever Senate race between two candidates from Arab-American families. Name the state and the candidates.
Here are the answers:
1) Roughly three-quarters of the Arab-American population is Christian, and one-fourth is Muslim.
2) The first wave of Arab immigrants arrived in the United States in the 1880s, mostly from the area around Mount Lebanon. Most of them were Christians, though scholars estimate that about 10 percent were Muslim.
3) The famous poet is Kahlil Gibran, the author of "The Prophet," which has sold more than 9 million copies in the United States alone and has been translated into dozens of languages.
4) Tony Shalhoub, a Lebanese-American actor, starred on the TV show "Monk" and has many other credits in his celebrated career.
5) In 1999, Egyptian-American Leila Ahmed became the first women's studies professor at Harvard Divinity School.
6) Ralph Nader, who is of Lebanese descent, has worked tirelessly on behalf of consumers and working people in this country for decades.
7) Dalia Mogahed is an executive at Gallup and was also named by President Obama as an advisor to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
8) Ahmed Zewail is the second Arab American to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Elias Corey won the Chemistry prize in 1990.
9) Suheir Hammad is a well-known Palestinian-American poet who appeared on Def Poetry Jam.
10) In New Hampshire, Democratic candidate Jeanne Shaheen, who is married to an Arab American, squared off for a Senate seat against Republican John Sununu, another Arab American, in 2002 and in 2008. (She lost in 2002 and won in 2008.)
These are but a few examples. Stereotyping people on the basis of their race, religion or national origin diminishes us all. By recognizing everyone's achievements, on the other hand, we build our future together.
Moustafa Bayoumi, a professor of English at Brooklyn College, is author of "How Does It Feel to be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America" (The Penguin Press). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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