M I Curious: Why is there a large Arab population in Southeast Michigan?

Jul 9, 2014

Credit Wikimedia Commons

The M I Curious project is headed up by Michigan Radio’s Mark Brush.

“This is our chance to kind of pull back the curtain on news production and actually go out into the public and find out what the public is curious about,” Brush said.

We are inviting you into the editorial process of developing, producing and airing a story.

You can go to micurious.michiganradio.org and post your question for us.

Three questions will be chosen for a vote by listeners each month. If your question is selected, you can participate in producing the story with us.

This month’s question comes from Jeff Duncan. His question:

What brought people of Arabic/ Middle Eastern decent to Michigan?

Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek investigated and answered that question.

Cwiek said southeast Michigan has drawn so many Arabs because of two reasons. One the auto industry, specifically Henry Ford.

“There is apparently a legend that in the local Yemenite community that Henry Ford once met a Yemenite sailor and told him about these jobs in an auto factory that paid $5 a day,” Cwiek said.

The sailor passed on the word to others in Yemen and around the Arab world.

Cwiek said that though the first immigrants from the Arab world came in the nineteenth century, the explosion of Arab culture really started in the twentieth century.

Arabs came to Detroit looking for jobs and seemed to follow Henry Ford.

The first mosque was built in Highland Park, Michigan in an Arab community surrounding a Henry Ford plant. The plant did not last long. It moved to Dearborn, and the Arab community followed.

*Listen to the full story above.