Arab Americans

The Arab American National Museum aims to share the stories of its diverse population.
Courtesy of the Arab American National Museum


Arab-Americans receive more suspicion and misunderstanding than most social groups. These misconceptions give the Arab American National Museum an important job: sharing the stories of Arab Americans.

Located in Dearborn, the museum opened in 2005, and although it has only been around for little more than a decade, it has been chosen as an affiliate of the Smithsonian.

Arab American Institute

Arab American voters seem to have played a vital role in handing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders an upset victory in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary.

The results show Sanders won in handily in many precincts with large Arab-American populations, particularly in the city of Dearborn.

Muslim woman sues former workplace for discrimination

Dec 23, 2015
Justice statue
Flickr user Jack / Creative Commons

A Muslim woman from Dearborn has filed a lawsuit against her former employer for religious discrimination.

The complaint says Terry Ali, who wears a hijab, was hired as a medical receptionist at Livonia Dermatology. Ali began the new job one day before the mass shooting in San Bernadino earlier this month.

The day after the shooting, Ali's supervisor pulled her aside and asked "if she was satisfied with the job." The supervisor also asked if Ali could contact her previous employer and ask for her old job back.

Eric Constantineau / Creative Commons / cropped from original

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has issued a reminder in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris.

They want people to take a stand against retaliatory violence and discrimination against Arab and Muslim Americans.

Earlier this week, the FBI office in Detroit issued a statement that it's investigating anti-Muslim threats against Dearborn.

Michigan governor puts refugee acceptance efforts on hold

Nov 15, 2015

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan's Republican governor, who has bucked many party leaders for welcoming Syrian refugees, is putting efforts on hold following the deadly attacks in Paris.

Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement Sunday that the state is postponing efforts to accept refugees until federal officials fully review security clearances and procedures.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

One of three remaining Democrats in the Presidential race stopped in Dearborn Friday.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley met with Syrian and Iraqi refugees now living in Metro Detroit, before addressing the Arab American Institute’s National Leadership Conference.

O’Malley condemned what he calls “xenophobic immigrant hate” coming from Republican candidates.

And he says Democrats should be talking more about Syrian refugees.

Rebecca Kruth

A soldier with Iraqi heritage has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Michigan Army National Guard.

Lt. Col. Jason Awadi said he was unfairly passed up for a promotion to communications director last summer because of his ethnicity.

Awadi said a panel of senior-ranking military officials nominated him for the promotion "unanimously," and he was given "official military orders" to start the new role in October.


It's the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

Syrian men, women, and children are fleeing the war and carnage in their homeland, desperately trying to get to a country that will welcome them, and let them begin new, safe lives.

It's forced the White House to consider admitting more refugees to the United States, with Secretary of State John Kerry recently pledging the U.S. will accept 100,00 refugees a year by 2017. That's up from the current 70,000 a year.

Breaking down Arab stereotypes through music

Sep 11, 2015
Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

Metro Detroit has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the nation, and it's also home to the National Arab Orchestra. That group is trying to preserve Arab culture and build bridges through music.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A federal judge in Detroit sentenced Chicago-area Palestinian-American activist and community leader Rasmea Odeh to 18 months in prison for immigration fraud Thursday.

A jury convicted Odeh, 67, last year of lying on naturalization papers and unlawfully obtaining U.S. citizenship.

Odeh said she had never been convicted of a crime. In fact, an Israeli military court had convicted her of involvement in a 1969 Jerusalem terrorist attack.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A prominent Palestinian-American activist faces up to ten years in prison and the loss of her US citizenship after being found guilty of immigration fraud.

Rasmea Odeh, 67, was convicted in a Detroit federal court Monday of gaining US naturalization and citizenship unlawfully.

Odeh was convicted by an Israeli military court of involvement in a 1969 Jerusalem bombing. She did not disclose that information on immigration papers, according to federal officials.

More than half a million people voted absentee in this week's primary election
Lars Plougmann

Update: we've now obtained the city clerk's (now rescinded) resignation letter from July 22, and we've updated the story to include the information it provides. 

Something “fishy” is going on at the Dearborn Heights city clerk's office.

That's how the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee puts it.

They say they're getting dozens of complaints from Arab Americans who tried to get absentee ballots in Dearborn Heights – and ran into trouble at the city clerk’s office.

The festival in past years.
The Arab American

Michigan Radio is launching M I Curious - a news experiment where we investigate questions submitted by the public about our state and its people.

Our first installment of M I Curious originated with Jeff Duncan, a firefighter from Sterling Heights. He submitted this question:

Why is there such a large Arab American community in southeast Michigan?

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Hundreds of people gathered at a Warren park this past weekend for a picnic celebrating World Refugee Day--and the area’s growing refugee community.

According to state data, of the 4658 refugees re-settled in Michigan last year, nearly three-quarters are from Iraq.

And many of them have settled in Macomb County suburbs, particularly Sterling Heights and Warren.

Inside the Arab American National Museum.

Earlier this month there was the annual anti-Islam rally in Dearborn (although more cops than actual protestors showed up.) 

A few days before that, police investigated the burning of several Qurans outside a local Mosque. 

 And in February, an Arab-American man won more than $1 million dollars in a lawsuit over the religious and racial harassment he said he suffered at work.  

Inside the Arab American National Museum.

DEARBORN, Michigan – The Arab American National Museum plans to host Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for a tour, meetings with community leaders and town hall-style event.

The museum in Dearborn says the visit is planned for Monday, including remarks by Snyder around midday. 

Dearborn has large Arab and Muslim populations. The museum says Manal Saab, who is on the museum's National Advisory Board, invited the governor to visit.

The festival in past years.
The Arab American

The festival has been canceled for the second year in a row due to higher liability insurance costs for festival organizers.

The three-day festival in Dearborn celebrated Arab culture and was one the largest gatherings of Arab Americans in the U.S., but it also attracted anti-Islamic protestors and Christian missionaries from around the country.

Niraj Warikoo reports for the Detroit Free Press:

Tensions at the festival broke out in 2010 when a group of Christian missionaries arrived with video cameras to record their attempts to debate Muslims. Some were arrested for disturbing the peace, though later acquitted of most charges. Their arrests drew outrage from conservatives across the U.S.

Another Christian group filed a lawsuit against the city, saying the missionaries were restricted in where they could distribute their literature. In 2012, a separate group of Christians brought a pig’s head mounted on a pole with anti-Islam signs, resulting in some youth hurling bottles at them.

Warikoo reports that Dearborn was forced to pay $300,000 to the Christian missionaries arrested in 2010.

The Arab-American Chamber of Commerce says they’re still looking for ways to move forward with the festival.

House Republicans have come up with an annual $500 million solution to fixing Michigan's horrible damaged roads. Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press joins us to discuss the proposition. 

A Clinton Township man was senselessly beaten and robbed on Detroit's east side after stopping to help a 10-year-old boy who stepped into oncoming traffic. Steve Utash is now in a medically induced coma. Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press joins us to try and understand this crime. 

A neighborhood church in Metro Detroit has closed its doors about 91 years. St. Henry's parish numbers have fallen so low that the church is closing. Stateside's Kyle Norris grew up attending the church, and she joins us today to share her story.

Wikimedia Commons

As the city of Detroit seeks pathways back to economic health, small businesses are seen as a key. And there can be no conversation about small business owners in Detroit without involving the Arab-American community. 

Most of the grocery stores, convenience stores and gas stations in Detroit are owned by Arab-Americans.

And, historically, the relationship between these store owners and their largely African-American customers has been not without its tensions. 

Which is why a recent editorial in The Arab American News caught our eye, and we wanted to share its message with you. 

We're joined now by Osama Siblani, the publisher of The Arab American News.

Listen to the full interview above. 

A new festival will feature comedians from Arab-American and other minority backgrounds. 

The 1001 Laughs Dearborn Comedy Festival happens September 27 and 28 at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn.

Amer Zahr is the festival's producer and he'll also be performing a few sets.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

How best to deal with the extremely messy situation in Syria?

That’s the question the U.S. government and the international community are wrestling with right now. But it’s one that Syrian expatriates have wrestled with in a different, more intimate way for more than two years.

Metro Detroit has one of the nation’s largest and oldest Syrian communities. How have they dealt with the crisis? How are they using the community’s social and economic resources to help?  

A long history, but strong ties

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

As Congress prepares to debate a plan of action in Syria—and President Obama tries to build support for a US military strike--Metro Detroit’s Syrian community is showing their support for American intervention.

Dozens of Syrian-Americans protested President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in suburban Detroit Friday.

Flickr user carywaynepeterson / Flickr

There's been a new development in the debate over garages in Dearborn.

You may recall some residents in Dearborn have been using their garages as gathering spaces, some equipped with sliding glass doors, couches, refrigerators, water pipes, and TVs. This has been especially popular with Dearborn's large Arab community.

This week, the Dearborn Planning Commission approved changes in rules governing the way Dearbornites may use their garages, and there are those in the Arab community who feel these rule changes are a direct slap at them.

Jeff Karoub has been covering this debate for the Associated Press and he joined us today from Detroit.

Listen to the full interview above.

Billions and billions of federal dollars, hundreds of different policies, all rest in the U.S. Farm Bill. With very little bipartisanship in Washington these days, it's not too surprising that it's taken so long for Congress to make a deal on the legislation. But, time is running out. Why can’t the 2013 Farm Bill just get done and what does it means for the Michigan and U.S. economies?

And, we took a temperature-check. Just how do local officials think the state Legislature is doing?

Also, the Dearborn Planning Commission approved changes in rules governing the way residents may use their garages, but some people in the Arab community feel the changes are a direct slap at them.

First on the show, there's been an apology from Detroit's emergency manager for those now-infamous comments made in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. That's where Kevyn Orr described Detroit in these words: "For a long time the city was dumb, lazy, happy and rich."

Orr offered up a mea culpa in an interview with WXYZ-TV.

What effect will those words and the apology have on Orr's ability to work with Detroit leaders and citizens?

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes joined us today.

The Arab-American Civil Rights League says hundreds of Arab-Americans received letters from Huntington Bank this year explaining that their accounts have been closed, shut down or terminated.

No reason was given for closing the accounts, and no other link exists between the private and business account holders, except that they are all Arab-American owned accounts.


Should homeowners be allowed to do pretty much whatever they want with their garages, as long as it doesn't bother neighbors?

That's the essence of a growing debate in Dearborn, where a desire by some residents, largely Arab-Americans, to use their garages as living space is being met with resistance at City Hall and the prospect of tighter garage ordinances.

Jeff Karoub is with the Associated Press, covering issues pertinent to the Arab-Muslim community, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Dearborn Mosque
user rypix / Flickr

The site of the annual Arab International Festival in Dearborn is moving and admission could be charged.

Niraj Warikoo reports for the Detroit Free Press that tensions in recent years involving Christian missionaries has led to the change of venue.

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly said Friday that the city plans to shift the festival — the biggest annual outdoor gathering of Arab Americans in the U.S. — from Warren Avenue to Ford Woods Park, near the corner of Ford and Greenfield roads. One of the reasons for the move is liability concerns; the city has been hit with lawsuits from some Christian missionaries alleging their free speech rights were curtailed at the festival.

The 18-year-old festival is held each June by the American Arab Chamber of Commerce.

Last year, some Christian missionaries from California picketed at the festival with anti-Islam signs.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

An Arab American civil rights group says it’s hearing from a surge of people in southeast Michigan whose bank accounts were closed down without explanation.

The Arab American Civil Rights League says it’s received about a dozen complaints in the past month.

In each case, the bank notified the client that their account would be shut down. But they refused to provide an explanation.

Arab museum holds 8th annual film fest

Jan 6, 2013

An annual festival of movies from the Middle East is screening films rarely seen in the United States.

The Arab American National Museum in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn is hosting the 2013 festival that runs from Jan 24-26.

Photo from TLC's website

The groundbreaking reality show "All-American Muslim" has been canceled.

The show, which followed five Muslims families in Dearborn, will not be picked up for a second season, a TLC executive confirmed.

"I’m certainly sad to hear the show wasn’t being renewed," says Suehalia Amen, one of the women featured on the reality show.

She says "All-American Muslim" sought to humanize Muslims in a way mainstream media hadn’t done before…and it made viewers look at Muslims and Arab-Americans in a new light:

"It’s been an eye-opening experience," explains Amen. "To have people tell you 'I hated Muslims, and after your show I’m able to understand your community and have a new-found respect.'"

The show’s creator, Mike Mosallam, agrees. He says the show's ratings dropped throughout the season, but he says that doesn’t mean the show didn’t succeed on a cultural level in terms of "what it taught people and what it dispelled in terms of people’s perceptions. I mean those are things that no ratings will ever be able to show."