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Citizenship and Crisis

Citizenship and Crisis: Arab Detroit After 9/11

Detroit Arab American Study Team
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Citizenship and Crisis
    Book Description:

    Is citizenship simply a legal status or does it describe a sense of belonging to a national community? For Arab Americans, these questions took on new urgency after 9/11, as the cultural prejudices that have often marginalized their community came to a head. Citizenship and Crisis reveals that, despite an ever-shifting definition of citizenship and the ease with which it can be questioned in times of national crisis, the Arab communities of metropolitan Detroit continue to thrive. A groundbreaking study of social life, religious practice, cultural values, and political views among Detroit Arabs after 9/11, Citizenship and Crisis argues that contemporary Arab American citizenship and identity have been shaped by the chronic tension between social inclusion and exclusion that has been central to this population’s experience in America. According to the landmark Detroit Arab American Study, which surveyed more than 1,000 Arab Americans and is the focus of this book, Arabs express pride in being American at rates higher than the general population. In nine wide-ranging essays, the authors of Citizenship and Crisis argue that the 9/11 backlash did not substantially transform the Arab community in Detroit, nor did it alter the identities that prevail there. The city’s Arabs are now receiving more mainstream institutional, educational, and political support than ever before, but they remain a constituency defined as essentially foreign. The authors explore the role of religion in cultural integration and identity formation, showing that Arab Muslims feel more alienated from the mainstream than Arab Christians do. Arab Americans adhere more strongly to traditional values than do other Detroit residents, regardless of religion. Active participants in the religious and cultural life of the Arab American community attain higher levels of education and income, yet assimilation to the American mainstream remains important for achieving enduring social and political gains. The contradictions and dangers of being Arab and American are keenly felt in Detroit, but even when Arab Americans oppose U.S. policies, they express more confidence in U.S. institutions than do non-Arabs in the general population. The Arabs of greater Detroit, whether native-born, naturalized, or permanent residents, are part of a political and historical landscape that limits how, when, and to what extent they can call themselves American. When analyzed against this complex backdrop, the results of The Detroit Arab American Study demonstrate that the pervasive notion in American society that Arabs are not like “us” is simply inaccurate. Citizenship and Crisis makes a rigorous and impassioned argument for putting to rest this exhausted cultural and political stereotype.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-613-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-2)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Citizenship and Crisis
    (pp. 3-32)
    Wayne Baker and Andrew Shryock

    The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 have led to radical changes in American society, new laws and governmental agencies, new wars, and new ways of seeing the world. The U.S. military has invaded and now occupies two (formerly) sovereign nation-states; a war on terror is being waged around the world, with covert operations, secret prison facilities, and detention camps in which those designated enemy combatants have languished for years in defiance of international law; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, formed in response to the 9/11 attacks, has grown into a massive bureaucracy whose authority reaches from immigration and...


    • CHAPTER 2 Arab American Identities in Question
      (pp. 35-68)
      Andrew Shryock and Ann Chih Lin

      Detroit’s Arab communities have attracted global attention not only for their size, age, and cultural vibrancy, but also for their symbolically charged location between the West and the Arab Muslim world. As a geopolitical interface, located at the edges of what are widely believed to be civilizations in a state of clash, Arab Detroit is valuable (and often contested) territory. It is courted by politicians, investigated by the media, tapped by ethnic marketers, developed as a tourist destination and a conduit for overseas trade, monitored by U.S. government agencies, and studied by social scientists. Until the 1990s, however, very few...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Aftermath of the 9/11 Attacks
      (pp. 69-100)
      Sally Howell and Amaney Jamal

      National and international media often turn their attention to Detroit when exploring connections between the United States and the Middle East. So too do federal authorities. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the “special relationship” between Arab Detroit, the media, and law enforcement agencies intensified significantly. America was in crisis, and prevailing anxieties were felt by and projected onto Arab and Muslim citizens in unique ways. The Detroit suburb of Dearborn, with its heavy concentration of newly arrived Lebanese, Iraqi, Yemeni, and Palestinian immigrants, was an early target of investigation and concern. Here, journalists and Arab community leaders...


    • CHAPTER 4 Belief and Belonging
      (pp. 103-134)
      Sally Howell and Amaney Jamal

      “The more the immigrants enter into the religious life of America, the better and quicker they become Americans,” observed historian Philip Hitti in 1924 (121). He intended the statement as a criticism of the early Syrian immigrants to the United States, whose churches—Maronite, Melkite, and Orthodox—he feared were perpetuating sectarian conflicts among the immigrants and isolating them from other Americans. In Detroit and its suburbs today there are dozens of Arab churches and mosques. Chaldean, Maronite, and Melkite Catholics have their own congregations, as do Egyptian Copts and Syrian, Greek, and Antiochian Orthodox Christians. Among Muslims, the Sunni-Shi’a...

    • CHAPTER 5 Values and Cultural Membership
      (pp. 135-164)
      Wayne Baker and Amaney Jamal

      Arabs in Detroit take great pride in their traditions, customs, and values. The region is home to Arabs from across the Arab world, including Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Yemen, Egypt, the Gulf, and North Africa. Cultural values and traditions are a unifying force for this heterogeneous population. Consider, for example, the Dearborn Arab International Festival. Held each summer, and attracting more than 300,000 visitors, the festival embraces the area’s diversity with its Arab traditions. Dance and Dabke troops, art, food from falafel and shawarma to hummus and baked delicacies, Arab music, henna booths, coffee cup readings, and Arab merchandise are a...

    • CHAPTER 6 Local and Global Social Capital
      (pp. 165-190)
      Wayne Baker, Amaney Jamal and Mark Tessler

      The aspirations of many Arab Americans in the post-9/11 era reflect the tensions inherent in the meaning of citizenship in a diverse society (chapter 1, this volume). Consider, for example, a common theme that emerged from answers to an open-ended question in our survey about the most pressing needs facing the community: to keep Arab culture alive in America and to strengthen Arab cultural institutions. But another common theme was the call for more unity between Arabs and non-Arabs in the Detroit region and an urging for Arab Americans to accept American culture, assimilate, or at least to be open...


    • CHAPTER 7 Civil Liberties
      (pp. 193-226)
      Ronald R. Stockton

      To the founding fathers, civil liberties were central to the way they understood their republic. They wanted to create a restrained government that guaranteed citizens the rights to privacy, individual discretion, and protection from abuse by authority. Not only did the Bill of Rights enshrine due process for those accused of an offense, it also contained an inherent protection of group rights. Because most religious groups at the time were also ethnic groups (Fischer 1989), the guarantee of religious freedom was implicitly an accommodation to religioethnic pluralism. In the other direction, they also believed that citizenship placed a responsibility on...

    • CHAPTER 8 Foreign Policy
      (pp. 227-262)
      Ronald R. Stockton

      In 2003, as the U.S. army advanced into Iraq, protestors staged an antiwar rally in front of the Dearborn city hall. Hundreds of Arab American demonstrators held signs and cheered speakers. Just across the street was a second rally, also Arab American, where demonstrators announced with equal fervor their hatred of Saddam Hussein and their support for the invasion. Anyone who thinks there is a simple answer to how Arab Americans view world affairs should think about these contradictory demonstrations. They should also consider the words of a young Iraqi woman who was asked her opinion on the U.S. invasion...

    • CHAPTER 9 The Limits of Citizenship
      (pp. 263-286)
      Andrew Shryock and Ann Chih Lin

      In previous chapters of this book, we have shown that Detroit’s Arab and Chaldean communities are suspended precariously between two statuses: “not quite us” and “not quite them.” This predicament is related to all the issues of citizenship and crisis we have explored, and it should now be clear that popular reaction to the 9/11 attacks cannot fully explain the ambiguities of belonging Arab Americans face. In 2003, when the Detroit Arab American Study (DAAS) was conducted, the vast majority of its respondents were already U.S. citizens, and they belonged to a community that, although predominately foreign-born, could trace its...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 287-302)