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Arab Americans: Liberals or Conservatives?
Sam Oudeh
by Sam Oudeh
June 4th, 2014 (No comments)
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In America, we have a completely different view of what would be considered a “problem” or “issue” in society. For example, some general problems that an average Arab American in Dearborn faces are whether to get his Knafeh from Shatila Bakery or Masri Sweets. Our generation that lives here is spoiled in that way and for good reason. A large reason immigrants come to America is for a better life, and it is no different with us as Arabs. For many of us, the quality that we live is much higher here, and with that higher quality of life comes different problems. When my father tells me about growing up in Palestine, he speaks about how meat was a delicacy and how it was normal to eat meat about once a week. If we think about this now, it’s shocking. We eat meat all the time and rarely even give it a second thought. This is just one example of how different life is in America than it is living in the Middle East.

As I look around social media, I see more and more activism for American social and political issues. The reason I call them “American social and political issues” is because that these are hardly an afterthought in our native countries. One thing I’ve noticed about Arab Americans’ stances is that they are usually liberal, and it puzzles me. It puzzles me because a typical Arab household is much more old-fashioned than an American household. Even if we aren’t very religious, our parents still instill those values in us from birth. So when I look at an issue like gay marriage, it seems so odd to me that so many of us are in support of it. Family is so important in an Arab community. We have all heard from our parents, “When you get to that age, you’re going to get married and have a lot of kids.” The definition of family is defined very solidly in our culture as a man and woman, and it’s originally from religion. Christianity and Islam both clearly state that marriage is between a man and a woman. When a friend of mine moved here from Palestine, he was even very confused about the concept of gay marriage. He couldn’t wrap his mind around the thought of two men or two women marrying each other. Simply by looking at our values and culture, one would think that we possess a conservative ideology. Having all of this in my mind, I think to myself “Why do many of us take a more liberal stance?”

My proposed answer to that question is simpler than one would think: Palestine. When we look at how the Republican and Democrat parties view Palestine, it is obvious that Democrats are more inclined to working towards a just peace in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Republicans are also stereotyped as the old, southern, rich white guys. Arabs see all of this, and adopt more liberal thinking, mainly because they are more accepted in the Democratic Party. This is why I think that we take a more liberal stance on social issues. I don’t like to see things as black and white. I don’t think each one of us has to support one particular ideology for every single issue. I actually think that nobody should, because not everybody thinks exactly the same. This is now my challenge to the Arab American community: Rather than support an ideology or party, support each issue as a separate issue and don’t think about which party supports which side. I think that we would be surprised at how different we would look at each issue if it were not viewed as a “Republican stance” or “Democrat stance.”

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Sami Oudeh is a Palestinian American graduate of the University of Kentucky. He is a sports nut and lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

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