A Word About the Almanac
By Farouk El-Baz
The Arab American Almanac has become an indispensable source of information about citizens of the United States who hailed from Arab lands. These immigrants varied greatly in age, background, education level, and religion. They belong to every conceivable profession, rich to poor, with little education to Ph.D. holders, and from sophisticated city dwellers to farm boys. They constitute a group of people as varied as the U.S. population itself.
Because of their diversity, they have significantly contributed to the nation in every field of endeavor. If one is to generalize, these immigrants came mostly in three waves. The earliest were those who arrived in the last quarter of the 19th Century. These were mostly Lebanese and Syrian Christians; many were merchants. The second wave came in the middle of the 20th Century, mostly to escape the heavy hand of military rule in their countries of origin.
The latest wave is the contemporary immigrants who escape from the crushing economic conditions to seek hope for a better future. Arabs who come to America easily dissolve in the society. They do not come here to establish a distinct block, but they much rather disperse quietly. They seem to have done that so well that their impact on the political landscape – as a block – is limited. Also, the Arab American civic groups and NGOs are too numerous and sometimes were at odds with each other. Much of that might be due to the fact that Arab immigrants may have brought perceived ancient differences with them from various lands of origin.
A positive sign is the much younger age of the most recent wave of immigrants. Tribal or ancient differences between groups back home would not mean much to these young people. Therefore, they would be less burdened by them and ready to cooperate as active members of the American social fabric. Thus, if I am asked where this Almanac should venture next, I would not hesitate to say that it should have considerable coverage of “Young Arab Americans.”
It should give examples of our youth and deal with their accomplishments as well as their hopes and dreams. A thoughtful reader will realize how difficult it is to put a volume like this together. It is done by seeking knowledge from disparate sources and working diligently with various groups with different objectives. This would normally require an organization of considerable size and the attendant resources.
However, the volume is the work of one energetic and highly dedicated man: Joseph Haiek. Joseph Haiek has tirelessly worked for years and has done an admirable job in producing the Arab American Almanac series. He deals with the topic in its entirety, generating a cross-section whose depth and breadth scholars appreciate and envy.
One of the most significant accomplishments is the attention to historical details and seeking information from reputable sources and recognized references. This sixth edition is a testimony to Joseph Haiek’s unstinting efforts, unlimited intellectual energy, and tireless perseverance. His work has brought to life a segment of American society that would otherwise remain hidden and unappreciated. It is hoped that this volume is coveted by libraries throughout America as a testimony to a group of immigrants who have greatly contributed to the fabric of this great nation.
Dr. Farouk El-Baz is the Director for Remote Sensing, Boston University, MA.
Read more about Dr. El-Baz in the Arab American Almanac, 6th Edition. His biography can be found in the Who’s Who, Chapter 7.
“I believe you can say to the founders of this great nation, 'Here I am, a youth, a young tree whose roots were plucked from the hills of Lebanon, yet I am deeply rooted here, and I would be fruitful.'”
Read more from Kahlil Gibran’s article published in the first edition of The Syrian World Magazine, New York, July 1926, addressing “Young Americans of Syrian Origin”