Study on Arab-Americans Raises as Many Questions as it Answers

November 15, 2003

Source: The New York Times

On November 15, 2003 The New York Times reported on the controversies and criticisms surrounding a new survey from the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Concern on the attitudes, values and the impact of Sept. 11 among 1,000 Arab-Americans in the Detroit area. The article notes that there first "came questions about the study's confidentiality. The three-county region has one of the nation's largest, most concentrated communities of Arab-Americans, some 100,000 to 300,000 people, and there were fears about bias attacks and eroding civil liberties. Some Arab-American scholars were miffed that there was only one Arab-American among seven researchers. Then there were concerns about the survey's methods. Was 'Arab-American' defined by region or language? For example, Chaldeans, primarily Christian Iraqis who speak Aramaic as well as Arabic, wanted to be part of the survey but didn't always identify themselves as Arab-American. Just how sensitive and informed were the researchers and interviewers about Arab-Americans? Preliminary findings of the $790,000 study are expected to be released in January, and ultimately many scholars predict that it will create a comprehensive view of Arab-Americans. But the cacophony surrounding it, reported in May in 'The Chronicle of Higher Education,' is emblematic of an old controversy among social scientists that is far from resolved: the gap between those who live in a community and those who study it. In other words, whose research is authentic?"