History of the Middle Eastern people in Metro Detroit
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|Ethnicity in Metro Detroit|
In 2004 Metro Detroit had one of the largest settlements of Middle Eastern people, including Arabs and Assyrians/Chaldeans, in the United States. As of 2007 about 300,000 people in Southeastern Michigan traced their descent from the Middle East. Dearborn's sizeable Arab community consists largely of Lebanese and many Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac who immigrated for jobs in the auto industry in the 1920s, and of more recent Yemenis and Iraqis. In 2010 four Metro Detroit counties had at least 200,000 people of Middle Eastern origin. Bobby Ghosh of TIME said that some estimates gave much larger numbers. From 1990 to 2000 the percentage of people speaking Arabic in the home increased by 90% in the Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties region, with a 106% increase in Wayne County, a 99.5% increase in Macomb County, and a 41% increase in Oakland County.
From 1990 to 2000 Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties had an increase of 16,632 people who were born in Iraq. The publication "Arab, Chaldean, and Middle Eastern Children and Families in the Tri-County Area" of the From a Child's Perspective: Detroit Metropolitan Census 2000 Fact Sheets Series states that "Arab and Chaldean representation cannot be determined" in that figure. During the same period there was an increase of 7,229 people born in Lebanon. The Iraqi community in Metro Detroit supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
- 1 Arab Americans and Arabs
- 2 Chaldo-Assyrian Americans
- 3 Copts
- 4 Geography
- 5 Politics
- 6 Demographics
- 7 Economy
- 8 Media
- 9 Education
- 10 Diplomatic missions
- 11 Notable people
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 Notes
- 15 Further reading
- 16 External links
Arab Americans and Arabs
By 2007 Metro Detroit, if defined as Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties had the United States's largest Arab American population, larger than that of Greater Los Angeles if that region was defined as Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura counties. As of that year Arab Americans are one of the largest immigrant groups into Southeastern Michigan. As of 2000 the majority of Metro Detroit's Arabs are Lebanese, Palestinian, Yemeni, and Iraqi.
According to Jen’nan Ghazal Read of the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2000, in the Wayne-Oakland-Macomb-Washtenaw region there were 96,363 persons of Arab ancestry. As of 2000 there were 92,122 people of Arab ancestry in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties, making up 79.2% of Michigan's people of Arab ancestry. According to Read, within the Wayne-Oakland-Macomb-Washtenaw region there were 131,650 persons of Arab ancestry in 2004. The largest number of Arab Americans in the Metro Detroit area live in Wayne County. As of 2004 religions among Arab Americans in Detroit include Christian and Muslim faiths, with Christian varieties including Maronite, Melkite, Greek Orthodox, and Syrian Orthodox beliefs. The Sunni and Shia beliefs are present in Metro Detroit. Jordanians and Palestinians in Metro Detroit include believers of Sunni, Catholic, Protestant, and Greek Orthodox beliefs. Yemeni people include believers of the Shafi'i Sunni Muslim school of thought and the Zaidiyyah Shia Muslim school of thought. As of 2004 most recent Arab immigrants to Metro Detroit are Muslim. A 2007 Wayne University study said that the Metro Detroit Arab American community produced $7.7 billion annually in earnings and salaries. Annually these businesses produced $500 million in taxes to the state.
As of 2004 Arabs stated that they wish to come to Detroit to unify their families, escape from conflicts in the Middle East, and improve their economic standing. As of 2000, victims of population displacement, economic hardship, and political oppression included Palestinians, Yemenis, and Iraqi Catholics, and refugees from war included Shia from Iraq and Lebanon. Andrew Shryock and Nabeel Abraham, authors of "On Margins and Mainstreams", wrote that "When asked to explain why so many Arabs have migrated to Detroit, most people in the community will mention the automobile industry. As a kind of historical shorthand, this answer is certainly the best."
History of the Arabs
Arriving in the early 1870s, the first Middle Eastern settlers in the Detroit area were Lebanese people. Most of them were Christians, including Maronites, Melkites, and Eastern Orthodox. Some immigrants were Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims. Some Druze also immigrated. A February 6, 1900 article in the Detroit Free Press stated that "Detroit's Colony of Syrians" included 75-100 people, mostly Lebanese Maronites. The Lebanese worked as peddlers and shopkeepers. Henry Ford's factories had 555 Syrian employees, including many recently-arrived Muslims, by 1916. 9,000 Arabic-speakers were among the residents of Detroit in 1930. Of them, 6,000 were Syrians. The remainder included Iraqi Chaldeans, Yemenis, and Palestinians. Immigrants from the Levant were originally labeled as being from the Ottoman Province of Syria. After 1920 the Ottoman Empire collapsed and European colonial administrators divided the areas in the Levant into Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria. Therefore immigrants into the Detroit began to be classified as Lebanese, Palestinians, and Syrians.
Immigration from Iraq started in the beginning of the 20th Century and immigration from Yemen and the Arabian peninsula began in the early 20th Century. A peak immigration of Iraqis occurred from 1927 to 1950 and a peak immigration of Yemenis and those from the Peninsula occurred from 1912 to 1925. Of those three groups, in 1951 most of them lived together in a section of Dearborn. Around 1951 there were about 50,000 people in Detroit who had descent from Lebanon and Syria. Around the same year there were about 4,000 to 5,000 persons in Detroit and Dearborn who had origins from the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Yemen, and other Middle Eastern countries. Sally Howell, author of "Competing for Muslims: New Strategies for Urban Renewal in Detroit", wrote that Yemeni people had a presence in the area since the late 1960s. Arab immigrants continued traveling to Detroit even after the automobile industry decline of the 1970s.
From 2001 to 2011 the number of members of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce increased from 300 to 1500.
Demographics of Arabs
Since their immigration to the United States in the 1870s, the Arab population has been continuously increasing. This increase can be observed in data collected by The American Community Survey and U.S Census Bureau. To determine this amount, surveys are sent out asking each individual to identify his or her “ancestry or ethnic origin.” This phrase is defined by the U.S Census Bureau as ethnic origin, descent, roots, heritage or place of person’s or ancestor’s birth. The U.S Census Bureau considers individuals who reported being one of the following ethnic origins as an Arab: Algerian, Bahraini, Egyptian, Emirati, Iraqi, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, Lebanese, Libyan, Moroccan, Omani, Palestinian, Qatari, Saudi Arabian, Syrian, Tunisian, and Yemeni.
With the aforementioned criteria, it was estimated that 850,000 people with Arab ancestry (0.35 percent of the total population) lived in the United States in 1990. In 2004, 1.2 million (0.42 percent of the total population) resided in the U.S. The 2006–2010 ACS 5-year estimates show that an estimated 1.5 million people (0.5 percent of the total population) with Arab ancestry were living in the United States, representing a 76.0 percent increase since 1990. Currently, the ten states with the largest Arab populations are California, Michigan, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, respectively. These populations are generally concentrated in metropolitan areas.
Arab American communities are generally tight-knit, as they value family, tradition, and economic achievement. Earlier immigrants worked as peddlers and in factories. More recent immigrants, however, have taken up roles in all parts of society, including public leadership positions. These increasingly professional roles have helped establish a majority of the populations in bustling cities. Consequently, their increasing role in high-level positions has helped raise the median income of Arab American households to $56,433 compared to the $51,914 for all households in the United States.
Economy of Arabs
Many Lebanese operate grocery stores, restaurants, and shops, and they were historically known for doing so.
Religion of Arabs
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The Mu'ath bin Jabal Mosque (Arabic: مسجد معاذ بن جبل) operated by Yemenis, was established in 1976. In 2005 the mosque, located just outside the south eastern border of Hamtramck, was the largest mosque out of the ten within a three-mile radius. Sally Howell, author of "Competing for Muslims: New Strategies for Urban Renewal in Detroit", wrote that the mosque "has been credited" by public officials and area Muslims "with having turned around one of Detroit's roughest neighborhoods at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, making its streets safe, revitalizing a dormant housing market, attracting new business to the area, and laying the foundation for an ethnically mixed, highly visible Muslim population in Detroit and Hamtramck."
By 2004 the Assyrian community in Metro Detroit was the largest diaspora community in the world. Most Assyrians originate from northern Iraq, although some originate from Iran, Syria, and Turkey. Assyrians in Detroit work as businesspersons, grocers, owners of liquor stores, and professionals.. Most of the Assyrians in Detroit are of the Chaldean subgroup.
According to the US census of 2007 there were 32,322 Chaldean/Assyrian/Syriac persons in the Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, and Washtenaw four-county region of Michigan. According to the definition of "Arab American" used by the researcher John Zogby, the Chaldeans make up 25% of the Arab Americans in the four county region. The publication "Arab, Chaldean, and Middle Eastern Children and Families in the Tri-County Area" of the From a Child's Perspective: Detroit Metropolitan Census 2000 Fact Sheets Series states that "Many Chaldeans believe they have a unique ethnic identity other than Arab and wish not to be considered part of the Arab population." Because the U.S. Census in 2000 did not distinguish Arabs from Assyrians, Chaldean and other Assyrian Church leaders use church membership to determine the numbers of Assyrians living in areas, with the Chaldean Catholic Church reporting 170,000 people as part of their Eastern United States Diocese in 2014, most of which living in Metro Detroit and Chicago. As of 2004 the Assyrians in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties make up 94% of the Assyrian population of the State of Michigan.
History of the Assyrians
The first Assyrians arrived in the early 1900s, taking jobs in the automobile industry. The first large Assyrian immigration wave to Detroit was in the 1920s as a result of the Assyrian Genocide, and In 1953 there were 300 Chaldean families in Detroit. However, The majority of the Chaldo-Assyrian population settled in Metro Detroit in the late 1960s. The Chaldeans settled in this area because of job availability in the automobile industry, the presence of a Maronite Christian community, which Assyrians had much similarity with in terms of liturgy and church doctrine, and a pre-existing community in Detroit and nearby Windsor, Ontario. Typically newly arrived Assyrians initially worked in small family-owned stores which older Assyrian groups setup. As time passed, more and more Assyrians moved to Detroit and found jobs at the existing Chaldean stores operated by their relatives. The stores became larger, becoming large convenience stores. Once the socioeconomic standing of the Assyrians improved, older groups moved to the suburbs. During the first wave they settled Oak Park and Southfield, and during the second wave they moved to Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Farmington Hills, and West Bloomfield Township.
Around 1979, after Jacob Yasso, the reverend of the Sacred Heart Chaldean Church (Aramaic: ܥܕܬܐ ܕܠܒܗ ܕܡܪܢ ܕܟܠܕܝ̈ܐ ʿēttāʾ d-lebbēh d-māran d-ḵaldāyēʾ), congratulated Saddam Hussein on becoming the President of Iraq, Saddam gave $250,000 ($815107.75 when adjusted for inflation) to the Sacred Heart Chaldean Church. In 1980 Saddam gave Yasso $200,000 ($574394.18 when adjusted for inflation) after Yasso told Saddam his church had $170,000 ($488235.06 when adjusted for inflation) in debts. WDIV-TV (Channel 4) wrote that the funds "reportedly helped build" the Chaldean Center of America, a building on Seven Mile Road adjacent to the church. The building houses offices of the church, an English-language school, and a Chaldean cultural museum. In honor of Saddam's efforts, Yasso presented Saddam with the "Key to the city" procured by Mayor of Detroit Coleman Young. Officials from the U.S. State Department stated that, at the time Saddam was giving funds to Chaldean and Assyrian churches and organizations in the United States, with $1.7 million given to Chaldean churches and organizations in Detroit. Yasmeen S. Hanoosh, the author of The Politics of Minority Chaldeans Between Iraq and America, wrote that the giveways were called donations but were interpreted as bribes. State Department officials also stated that the Iraqi government was establishing spy networks in Chaldean communities at that time. Reports from U.S. and Assyrian media stated that in the period around 1979-1980 the Iraqi government attempted to Arabize Assyrians in the United States through liaisons in churches by either bribing or threatening and attempting to improve its image.
As of 1990, there were about 50,000 to 60,000 Chaldeans in the metropolitan area. Chaldeans moved to Southfield and West Bloomfield in the 1990s. From 1990 to 2000 the population of Chaldeans increased in Oakland County by 10,903, in Macomb County by 7,579, and in Wayne County by 219. Macomb County had the largest percentage increase, at 426.5%. By the 2000s Chaldeans began moving to Macomb County including Shelby Township, Sterling Heights, and Warren. In 2002 officials from Chaldean churches estimated that 4,200 Chaldeans live in those cities.
By 2004 the Chaldean Cultural Center (Aramaic: ܩܢܛܪܘܢ ܝܪܬܘܬܢܝܐ ܟܠܕܝܐ qenṭrōn yārtūṯānāyāʾ kaldāyāʾ), the United States's largest Chaldean cultural center, was located in West Bloomfield Township. That year, a new Chaldean church was being built in Shelby Township. As of 2011 many Chaldeans are involved in the merchant trade. St. George Chaldean Church, the first Chaldean church in Macomb County, was scheduled for a possible completion in 2004 and had a cost of $5 million. It is on a 9-acre (3.6 ha) site along Dequindre north of Hall Road.
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As of 2004, of the Chaldeans in the tri-county area, 58% resided in Oakland County. As of 2000 2,629 Chaldeans resided in Wayne County.
Areas with Assyrian residents as of 2001 include Chaldean Town in Detroit, Southfield, Oak Park, Troy, and West Bloomfield Township. As of 2007 Chaldean residents of Chaldean Town, Detroit tend to be low income elderly people and recent immigrants. By 2014, in addition to West Bloomfield, Farmington Hills and Sterling Heights had also received Chaldeans. Chaldean immigrants, once they gain financial well-being, move to suburbs in Metro Detroit, such as Oak Park, Southfield, Troy, and West Bloomfield. The Chaldean Federation of America, an umbrella organization for most area Chaldean groups, had its offices in Southfield. As of that year, the largest Chaldean church in terms of the number of congregants resided in Southfield. The city also had the area's sole Chaldean retirement home, the Chaldean social club Southfield Manor, and a popular Chaldean restaurant named La Fendi.
Assyrians have a near monopoly over Detroit's grocery stores, Assyrians became Grocers mainly due to White flight as a result of the 1967 Detroit riot which caused many white business owners to leave Detroit. Taking advantage of the situation, Assyrians purchased their businesses at rock bottom prices. In 1972, there were 278 grocery stores in Detroit owned by Assyrians, and In the mid-1990s, Chaldeans owned 1,500 grocery stores in Detroit. In 1962, 120 grocery stores were operated by Chaldeans, and over half of Chaldean households were supported by proceeds from the grocery business.
Most of the customers of these stores are African-Americans. There has been resentment against Assyrian businesses because, as family-owned operations, many do not hire black people. Many Blacks also perceive that overcharging occurs at the stores. According to the Associated Food Dealers of Michigan (AFD), only larger stores have black employees as well as Assyrian employees. Natalie Jill Smith, author of "Ethnicity, Reciprocity, Reputation and Punishment: An Ethnoexperimental Study of Cooperation among the Chaldeans and Hmong of Detroit (Michigan)", stated that she "met few grocers who employed Blacks" and that employees unrelated to the owners are more likely to be Assyrian or White American. Violence has occurred at the stores, and business owners have installed bulletproof glass and obtained firearms to protect themselves. As of 2001, several Chaldean business employees and owners have died in violent incidents. Many younger Assyrians are not entering the grocery business anymore, with them instead starting professional careers and attending universities.
Culture of the Assyrians
Natalie Jill Smith wrote that family ties are important, even to younger Assyrians who are more Americanized. This may be due to the fact that Assyrian culture is based off of tribal bloodlines and family origin. Most of the Assyrians in Metro Detroit trace their origins to Iraq or Turkey, particularly Tel Keppe, Iraq.
Institutions of the Assyrians/Chaldeans
The Chaldean Federation of America (CFA) oversees several Detroit-area Chaldean clubs while the Chaldean-Iraqi Association of Michigan (CIAM) oversees the Shenandoah Country Club and Southfield Manor, two Chaldean social clubs. The Chaldeans have a group participation rate above the American average.
The Community Education Center, a government-funded center owned by Chaldeans, is located on Woodward Avenue in Chaldean Town, near Seven Mile. Asaad Yousif Kalasho founded the center. The teachers and most of the students are Chaldean. It provides free education.
One group, Chaldean Americans Reaching and Encouraging (CARE), takes efforts to improve the Chaldean community such as doing food drives. As of 2001 most of the members are in their early 20s.
As of 2008 about 3,000 Egyptian Copts live in the State of Michigan, with most of them living in Metro Detroit. Many Copts do not consider themselves Arab and see themselves as being the descendants of ancient Egyptians, while anthropologists classify them as Arabs due to culture and linguistic features.
St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Troy, Michigan is the religious center of the Copts. Pope Shenouda III laid the first cornerstone of the church. Construction began on May 1, 1977 and was completed in May 1979, with the first Holy Communion on May 8 of that year and consecration in 1981, from June 12 through June 14. The Coptic community is scattered across Metro Detroit, with many living far away from the church. Some members of the church live in northern Ohio.
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As of 2014 Dearborn is majority Arab, with many Arab businesses and residents. At first Arabs mainly settled the Southend and east Dearborn and the main concentration is in those areas. By 2005 a popular Arab restaurant had opened in west Dearborn, and a group of Arab Americans had settled in adjacent in Warrendale, Detroit, most of whom were Lebanese. By 2014 Arab Americans had been moving into Dearborn Heights, with the north end having more Arabs compared to the south end. Many Arab businesses in Dearborn established branch operations in Dearborn Heights. In 2014 the Dearborn Heights director of community and economic development, Ron Amen, stated that Arabs are about 25% of the city's population.
As of 2014 about 25% of the population of Hamtramck is Arab. Yemenis are the majority of that city's Arabs. Hakim Almasmari wrote in 2006 that "Several streets seem to be populated exclusively by Yemeni Americans, and Yemeni culture pervades the city’s social, business, and political life." Many Yemeni restaurants are in Hamtramck, and the Yemeni community operates the Mu'ath bin Jabal Mosque (Arabic: مسجد معاذ بن جبل), which was established in 1976. According to Almasmari, some of the first Yemenis to have arrived in Hamtramck said that Yemeni people first arrived in Hamtramck in the 1960s. The "Building Islam in Detroit: Foundations/Forms/Futures" project of the University of Michigan stated that Yemenis began arriving in the 1970s. In 2013 Dasic Fernandez, a Chilean artist, created a 90-foot (27 m) by 30-foot (9.1 m) mural on the Sheeba restaurant celebrating the Yemeni population. The mural depicts a girl in a veil decorated with the blue sky, a farmer wearing a turban, and a woman in a hijab. The Arab American and Chaldean Council and the coalition OneHamtramck commissioned the mural.
Lebanese American Christians had settled in several areas of Metro Detroit, including the Grosse Pointes. Many of them do not consider themselves as Arab. By 2014 many Lebanese American Christians had assimilated into American culture.
By 1985 many Palestinian Christians had settled in Farmington, Livonia, and Westland. The Palestinians in Livonia, many of whom operated small and medium-sized businesses, originated from Ramallah.
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As of 2014 Susan Dabaja, the city council president of Dearborn, is a Muslim Arab-American and the majority of the members of the council are Arab.
As of 2014 17% of the immigrants in the Global Detroit studies that are under the Arab category are Chaldean.
Global Detroit stated that there are 36,000 immigrants from Iraq in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, and Washtenaw counties. This makes the Iraqis the second-largest immigrant group in Metro Detroit. There are over 16,000 persons of Iraqi origins in Oakland County, 14,198 persons of Iraqi origins in Macomb County, and 5,400 persons of Iraqi origins in Wayne County. The Chaldeans are most of the Iraqis in both Oakland and Macomb counties. The Iraqis are the second largest immigrant group in Oakland County. Most Iraqis in Wayne County live in Dearborn and other Arab communities.
As of 2014, Global Detroit stated that 17,800 persons with Lebanese ancestry live in Metro Detroit, with 14,625 of them in Wayne County. Of the immigrant groups, the Lebanese are the sixth-largest.
Andrew Shryock and Nabeel Abraham, editors of Arab Detroit, stated that many of the subgroups of Middle Eastern Americans have different dialects of Arabic, and that they often "keep very much to themselves" and do not intermarry or socialize with one another.
As of 2000 most Arab immigrants enter the service economy or work in small, family-operated stores. In Metro Detroit, in 1994 there were over 5,000 Arab-owned businesses.
The "Arab American Economic Contribution Study: Gauging the economic contributions that persons of Arab ancestry have on Southeast Michigan’s Economy" of 2007 wrote that Arab Americans are over-represented in food services industry, accommodations, and other services such as repair services and personal services. These industries pay less than other industries. The report stated that Arab Americans held about 47,924 to 58,515 jobs in Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, and Washtenaw counties. It also concluded that between 99,494 and 141,541 jobs in the four county region are a part of employment associated with Arab American economic activity, making up 4.0 to 5.7% of the jobs in that region.
The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce stated in 2012 that over 200 Chaldean business owners in Metro Detroit were murdered from the 1970s to 2012. The president of the chamber of commerce and the Chaldean Community Foundation, Martin Manna, stated that year, "We've seen acceleration, unfortunately, (with) four incidents in just a year." The executive director of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, Fay Beydoun, stated that year that "We don’t have an exact number" of the Arab businesspeople who were murdered "but we are aware of many from our community who have been killed."
In a thirty-year period ending sometime prior to 2010 Dearborn Public Schools and Detroit Public Schools both developed policies to accommodate Arab and Muslim students in collaboration with administrators, parents, teachers, and students. Policies adopted by the districts included observances of Muslim holidays, Arabic-language programs, policies concerning prayer, and rules regarding modesty of females in physical education and sports. Since the early 1980s Dearborn district schools have vegetarian meals as alternative to non-halal meals. As of 2010 some schools use discretionary funds to offer halal meals, but most schools do not offer halal meals since they cannot get affordable prices from distributors.
In 2005 Highland Park Schools made plans to attract Arab and Muslim students resident in Detroit and Hamtramck. Dr. Theresa Saunders, the superintendent of the school system, hired Yahya Alkebsi (Arabic: يحيى الكبسي), a Yemeni-American educator, as the district's Arab Muslim consultant. It added Arabic-speaking teachers and began offering instruction in Arabic. Sallow Howell, author of "Competing for Muslims: New Strategies for Urban Renewal in Detroit", said that the district began treating "Muslim families more directly like consumers". Howell said that the district agreed "to segregate Muslim students from mainstream classrooms" but that the district routinely denied that this was the case. Alkebsi said that he would bring halal food to HPS schools, but he was unable to do so. The district instead had vegetarian options. In 2015, KEYS GRACE ACADEMY, the first public school academy in the United States to teach the Chaldean/Assyrian language, culture and history, opened in Madison Heights, MI. It is operated by Kalasho Empowerment of Young Scholars and provides free education as a charter school. 90% of the students are of Chaldean descent.
- Saladin Ahmed, Arab-American science fiction writer of Egyptian and Lebanese descent.
- Rima Fakih (Lebanese Arab) - Dearborn
- Casey Kasem (Lebanese Druze) - Detroit
- Hassan Al-Qazwini (Iraqi Arab) - Shia religious leader
- Moose Scheib - Detroit
- Serena Shim (Lebanese-American) journalist born in Detroit
- Simon Baz (Lebanese Arab)
- Demographics of Metro Detroit
- Arab American
- Persian American
- Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac Americans
- Iraqi diaspora
- Refugees of Iraq
- Islam in Metro Detroit
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Southeastern Michigan has about 300,000 people who trace their roots to the Middle East.
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