Southend Struggles: Converging Narratives Of An Arab/Muslim American Enclave


  • Sally Howell Author



Dearborn, United States, Arab American, Arab-American, Muslim American, Southend, ethnic enclave, Muslim-American, Arab nationalist, Islamic movements, activism, civil rights movement, economic justice, 1970s, Michigan, coalitions


This paper explores political struggles that took place in the Southend of Dearborn in the 1970s that coincided with the rise of Arab nationalist and Islamic movements in Michigan and linked these interests to those of Arab-American activists involved in the civil rights movement, labor organizing, and other campaigns for social and economic justice. These struggles launched the careers of activists who cooperated in the 1970s and 1980s to establish several of the nation’s leading Arab- and Muslim-American service, religious, and community-based institutions and played a significant role in transforming Dearborn into the well-known Arab American hub of today. In the Southend, newer and older Arab constituencies joined forces to build an unprecedented institutional infrastructure, both the left-liberal, secular, politically empowered Arab-American establishment of Dearborn and it’s equally engaged, but pious and socially conservative Muslim-American establishment. Thus the Southend struggles provide key insights into the social challenges that came to define Arab-American (and Muslim-American) identities in the half century that followed. In this essay I bring these histories together and explain why more work needs to be done before we can make sense of the political challenges Arabs and Muslims—as distinctive and overlapping communities—have faced in the US.