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10.5: Social Change and Resistance

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    Immigration and the "Muslim Ban"

    In the aftermath of 9/11, there was a significant decline in Arab and Muslim immigration to the United States. However, with United States military action in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, the numbers of refugees to the U.S. increased from 2007-2016. During 2016, concerns over terrorism rose again as a result of terrorist attacks in France and Belgium. In 2017, President Trump issued an executive order banning all people (including refugees and visa holders) from seven Muslim majority countries. These countries included: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. This "Muslim Ban" faced multiple legal challenges. Despite these challenges, in 2018 the Supreme Court released their decision to uphold the ban. Critics felt that the ban was more an expression of prejudice and discrimination against Muslims than a concern for national safety. In 2021, as one of his top priorities, newly elected President Biden reversed the "Muslim Ban." He issued the following statement.

    The United States was built on a foundation of religious freedom and tolerance, a principle enshrined in the United States Constitution. Nevertheless, the previous administration enacted a number of Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations that prevented certain individuals from entering the United States — first from primarily Muslim countries, and later, from largely African countries. Those actions are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.

    Protest against a ban on Muslim travel.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Muslim ban protest. (CC BY-NC 2.0; Sasha Patkin via Flickr)

    Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)

    Several civil rights and public policy organizations, including the Muslim Public Affairs Commission (MPAC) and The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), serve to improve the lives of American Muslims as well as the perceptions of these individuals. Located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties organization.

    CAIR was created as an organization dedicated to challenging anti-Muslim discrimination and stereotypes of Islam and Muslims. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, CAIR increased its advocacy work, as they received 1,658 reports of discrimination, profiling, harassment, and physical assaults against persons appearing Arab or Muslim, a threefold increase over the prior year. The reports included beatings, death threats, abusive police practices, and employment and airline-related discrimination (Cole, 2002). CAIR has conducted investigations, issued reports, held press conferences, filed lawsuits, and organized political action to protest aspects of U.S. counter terrorism policy. In 2005, CAIR coordinated the joint release of communication by 344 American Muslim organizations, mosques, and imams nationwide that stated:

    Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians' life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram or forbidden—and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not martyrs.

    Video \(\PageIndex{2}\): Council on American Islamic Relations. (Close-captioning and other YouTube settings will appear once the video starts.) (Fair Use; WHYY via YouTube)

    Jewish Activism

    Social justice and doing what is right is part of the fabric of Jewish identity and Jewish teachings. In America, Jews have become leaders in most every aspect of civil society and philanthropy. From immigration to the civil rights movements and the liberation of oppressed peoples throughout the world, many Jewish Americans take the value of social justice very seriously. This speaks to values of Reform Judaism which stress the importance of solving social problems, on the basis of justice and righteousness, presented by the contrasts and evils of society. Jewish Americans were part of the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

    During the Civil Rights Movement, Jewish activists were involved in a number of fronts. According to historian Cheryl Greenberg,

    It is significant that ... a disproportionate number of white civil rights activists were [Jewish] as well. Jewish agencies engaged with their African American counterparts in a more sustained and fundamental way than did other white groups largely because their constituents and their understanding of Jewish values and Jewish self-interest pushed them in that direction.

    As discussed in Chapter 7.5, the summer of 1964 was designated the Freedom Summer, and many Jews from the North and West traveled to the South to participate in a concentrated voter registration effort. Two Jewish activists, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, and one Black activist, James Chaney, were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan near Philadelphia, Mississippi, as a result of their participation. Their deaths were considered martyrdom by some, and temporarily strengthened Black-Jewish relations.

    Martin Luther King Jr., said in 1965,

    How could there be anti-Semitism among Negroes when our Jewish friends have demonstrated their commitment to the principle of tolerance and brotherhood not only in the form of sizable contributions, but in many other tangible ways, and often at great personal sacrifice. Can we ever express our appreciation to the rabbis who chose to give moral witness with us in St. Augustine during our recent protest against segregation in that unhappy city? Need I remind anyone of the awful beating suffered by Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld of Cleveland when he joined the civil rights workers there in Hattiesburg, Mississippi? And who can ever forget the sacrifice of two Jewish lives, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, in the swamps of Mississippi? It would be impossible to record the contribution that the Jewish people have made toward the Negro's struggle for freedom—it has been so great.

    Under the Jewish teaching that we are all created in the image of God, Rabbi Sandra Lawson wrote the following song, I Am Human (in Hebrew, Oseh Shalom) as a reminder to never give up and remember the struggle and pursuit of treating each other with love, dignity, and respect. Here are the lyrics of the song that Rabbi Lawson wrote in 2015 upon reflecting on the senseless police killings of community members such as Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, and Walter Scott:

    Oseh Shalom Bimromav
    Hu Ya’aseh Shalom
    May the one who makes peace from heaven above
    Hu Ya’aseh Shalom (will Make Peace)

    I am human and I am free
    Watch me fly above the trees
    You can hear my cry and you can hear my roar
    but you can’t take away my soul

    Oseh Shalom Bimromav
    Hu Ya’aseh Shalom
    May the one who makes peace from heaven above
    Hu Ya’aseh Shalom (will make peace)

    We’ll fight and we’ll cry and we’ll even abide
    We’ll say goodbye just to stay alive
    And the day will come to have dignity again

    Oseh Shalom Bimromav
    Hu Ya’aseh Shalom
    May the one who makes peace from heaven above
    Hu Ya’aseh Shalom (will make peace)

    I am human and I am free
    Watch me fly above the trees
    Hu Ya’aseh Shalom (will make peace)

    Anti-Defamation League

    The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), formerly known as the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, is an international Jewish non-governmental organization based in the U.S. It was founded in late September 1913 by the independent Order of B'nai Brith, a Jewish service organization, in the wake of the contentious conviction for murder of Leo Frank. ADL states that its mission is a dual one: To stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment for all," via the development of "new programs, policies and skills to expose and combat whatever holds us back. With a focus on combating anti-Semitism and other forms of hate, and fighting domestic extremism both online and off, ADL describes it "ultimate goal" as "a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination, or hate. In 2018, ADL rebranded itself as an "anti-hate" organization, and adopted the logo: Fighting Hate for Good.

    Photograph of Jonathan Greenblatt.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\): Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League since 2015. (CC BY-SA 3.0; Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia)

    The US Census Middle East/North Africa (MENA) Category

    The U.S. Census has struggled with the issue of Middle Eastern identity. Former President Barack Obama's administration was considering adding a Middle East/North Africa (MENA) category to the Census, for which organization such as American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) lobbied. However, advocates for the MENA category blame its absence on the administration of President Donald Trump, who targeted, with his signing of the "Muslim Ban," many from MENA countries. In 2018, federal officials said that a MENA category would not be added, citing concerns that MENA was seen not as a race, but an ethnicity. So, the 2020 Census, as in previous years, did not offer an “Arab” or MENA box to check under the question of race. Individuals who want to be counted as Arab had to check the box for “some other race” and then write in their race. However, when the Census data is tallied, they will likely be marked as white. This is problematic, however, as it denies Arab Americans opportunities for nearly $400 billion in federal assistance. A lack of recognition also allows for continued civil rights abuses and stigmatization of Arab Americans that can permeate into policy (Alshammari, 2020).

    Video \(\PageIndex{5}\): Rashida Tlaib Questions Why 2020 Census Erases Middle Eastern & North African Identity. (Close-captioning and other YouTube settings will appear once the video starts.) (Fair Use; NowThis News via YouTube)

    Key Takeaways from Chapter 10

    • Middle Eastern Americans are a diverse group of different races, languages (Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew), cultures (Arab, Persian, Israeli, Turkish) and religions (Muslim, Jewish, Christian).
    • A variety of intergroup consequences can be used to explain the experiences of Middle Eastern Americans, including: genocide, expulsion, segregation, separatism, fusion, assimilation, and pluralism.
    • Both Muslim and Jewish women have been active in feminist movements that work within their faith.
    • The primary religions of the Middle East include: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All of which are monotheistic faiths that trace their origins to the Hebrew prophet Abraham. While they are distinct, there is also overlap between them.
    • Several organizations have been created to advocate for social change and justice in the Middle Eastern community, including: the Muslim Public Affairs Commission (MPAC), The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
    • Current public policy impacting Middle Eastern Americans include: the Muslim Ban (overturned in 2021) and the US Census Middle East/North Africa (MENA) Category.

    Contributors and Attributions

    Works Cited

    • Alshammari, Y.H. (2020, April 1). Why is there no mena category on the 2020 us census? Aljazeera.
    • Cole, D. (2002). Enemy aliens. Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 956.
    • Greenberg, C. (2006). Troubling the Waters: Black-Jewish Relations in the American Century. Princeton University Press.
    • Harb, A. (2018). U.S. fails to add MENA to the U.S. census. Middle East Eye.
    • King, M.L., Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., James Washington (Ed.), HarperCollins, 1990, p. 669.
    • Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to the United States, 2021,