US bill creating ‘MENA’ classification for Arab Americans passes congress

portrait woman voter registration day Arab Americans
(Photo: Freepik)
AMMAN — A US bill creating a special racial category for Arabs and for those who identify as Middle Eastern or North African has passed congress and is on its way to becoming law in the States, news outlets report.اضافة اعلان

House Bill 3768, which aims to add a category called Middle East or North Africa (MENA) to the Uniform Racial Classification Act, passed the US house of representatives last week with overwhelming support.

If the new legislation is approved by the US senate, it will enter the process to becoming law, according to CBS News.

Once this happens, US government agencies that are compiling or reporting statistical data using racial or ethnic classifications must use the MENA designation alongside existing classifications of White, Black, African, Asian, Native American, etc.

Beyond ‘Arab’The new MENA classification represents a broader concept than "Arab" as an ethnicity or "Muslim" as a religion, including anyone from the region that stretches from Morocco to Iran.

Arabs and people of Arab descent in the US have faced the dilemma of defining their race in American transactions and statistics, which provide only limited options that fail to adequately classify them.

The bill was introduced in February after a CBS 2 news network investigation revealed that federal and local government authorities often ignore people who could be classified using the MENA designation when collect data, which has caused neglect of the group’s need for medical resources.

CBS 2 found that neglect had a significant impact during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Arab Americans were dying at high rates in Illinois.

Social service and non-profit organizations serving the community said they had to rely on word-of-mouth information because of the lack of documented data to help obtain timely funding for resources to help the Arab-majority community.

Major reorganizationIf passed, the law would mark the largest reorganization of federal racial classifications in the country in decades.

Currently, Americans of Arab descent are being classified under the law now in effect in the US as “Asian” or “White”.

Experts say the new classification would help government and independent researchers understand trends in health, employment, and education. However, some are also expressing fears that it will be misused in terms of hostility towards Arab Americans or Islamophobia.

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