Early Arab immigrants were mostly Christians, with a
smaller number of Muslims.

Although Muslim Arabs started to arrive in larger numbers after 1965, the majority of Arab Americans continue to be Christians. Some Arab Jews came to the United States from Arab countries like Yemen, Iraq, Morocco and Syria.

The Arab Muslims who came during the Great Migration era of 1880-1920 were scattered throughout the United States. The first mosque in America was built in the early 20th century. Before this, most Muslims met and worshipped in private homes. By the early 1920s, mosques were built in Highland Park, Michigan (1919), Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1920) and Michigan City, Indiana (1925).


Mosques in the United States acquired social and cultural meanings, in addition to the religious function, as immigrants struggled to maintain their Arab and Muslim identity and culture. Most Arab American Muslims belong to either the Sunni or Shi’a branch of Islam. The division happened shortly after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Some are Druze, a branch of Islam found mostly in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine.

Early Arab Christian immigrants, as well as Muslims, first worshiped in private homes or in public spaces used for other purposes. Some Christians worshiped in churches close to their homes. As the communities grew and became more affluent, they built their own churches.


The first churches built by Christian immigrants from the Arab World were on the East Coast. Between 1880 and 1895 three churches were built in New York: Maronite, Melkite and Eastern Orthodox. In 1890, a Maronite church was built in Boston, Massachusetts. In Michigan, the first church was the Maronite church built in downtown Detroit in 1898. Today there are thousands of Arab churches in every city and major town in the United States.