Yemeni Americans drowning in U.S. culture [Archives:2005/897/Reportage]

November 24 2005

Yemen Times Staff

Since the beginning of time, Yemenis have traveled from place to place searching for a better future and a life of prosperity. Yemeni people are known to have roots in almost every part of the world. Spreading from Asia, Africa, and even Europe and North America. During the 1950's and towards the end of the Imamate regime, people in Yemen went through unstable situations, which forced many to look for a new future in a different country.

The United States was at this time in the height of its progress, which made many Yemenis consider it as a destination for the generations to come. During the 1960's and early 1970's, many of today's Yemeni Americans arrived to the United States, fleeing the war which broke out and consequently destabilized the country, in search for a chance of having a prosperous future.

Small communities consisting of Yemeni immigrants started in places like California, Michigan, and New York. No exact figure of Yemenis living in America could be given as they are scattered throughout the vast nation. However, according to many analysts the number is as high as 700,000, nearly double the number 10 years ago. Most Yemeni Americans are from places like Ibb and Rada'a.

Unfortunately, most Yemeni Americans are uneducated, as only 2% hold university degrees, while those holding a masters degree could be counted by hand.

Due to the lack of modern education, Yemeni Americans seem to be drowning in a sea of dreams and fairy tales, thinking that America is the land of opportunities while they give themselves no opportunity to achieve education or knowledge. Many work in gas stations, automobile companies, and restaurants to earn their living.

The American culture is so indusive and full with attractions, in most situations it is almost impossible to ignore the way of life in a country like America. Many issues that are unnoticeable in a Middle Eastern society such as adultery, drinking, usage of drugs and so on are practiced openly and freely in The United States. These issues are at the same time prohibited and contradict Islamic teachings and Arab values.

Nowadays, and after the 3rd and 4th generations, many Yemeni Americans have completely lost their identity. The difference in culture, society, values, environment, and habits has tremendously changed the structure of the once great Yemeni American society. “My children don't even speak Arabic; they think it's not necessary. They just neglect to understand that we are Arabs and that Arabic is the language of the Quran”, said Ibrahim Al-Ba'dani, who has been living in the United States for over 40 years. “It's really unimaginable. I can't even imagine how their children will end up”, he added.

Its very common now to notice Yemeni Americans who don't speak Arabic at all and only understand a little of the language when being spoke to. “I couldn't believe a day would come when my children forget their mother tongue and give no importance to it whatsoever”, said a concerned father in America.

Many of the younger generations of Yemeni citizens do not understand the Yemeni values until they decide to visit Yemen. Moreover, the visit could be unforgettable and full of exciting memories. They experience a culture similar to the one their parents followed, and from there, many start to realize the importance of their original values and try to live it for as long as they can. ” I don't want to be the one responsible for them losing their identity. At least for the next generation, I will make sure my children stay safe from the strong influence of the American society”, said a U.S. born Yemeni American Hafez Ali. “Our prophet Mohammed (peace is upon him) once said: 'time will come when holding on to the practice of Islam is in the same difficulty like holding a burning piece of charcoal' and trust me we realize that every minute of our life in America”, he added.

A positive aspect for all of this is that even when going through hard situations, Yemeni Americans are probably still the most cultural people in the United States. Comparing Yemeni communities to other societies throughout America, Yemenis are known to have the Islamic centers and private schools there. Their mosques are very big and in some situations hold over 6,000 worshippers. They live in special societies where they are usually close to family and friends. Quranic classes are offered to youngsters in mosques and private schools.

Many good things are happening, but we have to keep in focus the problems that the younger generations are facing now, and the bigger problems the next generation of Yemeni Americans will surely have to deal with. Furthermore finding solutions for these issues.

Many Yemenis seem to have lost their identity in the United States, due to lack of importance given to them on parents forget to educate their children on the importance of their origin and background. Parents must keep in mind the tragic outcome in the end for their children before it is too late. If no effort is made to end such phenomena, it would be expected that the existence of Yemenis identity to disappear in the United States by as early as 30 years to come.