Oregon’s Arab American community is one of the fastest growing in the U.S. There are more than 31,000 Arab Americans living in Oregon, and their diverse presence and rich culture is felt across the region through community centers, festivals, popular restaurants, and other social and educational events. In 1978, Oregon became the first state to elect an Arab American governor, Victor George Atiyeh.
In April 2021, Portland made another positive step to celebrate the city’s Arab American community. The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners recognized April as Arab American Heritage Month. This declaration, which was approved Thursday, April 8, 2021, honors more than 3.5 million Arab Americans worldwide.
Visitors interested in learning more about Portland’s Arab American community have access to plenty of resources.
The Arab American Cultural Center of Oregon (AACCO) is a non-profit cultural center. Its mission is to preserve and promote the heritage of Oregon’s diverse Arab-American community. Through its cultural preservation work and through its programs and events, such as the annual Arab Festival, AACCO is a prominent contributor to Oregon’s cultural development.
The Islamic Center of Portland strives to provide high-quality religious, educational and social services to the Arab community in Portland. The organization works to strengthen the relationship between Muslim and non-Muslim people through the trifecta of effective interfaith partnership, tolerance and respect between the people of Oregon and Washington.
The Muslim Educational Trust was founded in 1993 to create an open, empowering, and collaborative atmosphere within the Muslim community in the greater Portland area. MET has made significant strides in the development of Portland‘s Islamic-based education over the years, and it is through the organization’s focus on education that it has been able to foster positive interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims. Honest communication with the media and public officials has been an important part of the process, positively impacting not only the people of Portland, but those who live outside the city, too.
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St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church offers Christian church services that are mostly delivered in English, with the hymns and readings of the Divine Liturgy shared in Arabic as well. In September, the church welcomes everyone to its annual Middle Eastern Festival. Masjed As-Saber is the largest mosque in Portland.
The Arabic word halal that means “permissible.” For food to be halal, it must be permissible according to Islamic law. There are several rules that dictate whether meat is halal. For it to be certified as such, the meat it cannot be a forbidden cut (from hindquarters, for example) or animal (a pig).
When a halal animal is slaughtered, it’s called zabihah. Certain guidelines must be followed, such as:
- Pronouncing Allah’s (God’s) name during the slaughter.
- Using very sharp to slit the animal’s throat and ensure humane slaughter.
- The animal must not be unconscious.
- The animal must be hung upside down and allowed to bleed dry, as eating blood is not halal.
- These steps must be accomplished by a Muslim or the People of the Book (Christian or Jew.) Many observant Muslims find kosher meat acceptable.
- The animal must not contain animal by-products. It should be fed a natural diet.
In Portland, there are many dining options for those who eat halal food. DarSalam has several locations and serves up kabobs, sandwiches, bowls and authentic entrees, such as lamb stew. Food truck Noah Halal offers Greek and Middle Eastern dishes. For visitors who want to buy halal meat and other groceries, Halal Meat & Mediterranean Foods is a butcher shop that also stocks imported items such as olives, olive oils, coffee and tea.
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