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Arab-Americans in decade-long campaign to rename California neighbourhood as 'Little Arabia'

The area is home to dozens of Arab-American businesses [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 February, 2021

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Locals hope that an area of California's Anaheim district, home to a hundred Arab businesses, will be officially recognised as 'Little Arabia'.
Arab residents of Anaheim, southern Californian, have pledged to continue their campaign for an official "Little Arabia" designation, despite opposition from the city's mayor.

The local Arab American Civic Council has led the campaign for over a decade, hoping that a five-mile stretch of the city - home to around 100 Arab-owned businesses - will be officially named "Little Arabia".

The West Anaheim neighbourhood was transformed by Arab immigrants from a "place where not a lot of people wanted to be" in the '80s to a "cultural and tourist destination", council founder Rashad Al-Dabbagh said.

"Let a wider audience know that there's an idea right here that is diverse and that is unique to California," Dabbagh told local SpectrumNews1.

The area is home to a huge number of Arab-owned businesses including a Syrian ice cream parlour, Egyptian and Lebanese restaurants, and halal butchers. It is also well-known for the proliferation of shisha lounges.

An effort to put the proposed designation on the Anaheim city council's agenda was struck down last month, however.

The Californian city's mayor said the designation would obfuscate the area's diversity.

"The Arab American and other Middle Eastern immigrants who made their way to Anaheim starting in the 1980s have played a welcome role in revitalising that part of our city," Mayor Harry Sidhu said in a statement this week.

"As a large, diverse city, we have to take a broader, more inclusive view when it comes to formal designations. We also need to ensure that all feel welcome," he was quoted as saying by SpectrumNews1.

"The area home to Little Arabia includes a range of people and backgrounds, with Hispanics making up half of the area's population."

Dabbagh has pledged not to give up on the designation.

More than half of Anaheim's registered voters support an official "Little Arabia" designation for the neighbourhood, according to a poll by the Arab American Civic Council and the US Immigration Policy Center at the University of California San Diego.

Around 58 percent of local registered voters support or strongly support the proposed designation, according to the survey.

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