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  • By Franklin H. Maletsky
    • June 1, 1998

Ethnicity is an inherited status.

A tribe or community of people whose origins are within an area or country or who has existed there for thousands of years are the indigenous people of that area, from the point of view of the outsider.

As certain tribes mingle and certain beliefs, practices, traditions, languages, ideologies and religions get assimilated into the tribes; these beliefs, traditions, languages, practices, ideologies and religions which are all part of an assimilation process, become part of their ethnicity. But in no way does it make the integrated "assimilation" an ethnicity. The people are the indigenous or ethnic group but never their beliefs, traditions, languages, practices, ideologies or religions. Ethnicity is inherited at birth, derived from a race of people, it can be mixed but it is permanent. It is not a title that is attained.

Every ethnic group grows and changes as they welcome other people into their community. All these things that the group took and merged into their lives give richness to their ethnicity.

It is incorrect to use the word "ethnic" or "indigenous" to precede the name of a religion. The religion or ideology becomes part of the indigenous people, but that religion or ideology does NOT become an ethnicity.

Before the introduction of any religion or ideology into an area where indigenous people or a race of people live, the people there already have their own language, traditions, beliefs and practices. These new introductions or additions simply become part of the original.

Anyone or anybody can convert and be a member of a religion or an ideology. But nobody can simply convert over and become an indigenous person, to be part of the ethnicity or race of a group. When an immigrant becomes a follower of the religion that the indigenous people assimilated, it does not make that immigrant an indigenous person. Neither does he inherit their ethnicity. He is simply a follower of that religion.

Quoted from dictionary(com): "Muslim refers to religion while Arab is an ethnicity and in fact more than 60 percent of Arab Americans are Christians."