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COLUMBUS, Ohio – After 10 years of informal meetings, the Arab American Bar Association of Ohio was created for the growing number of Arab American attorneys in the state.

The association follows other such bar organizations, such as those for women, as well as for Black, Hispanic and Asian American attorneys, which emphasize mentorship, community service and social and legal engagement.

Arab American attorneys across the country have worked on issues at the forefront of the public debate: racial and ethnic justice, diversity in the workplace, religious freedom and criminal justice and immigration reform, according to a statement from the new bar association.

“We needed a place for them to act as a collective and engage with the community at large,” vice president Majeed Makhlouf, a Cleveland-based attorney and former Cuyahoga County law director, told Court News Ohio, a service of the Ohio Supreme Court and judicial branch. “We needed a place to serve as the resource for law schools and young attorneys of Arab American descent.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, Ohio has the eighth-largest Arab population in the U.S., with about 65,000 people. The Arab American Institute estimates the population is over three times that — 197,000 people.

The discrepancy is because the U.S. Census questionnaire lacks an Arab option for a person’s origin. Some people identify themselves by printing “Arab” under “some other race.” Another complication is that the census bureau considers people of Lebanese and Egyptian origin white.

The bar association’s leaders hope to bring the issue to the attention of the Ohio Supreme Court, hoping to identify as Arab American on attorney registration forms.

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