August 30, 2007
Arabic as a Terrorist Language
By ANTHONY DiMAGGIO
A good friend and former Professor of mine always began his classes on the developing world with an introduction to Islam. One of the first points driven home in the class, semester after semester, was the difference between Islam and Arabic. While the terms are obviously not synonymous (one being a religion and the other a language), this basic distinction is disregarded in recent fundamentalist efforts to demonize not only Islam, but the Arabic language itself.
Claiming that the Arabic language is inherently Muslim makes about as much sense as claiming that English is inherently Christian.
I wanted to believe that we’d come far enough in this country that Muslim-Americans and non-citizens alike don’t have to suffer under irrational hatred, fanaticism, and repression. But for America’s small, but influential right-wing minority, this seems too much to ask.
How Americans react to anti-Arab/anti-Muslim political-cultural campaigns will do much in determining…the vigor of our democracy.
I am referring to the racist war that has been declared on the Kahlil Gibran International Academy (in New York), and most specifically its Principal, Debbie Almontaser. The Gibran Academy is the first public institution in the U.S. committed specifically to learning the Arabic language. But the way the school has been attacked in media diatribes, one would think it was named after Osama bin Laden, rather than an uncontroversial, but well known poet. The Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran is best known for his classic work, The Prophet, written over 80 years ago and translated into over 20 languages. While Gibran’s works focused heavily on the corruption of Christian clergies and churches of his day, his other common themes include love, religion, life and death, and philosophy. More…
Anthony DiMaggio has taught Middle East Politics and American Government at Illinois State University. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Mass Media, Mass Propaganda: Examining American News in the “War on Terror” (forthcoming December 2007).