Not just another language
Who are the two dumbest people on the intertrons, readers? I think they might be Crazy Pammy and Mark Steyn. Here’s what happened when the two of them hooked up for an interview: Mark Steyn displayed quite a deep grasp of sociolinguistics.
Yes, on the face of it yes Arabic is a language in a sense there is would be no difference between opening a foreign language school - a Spanish language school or a french language school - but in fact Arabic is more than a language. It is explicated the language of Islam so in that sense it is part of the Islamic religious imperial project. Radical Islam advances through the Arabic language. And you go all kinds of places that aren’t in the Arab world now like Pakistan, Indonesia, Central Asia, the Balk ins, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Canada and the United States and you will here those Imams preaching in Arabic. Arabic is not just another language like French or Italian, it is the spearhead of an idea logical project that is deeply opposed to the United States.
(All spelling, grammar [and lack thereof], punctuation, etc. sic)
This incoherent eructation seems to have been provoked by the topic of an Arabic-language school that’s slated to open in Brooklyn, a project which the usual suspects are decrying as “dhimmitude.” Crazy Pammy links approvingly to someone who calls it a “disguised madrassa,” apparently just because any school where Arabic is taught could be nothing else but, you know, a madrassa.
According to Pammy’s sources, the school is going to call itself “the Khalil Gibran International Academy,” but it’s really going to be a front that will teach children the terrorist tenets of Radical Terrorist Islam and will surely have them joining Al-Qaeda by the age of twelve.
The problem, you see, according to Arabic-speaking wingnut Daniel Pipes, is that “Arabic-language instruction is inevitably laden with pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage.”
And that, I believe, is what Mark Steyn must have been trying to get at in that interview with Crazy Pammy: “Arabic is more than a language… it is part of the Islamic religious imperial project. Radical Islam advances through the Arabic language… it is the spearhead of an [ideological] project that is deeply opposed to the United States.”
The Koran is written in Arabic. Muslims believe the Koran to be the literal word of God, dictated (in Arabic) to the prophet Muhammad. For this reason, the classical Arabic of the Koran is held in extremely high esteem by the entire Arabic-speaking world. Arabic is the language of Islam, because it (according to Muslims) is the language God used to reveal His thoughts to mankind. But Mark Steyn pretends to think it’s very scary to hear imams in the Balkans or North America “preaching in Arabic,” as though the Arabic language were somehow inherently radical.
To say that “radical Islam advances through the Arabic language” is beyond stupid, and I don’t think anyone with half a brain could say it or think it in good faith. There are more than 200,000,000 speakers of Arabic in the world. Everything an Arabic-speaker does could be said to “advance through the Arabic language.” The fact that radical fundamentalist Islam is preached in Arabic is not a damning indictment of the Arabic language itself, just as the publication of Mein Kampf did not mean that German was “not just another language” and that all German-speakers were Nazis. Hatred and vitriol are preached in every language spoken by human beings.
Koran-thumping fundamentalists preach their sermons in Arabic because the Koran is written in Arabic, not because “Arabic is more than a language.” 200,000,000 people on this planet think, dream, and live their daily lives in Arabic. Are they all irrevocably tainted by the very vowels and consonants of their native tongue? Do they all hate America and want to kill you, just because they speak Arabic? Can anyone with a brain in his head hear “Arabic is not just another language” and fail to see how deeply, deeply silly that statement is?
A final question, readers: If Arabic is “not just another language,” but “the spearhead of an ideological project” that wants us Americans dead, then why don’t we just play it safe and lock up all the Arabic speakers?
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May 4th, 2007 @ 03:49
I’ve figured it out: velar fricatives are EVIL.
Not only will we have to lock up A-rabs, Scots, Dutch, and Germans need to go, too. Also, we’ll have to start sending Hebrew speakers (all Jews, just to be safe) to ’special camps’.
Ønce we eliminate the velar fricative, we shøuld cømmence tø censør ø’s as well…
May 4th, 2007 @ 18:15
Really, though, I wonder what they think of Hebrew, Aramaic, Amharic, etc…
May 4th, 2007 @ 18:32
It would not surprise me to learn that Crazy Pammy had no idea that Hebrew and Arabic are linguistic cousins. She already demonstrated that she can’t even tell the difference between Hebrew and Russian (another good example of sich pwnen, BTW).
May 5th, 2007 @ 14:50
I’m a bit slow. Last night was the first time I’ve heard Mark Steyn talk when he filled in for Hannity on H&C.
What an asshole. I am supposedly of British descent (a few hundred years removed) but I can’t stand the damn accent. Maybe..I guess.. it has more to do with the content, but damn, he’s nauseating!
May 5th, 2007 @ 20:55
[...] Dum Pendebat Filius catches a couple of wingnuts acting crazy. This time, they’re upset at the prospect of a magnet school opening in New York City for students who wish to learn Arabic language and culture. Dumpendebat sets them straight. [...]
May 8th, 2007 @ 11:46
Gordo: Belated thanks for adding me to your blogroll. You da man.
Stram: Mark Steyn is a tool, in every sense of the word. You should check out his Wingnut All-Star entry at Elementropy.
May 9th, 2007 @ 15:37
“…it is the spearhead of an idea logical project that is deeply opposed to the United States.”
It is important to note that the 200 million speakers that Dumpendebat refers to are 99.9% daily speakers of Arabic dialects, not Classical Arabic. There are profound linguistical differences between the two groups. Very, very few people speak Classical Arabic on a daily basis. It is primarily used in religion and media enterprises.
In my personal experience, the content frequently used to teach Arabic goes beyond grammar, syntax and other components of the language. One will encounter ideological inculcation through the materials selected for teaching the language. This is particularly true when one advances toward higher proficiency levels in the language and studies culture, media and literature.
The fact is, the great body of literature which describes, catalogs or studies the language is derived largely (practically wholly) from the study of the language in the context of interpretation of the Qur’an. It is a simple fact that most Arabic grammarians wrote about the language to better understand and teach the meaning of the Qur’an and the Hadith. One cannot have tafsir without a firm understanding of the language. The grammar of the Qur’an is intricate (as is grammar in all Arabic poetry) and the Qur’an is cited in many forums to instruct interpretive meaning in the language.
I would also submit that the language itself has undergone a compromising stagnation (in my opinion) due to the fact it is now forever trapped and linked to the Qur’anic legacy. Classical Arabic has morphed into many dialects, but on its own it has not appreciably changed or evolved. The reason the language has not changed is because it is forever locked in an embrace with the Qur’an and Islam. In itself, that is an interesting phenomena that lends credence to one of the the original commentator’s points - classical Arabic isn’t just another language because in fact, it has not experienced change in the same manner that other languages have.
Classical Arabic is a unique language, it is tied to the Qur’an and the Islam, teaching it may involve the teaching of Qur’anic verses and other religious texts, and the material used to teach the higher language levels carries a lot of social and political baggage with it.
Should a public school be prevented from teaching Classical Arabic? In my opinion, no way. But, any materials used in the language instruction should be unrelated to religious content or teachings. I believe it is important to firmly and resoundly separate religion from education in a public school. The two should not mix under any conditions. This will be challenging to accomplish in the instruction of Classical Arabic.
May 9th, 2007 @ 17:10
Wait. How do we know they’d be using Classical Arabic anyway?
May 9th, 2007 @ 22:28
It’s a safe bet that the school would be using Classical Arabic (or Modern Standard Arabic, which is almost the same thing). For one thing, none of the “dialects” (an inaccurate term, but the simplest term to use when you’re talking about the various versions of Arabic spoken around the world) even has a codified, standardized orthography. Because of the incredibly high prestige of Classical Arabic, many Arabs disparage their own dialects (i.e. one’s own native language) as “not real Arabic” and say things like “My dialect has no grammar,” etc. Every Arabic-speaking country is in a condition of diglossia.
Hanque is 100% right: Since Classical Arabic is the language of the Koran and the Hadith, it is kind of hard to learn the language without exposure to those texts. This does indeed present a special set of challenges if language instruction is going to be kept free of religious instruction.
This, of course, is not the same thing as saying that Arabic is bad and scary because “radical Islam advances through the Arabic language.”
May 9th, 2007 @ 23:09
I thought Modern Standard was significantly different from Classical. My mistake.
May 11th, 2007 @ 19:35
Remember when we used to characterize German as the harsh tongue of barbarians during World War I?
It’s only slightly less ridiculous, what they’re saying now. (To be fair, only 5% of English words are of Arabic origin.)
Oh, and nimed eure saxes!!11!!