Arabic is a dangerous language

So dangerous, in fact, that you can’t board airplanes wearing a T-shirt with an Arabic slogan:

Arabic T-shirt sparks airport row

A demonstrator wears a similar T-shirt at a New York protest in July
An architect of Iraqi descent has said he was forced to remove a T-shirt that bore the words “We will not be silent” before boarding a flight at New York.

Raed Jarrar said security officials warned him his clothing was offensive after he checked in for a JetBlue flight to California on 12 August.

Mr Jarrar said he was shocked such an action could be taken in the US.

US transport officials are conducting an inquiry after a complaint from the US Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

JetBlue said it was also investigating the incident but a spokeswoman said: “We’re not clear exactly what happened.”

By the way, isn’t Raed Jarrar the famous counterpart to Salam Pax on the original Iraq war blog “Where’s Raed”?

0 thoughts on “Arabic is a dangerous language”

  1. Yes, Raed is the other correspondent with Salam.In addition, his family each have their own blogs. Personally, I think Raed was testing the waters. He is pretty type (fils du bled), so I’m not surpised at the reaction. Disgusted- absolutely.

  2. That’s crazy. The reaction to the shirt, I mean.

    Zazou, what does fils du bled mean? Son of…the village?? Is that slang for saying he looks “typically” Arab?

  3. I agree- the reaction to the shirt is particularly egregious because it speaks to a criminaliation of a language itself. Language is a powerful thing, and in many countries and at many times various languages have been criminalized, so the following remarks are about the US- but aren’t meant to suggest the US is the only one.
    The US has a history of criminalizing language. The English Only initiatives are directed primarily at Spanish. In the Indian schools in California (and I assume Oklahoma, etc), Indian children were punished for speaking their languages. In Louisiana, older Cajuns speak of being punished in American schools for speaking Cajun French. Even today, in California, people will sometimes tell you to speak English, this is America. When the anti-Immigration marches take place, many people comment on the Spanish signs- so many marchers are now holding bilingual signs. Because so many people know Spanish, there is less suspicion about the content of the language. However, Arabic, etc remain much less known and the prevaling anti-intellectual, anti-Arab culture sentiment (you want a good look at this, read the essay I have linked to on my bog from Thomas Sowell from Stanford- a horrificly written and dangerous screed) – assure that the watchdogs of the bastion of Western thought, freedom, etc (remember Rumsfeld’s latest Wizard of OZ pronouncement?) have become the uninformed, “good-intentioned” citizenry who see themselves not as the budding Stalinist informers that they are, but some modern form of minutemen.

    And the answer to your second question: yes.

  4. remember that Egypt air plane that exploded or whatever after it left newyork.

    remember how they deemed the pilot (Al Batoty) to be a wacko who commited suicide with the whole plane based solely on his saying some vague arabic stuff when the alarms started ringing (I know he said religious stuff, but this is about language, as it is you can’t use arabic for a couple of hours without using some religius expression).

  5. Hey Zazou. Taking something like a belief that English should be America’s official language and suggesting it is racist…I think it might wrongly impugn a lot of people who think English ought to be the official language while not harboring ill will towards others, not hating Spanish, etc. I don’t have a strong/hard stance on the issue, but feel the US would be better off with a national language, if only cos it would help everyone communicate. Admittedly I say without knowing much of English Only initiatives and the other points you mention.

    I’m not saying you don’t have a point about the language thing. But this t-shirt incident seemed to me just a consequence of general anti-Arab sentiment in the US today. At least, from what you say, I don’t buy it’s more about language than about being freaked out by irrational fear of Arabs.

    I’m an immigrant, btw. English is my third language, and my parent’s fifth. They learned it poorly before we moved, and now (20 yrs later) it’s probably their #2 strongest language. Which I mention only to explain that I’m not some xenophobic nut who hates immigrants. The first thing my mom did when we got here was spend two months teaching me English as best she could, before my first day at school. We did exercises every day. So when I see people here for years who don’t speak any English — at least, younger people, not old grannies — it’s something that baffles me totally.

    And, saying “speak English, this is America” — I don’t think that’s racist. Rather, it is not necessarily racist. Sometimes I feel that way. Just this morning, coincidentally enough, I remembered an article I read about some Orthodox Jewish community in upstate NY, and I read they spoke mostly Yiddish. I wanted to collectively slap all of them and tell them to speak English. Why? Cos this is America! That literally was my thought, so it’s funny you bring that up specifically as a racist thing to say. I didn’t feel hateful or racist, thinking it.

    (Oh and, I read that essay you linked on your blog. I took less issue with it than you but, yeah, overall I’d concur: the dude’s crackers.)

  6. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the thumbs up on stup, by the way. I do think some of the reaction is a racist response to a non-recognizable language. And I do take offense at the English Only Initiative. I am US born and speak several other languges besides English (no great feat- more like a party trick) WITH a near native fluency in one and acceptable accents in the others. I think you might have to come from some of the contested states to have my perspective. One is historical- in a number of states : California, the whole Southwest, Florida, Louisana, and parts of Maine, Hawaii- English was NOT the first language when these terrotories were made states, IN fact, California has a bilingual constitution for precisely that reason.
    Two- Native peoples. Hundreds of Native languages have been lost in less than 100 years because of enforced Americanization- ie the Indian schools, etc., causing great harm to these societies- including the difficulties enforced deracination in your own territory causes.
    Third- it is no one’s damn business (including you, Dan, sorry- although you seem very nice) what I am saying to someone else and it is not my fault Americans are so ferociously monolingual.
    While I agree that immigrants need to be conversant and functional in the commonly used language of a country, I don’t feel legislating such will help- in fact, as we have seen in other things, it would promote the tyrany of the monolingual majority over the rest of us both in the work place and in public spaces.
    And the argument I commonly hear, “well, if I (or X) were living in another country, we would have to learn the language…” Excuse me while I have hysterics…ok, I’m back. The problem is, they don’t. Many Americans living in Mexico are happy as clams with 20 words in Spanish. When I lived in France and Morocco, I met a lot of Americans who couldn’t speak much beyond very rudimentary French or Arabic and were delighted because that made everyone speak English to them and limited their social circle to Anglophones – which causes serious problems in perceptions, etc. because this tends to limit you to a certain social class- and for Americans- that is one often above their own.
    Just the other day, someone asked me what languages I speak, and when I told her French was one of them, she smiled, as said, well, that’s nice but you really don’t need to keep it up now, do you, since, really, everyone in France speaks English.
    And I thought, epece de salope amerloque…but, didn’t and just smiled sweetly and said, oh. I hadn’t noticed, I usually conduct my interviews and do my work in French when in Francophone countries, so that issue has never come up.

    As for Sowell – the man is at Stanford for god’s sake! And although he claims to be a historian, very few of his publications touch upon the Middle East – as you will notice, he writes more about Civil Rights and African-Americans. His understanding of Middle Eastern culture and history is poor at best, specious at worst- and right in line with neo-con Heritage Foundation thinking.

    Imagine if someone had said that about Brazil, Myanmar or Rwanda?

  7. Last week Delta made my friend turn inside-out her “George Bush Killed My Dog” shirt because it was “offensive”.

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