High School Students Recite Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic

A bunch of high school students from Colorado just did something risky while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance… and it had nothing to do with “Under God”:

Rocky Mountain High School senior Nuha Kapatayes had butterflies in her stomach Monday as she recited the first words of the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic — a language she learned as a child and now speaks fluently — over the school’s public address system during morning announcements.

Kapatayes is one among a couple dozen members of the student-initiated Cultural Arms Club, which seeks to “destroy the barriers, embrace the cultures” that exist at not just Rocky Mountain High School, but also within the community. Members in November recited the Pledge in Spanish, sparking intense debate about whether saying the words of the Pledge in any language other than English was unpatriotic.

Normally, I’m opposed to saying the Pledge at all and I salute those students who opt out of it, but reciting it in a different language is really another way to raise consciousness about what we’re actually saying, what it means to people from other cultures who say it, and whether everyone needs to participate.

The school received negative feedback from some parents, but the students haven’t faced any backlash from their peers.

Meanwhile, some commenters are flipping out over pledging allegiance to a nation “under Allah” or the idea of anyone shoving a Pledge like that down everybody’s throats…

Welcome to our world.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Cecelia Baines

    Again Hemant, your hypocrisy knows no bounds.

    Here you say “Normally, I’m opposed to saying the Pledge at all” but then you go and add a caveat that basically says “I am against it until it suits my views and needs”.

    Jesus, you are your little pals are some messed up thinkers.

    You discredit us and make it harder to achieve any meaningful change in regards to Church/State issues.

    You are 0 for 2 today. And yes, I eagerly await the crowing of your sycophants any second now…..

    • C Peterson

      Where’s the hypocrisy? It’s no different from saying we’re opposed to government endorsed holiday displays, but that if they’re going to insist on placing a Christmas display, we’ll insist on a secular one as well.

      The point in both cases is that they recognize reality, and that certain acts are actually ways of standing up to things we don’t approve of, in the hopes of changing attitudes and changing how things are done.

      You don’t have to approve of the concept of reciting a pledge of allegiance to support those who wish to say it differently.

    • Gus Snarp

      There’s no hypocrisy in opposing the Pledge but also approving when someone uses it in a way to make a point about discrimination, xenophobia, and the problems inherent in the Pledge itself when it is going to be said anyway. Liking what these kids did doesn’t make disliking the Pledge in general any less legitimate.

    • Helanna

      Cecelia, I see you haven’t responded to any of the very reasonable responses to your posts on the earlier thread. Protip: Calling everyone who responds to you a ‘crowing sycophant’ and then refusing to actually listen to anyone doesn’t mean you win the argument.

      I can’t speak for Hemant, but I dislike the Pledge, *and* I’m happy these kids did this. I reconcile this easily: I wish they didn’t *have* to do this. I wish we already had an open cultural discussion, and I wish the Pledge wasn’t recited in schools. But this is a good way to discredit it and open up an important dialogue, so I approve.

      • Pattrsn

        Cecilia has to be careful. In the past when he’s gotten too wound up he’s ended up getting seriously abusive and getting himself banned.

    • Edmond

      This article demonstrates exactly what we’ve been saying all along, that pledges like this are given a pass (or are respected and honored) as long as they reflect Christian values.
      How many times have we seen Hemant write about these Christian privilege issues and say “If this were representing Muslims, the Christians would change their supportive tune…”? And here it is.
      This is not hypocrisy on Hemant’s part, but of the parents who reacted negatively to having a different religion presented besides their personal favorite. He is saying “Yes! We finally get an EXAMPLE of what would happen if these rituals were presented in an other-than-Christian flavor!”. This is a step toward ELIMINATING these pointless practices once and for all.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      Jesus, you are your little pals are some messed up thinkers.

      Agreed, Jesus-folk are messed up. But not many of them hang around here, so you’re doing a poor job of getting your opinion to the right people.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Tozhye tebya lublu. Potselui.

      • RobMcCune

        Love it, needs more up votes.

        Любить его, нужно больше голосов ЗА. (Hope google translated right)

        • Glasofruix

          Nope :p

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            I think more like,
            Люблю это, нужно больше голосов
            ?

            • Glasofruix

              More like:
              Обожаю, нужно побольше голосов.

              “Люблю это” is weird, because in russian we don’t use “it” (это) unless it refers to something more concrete. Moreover, the phrase is missing the subject, which is “я” (me, I) and should be: “Я это люблю”, still weird but grammatically correct. The verb “Обожать” means basically “to worship/to adore” and can be used without a subject (only when referring to oneself however) in everyday conversations it replaces “I love it/that” or “cool”.

              • Amerist

                I… Wow. Thank you, I haven’t studied Russian but I enjoyed that breakdown of the translation reasoning.

              • bethelj

                What is the root word of Обожать?

                • Glasofruix

                  “бог” or god

      • Glasofruix

        Yep, you’re all good.

      • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

        Xhorosho.

    • blasphemous_Kansan

      You’re a very angry person.
      That makes me sad.

    • RobMcCune

      The purpose is different, ordinarily the pledge is about enforcing conformity. Saying it in one of those dirty foreign languages shows there is room for diversity in America. Additionally it subverts the way it is used by nationalistic authoritarians, and gets them to reveal their true colors.

      The fact the existence of other people who have their own opinions and needs seems to deeply offend you Cecilia. That other people recognize that does not make them sycophants.

    • busterggi

      Sound more to me as if he’s explaining how different circumstances cause things to take different meanings. Now I don’t object to saying the pledge although I stopped saying “under god” sometime around 6th grade (or shortly after the British Invasion to put that in context) but I don’t force others to say it. I do find it pretty stupid at sporting events though.

      • eric

        You say the pledge at sporting events? That’s extremely odd. I think you mean that you find the singing of the national anthem at sporting events to be stupid.

    • coyotenose

      Apparently flying helicopters doesn’t take a tenth of the rationality and basic logic comprehension that I would have hoped.

      Pro Tip: Dismissing theoretical rebuttals that you can’t even describe is what people do when they know they’ve already lost by opening their mouths. Enjoy.

  • C Peterson

    Funny how many people (read: Christians) are quick to say that “God” is generic, and therefore acceptable in government endorsed speech, but changing that to “Allah”, which means exactly the same thing and even refers generally to the same entity, is somehow offensive in an identical situation.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

      If a Hindu student says the Pledge of Allegiance in *HINDI*…. will they have to replace the words “under God” with “under Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesh, Krishna…. [going on for thousands of gods]…”?? :-)

      • ortcutt

        I’m pretty sure that Hindu isn’t a language. Hindi is, but Hindu isn’t.

      • http://www.facebook.com/rvinekar Rtvik Viñekar

        They would simply say Bhagavaan . Hindus do have a name for the generic God, in fact many names (Ishvar is another, Deva etc.). Bhagavaan means one who decides your or anyone’s fate or luck and can be applied to any “God”.

  • C Peterson

    Funny how many people (read: Christians) are quick to say that “God” is generic, and therefore acceptable in government endorsed speech, but changing that to “Allah”, which means exactly the same thing and even refers generally to the same entity, is somehow offensive in an identical situation.

  • Gus Snarp

    That is truly awesome. Anyone who complains about “under Allah” can automatically go and exclude themselves from ever getting butthurt about us not saying “under God”. In fact, they ought to join us in campaigning in removing those words from the Pledge altogether.

  • ortcutt

    I’d like someone to recite the Pledge in Klingon. I found this online, although I can’t vouch for its accuracy.

    ‘amerIqa’ joqwI’ vImatlh ‘e’ vIlay’ ‘ej ‘oSbogh Sep vImatlh ‘e’ vIlay’.
    wa’ Sep, wavqangbe’bogh, HochvaD tlhab je ruv ghajbogh.

    The “under God” part is complicated by the fact that the Klingons believe that the gods were slain by the Klingons because they were more trouble than they were worth.

    http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Klingon_religion

    BTW, in Esperanto it’s “Mi ĵuras fidelecon je flago de Usono kaj je la Respubliko, por kiu ĝi staras: unu nacio sub Dio, nedividebla, kun libereco kaj justeco por
    ĉiuj.”

    • RobMcCune

      Damn dirty Klingons we can never be friends with them! Even if it takes 350 years.

  • nakedanthropologist

    Bravo, kids! Bravo.

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    Awesome!

  • Angelo

    Allow me to introduce my language Papiamento, a Caribbean Creole Language:

    “Mi ta hura lealtad na e bandera di Estadonan Uni di America, un Nacion bou di Dios, indivisibel, cu libertad y husticia pa tur.’

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Harrison/23417637 Michael Harrison

    In junior high French class, we would recite the Pledge in French every day. There was no uproar then.

    • Thegoodman

      Freedom Fries! ‘Merica!

    • coyotenose

      Of course not, French people are white!

      Except for when they aren’t, which is quite common.

  • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

    Commenters in the original article are blowing a gasket over the word “Allah”? The very Catholic Maltese people say “Allah” as well.

  • http://bsoi.st/ bsoist

    Hemant, I’m curious about your views on the pledge. Is the inclusion of “under God” the only objection or do you have some other problem with saying the pledge?

    NOTE: I’m not picking a fight. I have my own issues with reciting pledges. I’m just curious about yours. I noticed you didn’t link to a previous post about it. have you written about this before?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I don’t think we should mandate that all students say the Pledge, because most just say it with no thought (it’s just “something they do”), but I would probably let that slide if it weren’t for the “Under God” part.

      • http://bsoi.st/ bsoist

        Gotcha. I agree. You know I’m a theist, but I absolutely agree that students should not be required to participate. In my opinion, the U.S. was founded, in large part, based on the freedom *from* religion. I’m proud of that.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Students can’trequired to recite the pledge, thanks to a 1947 court decision in a case brought by Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, as long as the entire class stands up to recite it, they are still in my opinion strongly coerced.

          “In God We Trust” bugs me a bit more, because it is demonstrably factually wrong. Even some people who believe in God don’t trust God. The “Under God” can’t be proven one way or the other. It’s a nuanced distinction based on epistemology and a certain degree of anal retentive.

          • http://bsoi.st/ bsoist

            > “In God We Trust” bugs me a bit more

            I always thought it was interesting that we put that phrase on our money. Money is what most of us really trust in, after all.

            And don’t get me started on all the insincere things people say – “I’m praying for you” for example.

  • Jim

    Last night I attended my kid’s induction into the National Junior Honor Society. There were probably 1000 people in attendance. As part of the ceremony, the entire auditorium stood up and recited The Pledge. At the end of it, a woman, probably three or four rows behind me said, “Amen!” That is the reason I object to the pledge. Too many people equate it to a religious act of devotion. It is not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gtpooh Gwenny Todd

    Back in the 1990s my youngest son was suspended for a week for saying, “One nation under goddess” . . I was pretty proud of him. But stuff like that is why I finally homeschooled.

  • American by Birth

    Since everybody is jumping on the bandwagon I too would like to introduce you to my language…. English……. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation UNDER GOD, indivisible with Liberty and Justice for all. AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Paula M Marshall

    Now we have to say it in Spanish and Hatian and Croatian and Russian and Chinese and Japanese and the language of all people who have ever come into the US. This is getting silly. Sorry, English is just the main language of the US. Learn it.


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