Alabama Residents Argue That Offering Arabic Classes in High School Amounts to Indoctrinating Children with Islam

Which foreign languages should public high schools offer their students?

Are there some that might be more useful to learn than others? I think you could make a strong argument that Mandarin Chinese and Arabic belong in high schools and administrators would be doing students a favor by offering those courses.

At Daphne High School in Alabama, the sole French teacher retired last year. Instead of finding a replacement, the administrators went in a different direction: They decided to hire Sanaa El-Khattabi to teach an Arabic class:

Alan Lee, superintendent of the Baldwin County school system, said Daphne High, with an enrollment of about 1,400, includes students from 30 countries, and that offering Arabic is one of many ways that the school keeps an international focus and helps its graduates prepare for the global economy.

“If you look at the languages of the world, Arabic certainly would be one of the languages that I would want my own child to learn, because of the opportunities it would provide” in terms of careers and paths of study, Lee said.

That makes insanely good sense. Yet, instead of praising the decision, residents of the community and parents in the district are reminding us that ignorance is still an obstacle to obtaining a world-class education. They’re making an argument that teaching Arabic is somehow pro-Islam and anti-Christian:

“This is America, and English is our language, and while I understand the alleged premise of offering Arabic at our high school, I don’t agree with it,” said Michael Rife, who lives in Daphne. “It is not just another language; it is a language of a religion of hate. I’m concerned about our taxpayer dollars going to fund such a program, because I don’t believe it has a lot of foundational value.

It just concerns me that we’re headed down a path of further eroding our society to a Muslim-based society, or Sharia law (the moral code of Islam), and I’m not willing to let that happen without … something to say about it.”

“They’re trying to indoctrinate our children with this culture that has failed,” [parent Chuck Pyritz] said. “… Why should we want to teach our kids a failed culture when we have a culture that has been successful? All we have to do is follow our Christian culture, which has brought this nation to the pinnacle of success. … I don’t see why they would want to teach this.”

That literally makes as much sense as arguing we shouldn’t teach English because it’s the language of Scientology.

You would think these anti-Islam (or is it anti-Muslim? I don’t think they know the difference) parents would understand how understanding Arabic — and the culture of the countries in which it’s spoken — could be the key to a lot of future jobs in politics, intelligence, and economics. Hell, if the stereotypes are true and these opponents are pro-war and in favor of increased defense spending, then they should be fully supportive of this offering. This could be seen as a chance to communicate with Arabic speakers… for the purpose of defeating the evil-doers.

But the thick fog in their minds is clouding their judgment:

“If they want to speak their language, that is their privilege in this country,” [Daphne resident Donna Rife] said. “But don’t silence another voice, such as Christianity. … We are not a Muslim nation, and yet they’re trying to bring this kind of nonsense into (schools). I am absolutely against it.”

Rife was also disturbed, she said, about the possibility of her grandchildren studying Islam. “It’s a great concern to me, because they’re being indoctrinated with this,” she said.

Arabic leads right into the Muslim teaching, and that is where the danger is and that is what I am absolutely against,” she said. “Let them teach that in their mosques — but keep it out of our schools.”

I don’t say this often, but the Alabama administrators are doing the right thing. They’re offering the courses because they’re in the best interest of the students. So far, El-Khattabi’s three Arabic classes are full, with 25-30 kids each.

No one tell these parents about the origins of algebra or else the math teachers are going to have to waste a lot of time answering idiotic emails.

Incidentally, there was controversy at a Colorado high school earlier this year when students from a cultural diversity club recited the Pledge of Allegiance, in Arabic, over the loudspeaker. Because pledging allegiance to America in another language is somehow anti-American.

(Image via Shutterstock — Thanks to Lauren for the link!)

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.

  • Rationalist1

    I had many friends during the cold war in the U.S. studying Russian in high school. I don’t remember any complaints about it being the language of communism.

    • cary_w

      I do, but no one paid any attention to them. They were a radical fringe, so we all just had a little laugh and ignored them.

      The problems we are having today, and the whole reason our government is completely unable to function and is now, for the most part, shut down, is because one of these radical fringe groups has gained too much power. We won’t get our country back until we wrestle the power back from the radicals who are willing to hurt millions of people by shutting everything down simply because they were out voted and didn’t get their way.

    • Tainda

      *pssst* Russians are white

      • Spuddie

        We don’t count the Siberians or Central Asians?

        Not even the Uzbeks?
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hCCCRAcTAA‎

        • Tainda

          Not to Muricans

        • The Other Weirdo

          Except none of those are necessarily Russian.

          • Spuddie

            Mostly Russian not anymore. Siberia is still part of Russia however. Non-transplanted Siberians are Asian.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            Within the nation of ‘Russia’ there are many ‘Nationalities’ including ‘Russian’. (And Tatar and Mari and Uzbek). Your ‘Nationality’ was listed on your Passport in the USSR. I’m not sure about Russian passports today. @Artor:disqus?

            • The Other Weirdo

              Ah, the memories. They never let us forget we weren’t actually Russian.

      • DavidMHart

        And the Belorussians are presumably extra-white?

    • Highlander

      Really? Because I distinctly remember that sort of thing going on in my high school. Nobody took it seriously, but there were definitely some idiots who opposed the teaching of commie languages.

  • cary_w

    The people who spout this kind of nonsense have such a low opinion of children. They can’t Lear Arabic without being indoctrinated, they will lose their Christian faith if not led in prayer every day, if they learn about sex they will not be able to resist the temptation to have sex all the time, if they see alcoholic drinks being prepared they will become alcoholics. I find it very sad that people who claim faith is so important have so little faith in their own children.

    • Spuddie

      They have a low opinion of their own faith. If someone is somehow exposed to a religion other than Christianity, and it doesn’t involve burning said adherents at the stake, it will influence them towards other religions

    • baal

      Irrationality is one of the primary outcomes of fear based thinking. They are afraid of every little thing and the rightwing media endlessly feeds them distortions of reality with the tiniest of basis. When ‘obama’s thugs’ are keeping vets out of memorials (federal parks) when the government shuts down is a reasonable idea, so too is the utter bs that learning arabic will suddenly make you want to take up arms and start an insurrection.

    • 3lemenope

      Faith is very. very. fragile.

      • Ron

        Elmer Fudd: Oh, gwacious! It’s vewy, vewy fwagile.

      • C Peterson

        It isn’t fragile at all. People of faith have all manner of mechanisms (and pathologies) in place to preserve it, even in the face of overwhelming challenge.

        It’s more like their faith in their own faith is what is fragile.

        • David Kopp

          Those pathologies were built in through things like this, though. Protected as kids from any actual information during their formative years it cemented the myths and bullshit into their heads. Now they’re doing it to their children.

      • Matt D

        For some, it’s fragile, but for many others, just duct taping the hell out of it seems to be good enough to keep “believing”.

    • Highlander

      Keep in mind that in the Christian religion as soon as you are born, you are the most worthless of sinners, and only by accepting Jesus as your savior will save you from the worst torments of hell. So it sort of makes sense (in a very twisted way) that you shouldn’t have faith in your children (the dirty sinners) and you shouldn’t allow them anything that might tempt them away from the glorious ignorance and mind-control of Christianity.

  • C Peterson

    Don’t these people understand that the U.S. focus on killing Muslims around the world depends on the efforts of many highly paid speakers of Arabic?

    • pete084

      Yeah, what’s the point in eavesdropping on communications if you can’t understand what the terrorists are planning!

      • observer

        When you use fear to control people, you don’t need to “understand” anyone or anything, you just need to BS it.

    • cryofly

      That is too simple for them to comprehend… and they are also the same people who say learning Russian or Chinese is teaching communism.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Didn’t Jesus speak Arabic?

    • Tainda

      Shut yo mouth!

      ;)

    • GarColga

      Aramaic, and probably Greek.

      • Artor

        No indication he ever spoke Greek. He probably knew some Hebrew.

        • 3lemenope

          It was the regional trading language, so it would be unusual for him not to speak a little.

          • Artor

            Except that he wasn’t a trader. He might have known a few common words and known how to make change in Greek, but that’s not the same as speaking it. If he’d grown up in Jerusalem, I wouldn’t doubt it, but Nazareth was hardly a big trading hub. Of course, this is assuming we’re talking about a real person, and not a fictional character. Then I’d feel like more of a Tolkien geek than I already am. What languages do you think Aragorn was fluent in?

            • 3lemenope

              By the time he was supposedly born, the region would have been under over three centuries of Greek-speaking rule. Not just trade, but official edicts and interactions with any officials would probably have been in Greek.

              Then I’d feel like more of a Tolkien geek than I already am. What languages do you think Aragorn was fluent in?

              Well, the only two you can be reasonably certain of is Westron and Sindarin. The movies imply the obvious impossibility that he also speaks Khuzdul.

              • Artor

                I expect he was taught Old Numenorean by his great-grand-uncle Elrond, and as a ranger, probably had a smattering of the Black Speech, and the tongue of Harad.

        • GarColga

          Greek was the lingua franca of the day, the area that Jesus supposedly lived in was very Hellenic so most people probably spoke at least some Greek.

          • Spuddie

            But one would assume Jesus was not hobnobbing it among the nobility and officials. So understanding Greek or Latin would be of little use to him. He would be speaking the basic vernacular of the region. Aramaic probably.

            • GarColga

              Not nobility and officials, but merchants and tradesmen.

              • Spuddie

                Jesus was neither. “Carpenter” is back in the day was what would have been considered unskilled labor.

                Short of learning the Latin phrase for “we need X number of crosses at about 7′ high”, there is not much opportunity for a carpenter in a backwater town of a backwater province to be using Latin.

                • GarColga

                  Latin? Who said anything about Latin. Greek was the lingua franca (the trade language) of the day. The area where Jesus supposedly operated was not a backwater. There were large Greek cities all over the place. And the Hebrew word translated as “carpenter” actually means “craftsman.”

    • Timmah

      Or Orcish, Elvish, Klingon, Hutteese, Pandarian, Romulan, Wookiee or any other number of languages used by fellow imaginary characters.

    • Matt D

      Far as I can tell, he spoke bullshit.

  • bamcintyre

    Yeah, we should insist on Latin, ’cause that is so modern and required to properly interpret the truth of Christianity… (NOT)

    • 3lemenope

      I insist, rather, that it is very helpful for the proper interpretation of English.

  • Tainda

    “Why should we want to teach our kids a failed culture when we have a culture that has been so successful?”

    Says who?!?! Where do they get the idea that this country is so damned perfect??

    • Art_Vandelay

      Because we’re #1 in defense spending and people that think angels are real.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRFFL9TR0mY

      • Tainda

        I stood up in my living room and clapped during that scene lol

      • 3lemenope

        “I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. Yosemite?”

    • Matt D

      I doubt *they* actually think our country is perfect (come on, the next day you’ll see them complaining about all the liberals), they simply like feeling superior, even when it’s a crock of shite.

  • eric

    But don’t silence another voice, such as Christianity…

    How the frak does learning a foreign language silence anyone or anything? Do you think the person suddenly becomes incapable of speaking English?

    “Arabic leads right into the Muslim teaching

    That will come as a surprise to the Copts…whose form of Christianity is arguably older than the RCC, and much much older than any flavor of protestantism.

    • Spuddie

      As well as the million or so Arab Christians.

    • Erp

      Strictly speaking though Copts speak Arabic in their daily life (as do their fellow Christians in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, etc.) their liturgical and ancestral language is Coptic. Though Coptic like Arabic, Aramaic (which Jews in the time of Jesus would have spoken), and Hebrew is a Semitic language.

      I also suspect the students are learning Modern Standard Arabic which is the language used in schools and formal settings not Classical Arabic which is the language of the Quran and strictly religious settings. Arabic also has many local variants which are not necessarily mutually intelligible. Think Latin, formal modern Italian and the regional versions of Romance languages from Spain to Italy.

      • islandbrewer

        Coptic is also believed to be more like the original “Egyptian” language prior to the muslim conquests of north Africa. Of course, like liturgical Latin, it’s not exactly like the Egyptian that was spoken daily in the 8th century.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Everything they don’t like is “silencing” them. Things happening that they dislike is their privilege eroding, and that to them is persecution.

  • pete084

    Religions might have lots of schools, but how else can they control what is being taught in them?

    Religion is about control, and they like to get ‘em young. Governments like religion because religious continuity controls the minds of the masses so much better than a transitory political party. Even Putin has realised that!

  • eric

    No one tell these parents about the origins of algebra
    Or our numbering system. Or chemistry (which arose out of al-chemi.)

  • Itsrealfunnythat

    Religious intolerance?

  • DoctorDJ

    “If Engrish was good enough for Jesus in the KJV of the Bible, it’s good enough for everybody.”

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Engrish American!

      • Timmah

        Yeah not that funny soundin english where they speak over in… you know… ENGLAND.

      • Tainda

        Fuck yeah!

        • Spuddie

          Did anyone else do that during the opening credits of The Americans or was it just me?

          • Tainda

            I didn’t watch it. Do I need to?

            • Spuddie

              Yes.

              The new season starts in January. Its not great drama, but has its moments. Plus it has Keri Russell’s return to TV as a killer sleeper agent. Much better than one would expect.

  • Spuddie

    Learning a new language is allegedly religious indoctrination, is perfectly legal is somehow intolerable. Actual bonafide illegal religious indoctrination by teachers and athletic staff is OK.

    Oh because…Jesus.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    Quote the sage Sun Tzu: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.”

    To know the enemy, it helps to know the language of the enemy.

    Of course, Sun Tzu was a furriner….

    • Artor

      And a Muslim, as far as Alabama parents know. He was brown, right?

  • Jeff

    I would be impressed if the people of Alabama could simply master English first.

    • Art

      Alabamian here. I assure you, a large number of us are not backwoods yokels. We even having indoor plumbing! And shoes! And – you might want to sit down for this – we even have Internet access!

      Seriously though, sweeping generalizations of entire states don’t serve anyone well.

      • Art

        Annnnnnd I shoot myself in the foot with an editorial mistake. “Have”, not “having”.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          S’okay, that typo sounded foreign, not hick.

          [North Carolinian] Y’all gots to give yuhselves moar credit down thayah. [/North Carolinian]

      • David Kopp

        Of course not. And many people from California are gun rights enthusiasts. It doesn’t prevent the majority and the politics and people from being stereotyped as liberals, though. It’s the same thing in Alabama. It obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but stereotypes aren’t generated in a vacuum, either.

      • Jeff

        Hey, I’m stuck in Texas. Would you like to compare sweeping generalizations? My problem, most of the things said about Texas are true.

  • new_atheist

    So what if they were indoctrinating the kids with Islam? They are just “expressing their religious freedom” in doing so, right? Isn’t that the excuse football coaches give when they pray with their players? Their just “expressing their religious freedom?”

    Oh…but when it’s a religion you don’t follow…Now I get it.

    • Rationalist1

      I just wonder what they’d do in the south if a Catholic football coach led his team in a decade of the rosary before a game or a Mormon coach read them from the Book of Mormon. They’d freak even if it wasn’t Muslim.

    • Rain

      Basically they don’t like it and they are saying the first knee-jerk thing they can think of. Whatever it takes to make something not happen that they don’t like. They couldn’t care less if it makes sense or not.

  • BobaFuct

    Because only Muslims speak Arabic and only Arabic speakers are Muslim…I guess they’d be okay with Turkish or Urdu or Indonesian?

  • ZeldasCrown

    “This is America, and English is our language [...]” If you really feel that way, then you should be against the teaching of any foreign language (because who knows what learning French, or German, or Spanish, or Japanese etc could lead to!).

    If learning the language is all that it takes to indoctrinate somebody to a particular religion, you’d think that learning English would make everybody Christian, and yet here we all are.

    • Raising_Rlyeh

      Reminds me of that very old joke.

      “What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. Two languages? Bilingual. One language? American.”

  • beatonfam

    My 7th grader is in his 2nd year of Mandarin the 3rd grader will start a once a week intro class before school on Mondays. If they offered Arabic, Farsi or Urdu I’d sign them up for that as well. Go ahead, ‘Bama. Keep your children from learning foreign languages, correct history and real science. Maybe they can work for my kids someday. Unless they are too stupid to qualify for a real job. In that case the job will go to someone whose parents made certain they had a proper education.

  • averydashwood

    Show them this to make their heads explode. http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0893/0893_01.asp

    Should they be banning it or demanding that it be passed out at football games?

    • baal

      Arabic banners with verses from the quron – the cheerleaders can run through them at football games. It’s totally secular or the free speech right of the cheerleaders and spontaneously happens every game.

    • b s

      I can’t tell, is that supposed to be Freddy Mercury or Saddam Hussein?

  • Eight_rule_pig

    Leaving aside all the other insanity, a clear majority of Arab-Americans are actually Christian. Admittedly, they’ve assimilated much better than Muslims, so we don’t notice them as much.

    • islandbrewer

      The only congressional Arab-American I know of was John Sununu, a right wing Republican nutball. Whenever I mention this when the issue of “Arabs” comes up, I see Republicans start to sputter and twitch.

      • Spuddie

        As do various quotes by George W. Bush
        http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/infocus/ramadan/islam.html
        for ex.
        “Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans. Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others. Ours is a country based upon tolerance and we welcome people of all faiths in America.”

      • Anna

        There’s also Darrell Issa. He’s half Lebanese, and another conservative Christian Republican.

        • islandbrewer

          Oh yes, the car alarm magnate. He’s far wackier than Sununu was.

  • skeptical_inquirer

    There’s a huge demand for people fluent in Arabic. It’s hard to master but there is a dire need for people who can read, write and speak the language. It’s a matter of national security!

    And it’s not like learning Mandarin is going to make one Communist.

    • guest

      That’s exactly what a Communist would say!

  • guest

    Man they’re stupid. You might as well argue that teaching them French will turn them into bloodthirsty revolutionaries, it makes just as much sense.
    I guess no-one told them there are Christians who speak Arabic. They even call the Christian God ‘Allah’. I hope the class will make the next generation less ignorant and hateful than this one.

  • Beth

    Tower of Bable: the jesus doesn’t want us to speak the same language.

    • The Other Weirdo

      Babel. Or Babble. It actually means pretty much the same. But Bable isn’t a word.

    • Matt D

      I recall laughing quite heartedly when I was advised this was the reason for language diversity.

  • Forrest Cahoon

    Reminds me of this disturbing bumper sticker I saw: http://www.grunt.com/thank-a-marine-bumper-sticker

  • cryofly

    “All we have to do is follow our Christian culture, which has brought this nation to the pinnacle of success. ”

    Just about everyone who is brought fame and success to this country have done it because they broke of from the shackles of religion… and absolutely every single statement in the commandments.

  • rhodent

    I can’t help but wonder how much of this is racial bigotry as well as religious bigotry. After all, French is a European language, so white people speak it. White people don’t speak Arabic.* Therefore, we shouldn’t be replacing a “white” language with a “brown” language.

    * Yes, I know there are non-white people who speak French and white people who speak Arabic, but I suspect there are many people whose thinking reflects what I wrote.

    • 3lemenope

      I think you’re right, and it’s reflected in the “failed culture/successful culture” dyad that one of the complainers described.

    • Tainda

      Like I said earlier, Muricans think that (in regards to your asterisk)

    • Erp

      In the Great War (aka World War 1) a lot of Americans called for the banning of German or foreign languages in general sometimes successfully (see Iowa [Babel proclamation] and Nebraska [see Meyer v. Nebraska which dealt with a private school teacher convicted for teaching the Bible in German]). Stanford University was criticized for having a German motto (the university waffled and said it wasn’t official). Some of this is straight out xenophobia (though in the case of Arabic, perceived race certainly adds to the furor).

      • 3lemenope

        The propaganda from the period is full-on over-the-top racist crazypants. Halt the Hun!

      • Oswald Carnes

        And that’s why hot dogs are called hot dogs and not frankfurters. Fortunately “victory cabbage” as an alternate for sauerkraut turned out to be as long lasting as “freedom fries.”

        • CarysBirch

          Mmm but victory cabbage is totally win!

          (read: sauerkraut is tasty!)

  • Artor

    I hope the administrators invite the complaining parents in to hear their views, and give the Billy Madison speech to them.
    ” What you’ve just said… is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul…”

  • James

    Best not tell ‘em that how our Hindu-Arabic numbering system came about…

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Or the names of the stars.

      • 3lemenope

        Or those of many periodic elements and other chemistry terms.

    • Eliot Parulidae

      Smartass kid: “We’re Christians, and these are ARABIC numerals! Why are you persecuting us with math?”

      • James

        I’d like to see the blank stares on their faces when you tell ‘em the next town is just XXVI miles down the road. “Take Exit CCIX B, just XVIII miles south.”

        And how did the Romans denote fractions?!?! I’ve only ever seen Roman numerals for whole numbers, counting numbers and integers–a math teacher can take a ruler to my knuckles if I’m a wee bit off with that.

        I do know I’d be lost without algebra, trigonometry and Hindu-Arabic numerals as a draftsman, though…

  • katiehippie

    Damn, I’m jealous. I wish I could have learned arabic in high school. All we had was spanish and the teacher was crap. I remember more of the spanish I learned in the 1st grade.

    • Tainda

      We had a fantastic Spanish teacher in high school. I took 3 years in high school and 3 years in college. I understand better than I can speak it. I’m the typical American in that regard. My brain just doesn’t work with different languages. I’m jealous of people who speak more than one.

      • Mario Strada

        Don’t worry. I speak 4 and can’t think in any of them.

        • Tainda

          Jealous! :P

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I came close to actual fluency (I’ve had dreams in Spanish), but I’ve lost it through lack of use. I started learning Spanish in kindergarten, though, and that helps a lot. It’s not that Americans are incapable of learning other languages, it’s that we don’t usually begin teaching them nearly early enough!

        • Tainda

          Exactly. I’ve already started teaching my 1-year-old granddaughter basic words. One of the few reasons I like Dora too lol

      • storm

        I’m the same way with French. I can usually understand it when someone else speaks it or I read it, but I have a lot of trouble actually speaking it.

  • David McNerney

    Never mind algebra. What about the numbers of hate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_numerals

  • God’s Starship

    Bigotry in Alabama??? I’m shocked! Shocked!

  • jen

    Pinnacle of success? These people are deluded.

  • David Appleton

    Yeah, Arabic = Muslim, because we all “know” there are no Arabic-speaking Christians and/or Arabic-speaking Jews. At least not since the Crusades, when a bunch of Arab Christians were killed coming out to greet the liberating armies because they weren’t dressed like Christians (that is to say, western Europeans).

  • Tor

    Acceptable foreign languages: Syraic, Ancient Greek, Latin… Feel free to add.

  • Goape

    Some of this is our fault for teaching christians the word indoctrinate in the first place. (You can tell they’ve just been dying to use it.)

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    This is the same idiocy that many Americans fell into during and after World War I. People associated the German language with favoring Germany politically, and so for that reason it was not taught as a foreign language in many schools in the U.S. German speaking American families did not teach their children German, for fear they would be ostracized as un-American.

    Exactly one generation later we were at war with Germany again, and the U.S. was seriously handicapped by having far too few people who could speak and understand the German language. Not enough to interpret their public radio broadcasts or their intercepted communications, not enough to help interrogate captured soldiers or spies, and not enough to write the anti-nazi broadcasts sent to the German people.

    If you really are convinced that a group of people are your enemies, or even just your competitors, learn their language and understand their culture.

  • Mairianna

    Oh, jeeze! Alabama better strike these words from their state dictionary and never EVER speak them for they will turn you to Islam!: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_of_Arabic_origin_%28A-B%29

    • Spuddie

      There is something evil about the word alfalfa. Plus its sprouts are liked by too many tree huggers.

      • baal

        Arabic derived words are part of a plot by uber liberals to politically attack the people of god (republicans). Just think of the embarrassment Bill O’Reily could have avoided if al-falafel and al-loofa were called chick-pea patty and sponge instead.

    • Highlander

      I like the fact that the word for the baggy shapeless dresses (jumper) the purity culture/Quiverful culture dresses their daughters in comes from Arabic.

  • McAtheist

    While we are at it, why not:
    German: the language of Hitler.
    Spanish: the language of the Inquisition.
    Russian: the language of all those (allegedly) atheist dictators.
    Cantonese, Mandarin, Fukien and all the other languages of those godless Chinese commies.
    Farsi, Urdu: and any other languages spoken by Muslims.
    French: just to be on the safe side ’cause a bunch of North African Muslims speak French too.
    Amaraic: That’s out, looks like Arabic, too ‘Jewy’ and Jews don’t worship Jesus.
    Fuck it. Why don’t we ban every language except Murrican? Life would then be so much easier for god and his accolytes.

  • Librepensadora

    Arabic the language of a religion of hate? Then so is English. And, come to think of it, many European languages. Why are these people afraid? Maybe because they live in a sub-culture in which there is no teaching and rational thought but only indoctrination.

  • Bdole

    Dune by Frank Herbert: A novel of indoctrination into hate
    Algebra: A math of hate.
    Aldebaran: A star of hate
    Chemistry (Al-qimie): A science of hate.

    EDIT to add:

    falafel: a hatewrap
    tarrif: a tax of hate
    saffron: a seasoning of hate
    alcohol (al-kohl): A beverage of hate

    I could go on and on. I’d better stop.

  • suzeb1964

    So, following these yokels logic…teaching German would be pro-Nazi, teaching French would be pro-socialism, teaching Spanish would be pro-illegal immigrant and teaching Russian would be pro-communism?

  • James

    Let me just say that, as an Alabamian, in now way does this represent the entire state. I have to say, the reaction to this new class is shocking for a school like Daphne that encompasses 30 something different nationalities. These parents intertwined religion into a topic that it has nothing to do with. All religions are presented at some point in the school experience, but not promoted. They just need to take a step back and take a LANGUAGE CLASS at face value. If they have religious concerns, they should BE THE PARENT and set the record straight. Don’t deprive your child of gaining something that has the potential to help them, especially in such a diverse metro area such as Mobile.

  • anon 101

    Being able to recite the Quran in Arabic is a key element to religious fundemantalist Islam. I would not take Arabic classes that indiferently.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I’m confused at the connection. Would you suggest that non-Muslim Arabic speakers start speaking a different language?

      • anon 101

        Apart from the fact that the non-Muslim Arabic speakers are going extinct as we speak not being able to speak Arabic is a barrier against becoming a “good” islamic fundamentalist. But there is also pro-side.

        • Spuddie

          So now you are conflating all muslims with fundamentalists as well. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect in your thinking here. I guess being prejudiced means never having to make sense.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      So what? Being able to read the Torah in Hebrew is a key element of fundamentalist Judaism, but I’ve never heard anyone argue that one shouldn’t learn Hebrew (especially modern Hebrew) because of it.

      Seriously, what the actual fuck was your point? That learning Arabic will automatically mean you go read the Qu’ran in the original, automatically accept it, and automatically accept it only in the Wahhabi tradition? I think that would be pretty good evidence that Islam is the correct religion, if it’s that mind-controlling just from learning the modern language that has evolved from the language it was written in.

      • anon 101

        Exactly. That’s why the ultra-orthodx Jews in the US are fluid in Hebrew while otherwise they essentially have the educational level of a fifth-grader.

        • Spuddie

          Jews and Hebrew speakers in general on average have a higher % of college graduates in their group than Alabama rednecks.

          • anon 101

            So because so many Atheists are feminists we don’t have to worry about the ones that are not.

            • Spuddie

              But according to your argument, we have to worry about white people. Because every white supremacist must also a white person. Therefore none of them can be trusted. White people should not be allowed in public schools.

              • anon 101

                Your argument is equivalent to saying that because the average income level is above poverty there are no poor people.

                • baal

                  I don’t understand anything you are saying. Could you consider using additional sentences?

                • Spuddie

                  Its not my argument at all. I was merely doing word replacement on your argument.

                • Jennifer Starr

                  You’re not even making sense any more.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          Another non-sequitur. The proper solution to that particular problem is to require educational standards to be met, not to ban the learning of Hebrew.

          Which has nothing at all to do with a high school Arabic class in Alabama. Care to actually address the point?

        • CarysBirch

          I’m glad you’re “fluid” in English.

        • Jennifer Starr

          Fluent. The word is fluent.

    • Spuddie

      More importantly its a key element to understanding what 450 million people in the world are saying when they order a cheeseburger.
      I would not be such an idiot to immediately associate a language with the extreme view of a subset of its speakers. Btw, there are a lot of other languages spoken by Islamicists. Including English.

      • anon 101

        An Islamicist that is not able to recite Quran verses in Arabic and does not make her children recite Quran verses in Arabic is not a long term threat to our society.

        • baal

          Did you have an argument or do you otherwise have a basis for your assertions?

          I’d also like to know how you think we’ll read all that intel we capture that is sourced in Arabic without Arabic speakers.

          • anon 101

            I don’t deny that it is great that people speak Arabic. I am wondering whether it is a good idea that we enable a certain clientel to speak Arabic.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              We should be more careful about who is allowed to study to become an engineer because occasionally they become terrorists.

              • anon 101

                I did not say anything specific about this case. In this case I don’t see any problems with teaching Arabic.

                • Spuddie

                  So now you are a liar as well as an ignorant bigot.

                  “Being able to recite the Quran in Arabic is a key element to religious fundemantalist Islam. I would not take Arabic classes that indiferently.”

                • anon 101

                  I did not say anything specific about this case and I did not mean to say anything about this specific case either.

                • Spuddie

                  The key weaselword being “specific”.

                • baal

                  What are you saying? I’ve re-read your original comment and don’t get what vague point you’re making.

                • anon 101

                  I live in a country with a lot of Muslim imigrants. And there are moves to teach Turkish and Arabic in school. With Turkish I don’t have a problem but with Arabic I am wondering.

                • Spuddie

                  It would be too easy for those who already speak it in their home?

                  Because you associate all Arabic speakers with Islamicists?

                  Because it would be bad for people be able to communicate with said immigrants on their level?

                • anon 101

                  In a way you got. Muslim fundamentalists need to speak Arabic. Jewish fundamtalists need to speak Hebrew. But Christian fundemanlists would need to speak Hebrew and old Greek. This is why you got pretty lucky with your fundemantlsts.

                • Spuddie

                  In other words you are an idiot and a bigot and not afraid to let others know it. As long as we are clear on that.

                  You are full of shit as well. Aside from the odd crazy theologian, Christian Fundamentalists don’t usually know any language besides their own. Many times they are not even particularly fluent in that.

                  The few times you see multi-lingual fundies of any stripe are when they are from countries where you need to learn other languages to function.

                  You just want to say you hate people who speak Arabic but want people to think its something reasonable and not worthy of social sanction. Dishonest cowardly bigotry pretending to be intellectual.

                • anon 101

                  I was just pointing out a weak spot. I mean how can you be a fundamentalist if you don’t speak the language of the text you are refering to? You have to deal with the problem of textual tradition.

                • baal

                  “just”
                  If anyword should be removed from the english language, it’s that one.

                  anon101, while language and support certain modes of thinking, fundamentalists will be fundamentalists regardless of the language they use. Your anti-Arabic language education stance is not tenable or decent.

                • anon 101

                  So why do ultra-orthodox Jews recite the Torah in Hebrew and not in English?

                • Spuddie

                  Social cohesion which stretches across national boundaries.

                  So you are saying all Jews are ultra-orthodox because they learn Hebrew? How about every Israeli? They learn Hebrew as well. They even use it for ordering take out.

                • Spuddie

                  Bullshit. You come from the school of bigotry which can’t accept the idea that nobody has takes pseudo-intellectual bullshit arguments seriously. A bigot who tries to intellectualize their position is just a glorified liar.

                  The only weak spot is the alleged logic you employed and conflation of almost half a billion people with Islamic terrorists and their cohorts. More than a quarter of them not even Muslim.

                  “I mean how can you be a fundamentalist if you don’t speak the language of the text you are refering to?”

                  VERY EASILY! All you need is a belief, a text you can quote in your own language and the ability to memorize phonetically (if necessary). Fundamentalism is not rational or logical. No need for it to be. The great thing about religion is you don’t have to worry about making sense of your beliefs in an objective fashion. Its only a problem of textual tradition if you chose to accept one exists.

                  For example many Christian Fundamentalists in the US are think the Olde English version of the Bible written in the 17th Century is the only definitive one of note.

                • anon 101

                  So why do Madrases in Pakistan have their students recite the Quran in Arabic although that’s not the mother tongue of the students?

                • Jennifer Starr

                  Is there an actual point that you’re trying to make?

                • Spuddie

                  Because they are not Protestant.

                  Check the Wikipedia article on Sacred Languages and STFU.

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_language

                • RobMcCune

                  Because people who have falsely convinced themselves they have access to absolute truth could never falsely convince themselves they have access to absolute truth without traitorous foreign languages.

                • CarysBirch

                  Actually, and don’t get me wrong, I think anon 101 is a ridiculous sort of troll, but there are definitely fundamentalist/evangelical colleges pumping out Hebrew and Greek speakers all over the country. I attended one such school and about half the student body was either studying Hebrew or Greek. There absolutely IS a belief in those communities that you need to speak the language of the foundational text in order to properly interpret it, and there are plenty of fanatics out there doing just that.

                  That said, it’s completely ridiculous as an argument against teaching modern Arabic in public high schools.

                • onamission5

                  Uh, Christian fundamentalists in the US generally speak English.
                  Guess we ought to keep a close eye on all those kids who attend public schools and take English class. Who knows what learning a language and being able to read books might do to them!

                • Jennifer Starr

                  You’d be a lot more convincing if you could actually learn to spell ‘fundamentalist’ correctly. Along with the other words that you’ve mangled. And the mere learning of a language is not going to make someone a religious fundamentalist.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              Pushing aside all the other horrible assumptions implicit in your statement, I ask you this: if a high school in Alabama isn’t a good place to teach Arabic, what “clientele” is suitably hardened to learn it?

            • baal

              ” a certain clientele”
              Public school students in Alabama? wth.

              • Spuddie

                Because god forbid anyone in Alabama show the world they can act like intelligent human beings. It would be bad for anon101. Gotta keep them Bamans as ignorant as possible!

            • Spuddie

              Because understanding close to half a billion people is a bad thing?

            • RobMcCune

              All those terrorists in Alabama are waiting to learn Arabic from a public school before they commit terrorism? Seriously?

            • fiona64

              High school students are the “clientele” in question. Now, I realize that Alabama is not exactly a liberal hotbed … but this is a skill set that will help students compete in today’s global market. When I was in high school, we could only choose among French, Spanish and German. I took Spanish and French, which has helped me to understand Italian enough to have a basic conversation, and to be able to muddle along in Portuguese. Mandarin and Arabic are languages that are becoming more and more necessary in business. I cannot imagine a scenario in which it would be bad for students to learn them.

        • Spuddie

          Spoken from experience?

          Do you have the bomb vest on right now?
          I would say people with your attitude are a greater long term threat to society. Terrorists just kill people and break stuff. You encourage mass stupidity.

          • anon 101

            There are translations of the Quran. You don’t need (with caveats) to speak Arabric to know what it says.

            • Spuddie

              You can learn to be a terrorist speaking English. Therefore Arabic is more useful for learning what 450 million people in the world are saying than it is for indoctrinating future terrorism.

              So your objections are really fucking stupid.

              • anon 101

                I have never mentioned terroism.

                • Spuddie

                  Really?

                  That is what you are going with?

                  Bullshit semantics?

                • baal

                  I’m worried that anon101 here is going for a cultural imperialism angle where a religion would be denied one of it’s teachings. Muslims are supposed to learn the quron in Arabic to avoid the translation problem. The requirement, however, sometimes gets boiled down to reciting the whole thing and understanding is thrown out the window. I rather we didn’t try to or argue for targeting specific religious practices but rather focused on harmful behaviours and on spreading the fiq (sp?) that push for moderation.

                • Spuddie

                  It also doesn’t help that the Koran is written in a poetic form of Arabic where most of the stylistic shorthands are long gone to history.

            • fiona64

              Yeah, that Timothy McVeigh … that Eric Rudolph … they sure took their terroristic ideas from the Q’uran.

              Oh, wait …

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          So, we get rid of the threat of Islam by exterminating the Arabic language, and since American kids in Alabama learning Arabic might actually extend the lifespan of Arabic, they shouldn’t learn it.

          Wow. Frankly, that’s just fucking stupid.

          • anon 101

            You can’t exterminate the Arabic language.

            • Spuddie

              But it won’t stop you from trying, amirite?

        • Obazervazi

          And if nobody speaks Aramaic or Latin, Christianity will wither away and die, right?

          • Derrik Pates

            Oh, if only.

    • RobMcCune

      And a key element of learning the Quran is being able to ask someone where the bathroom is and say ‘thank you’ for the directions.

    • Bdole

      By the Law of Correlation Equaling Causation, speaking English with an American accent seems to be a requirement to becoming a fundamentalist Christian.

    • Ann Onymous

      They’re not teaching the Quran! They’re teaching a language, still in use today, that happens to have been the set of characters and words used to write the holy book of a particular religion!

    • Derrik Pates

      That makes about as much sense as saying if I learn ancient Egyptian, then I’ll start worshipping Ra and Horus. You are ridiculous.

    • Bernd Bausch

      Strange logic. Would you refuse to learn German on the basis that “Mein Kampf” was written in this language?

  • Paula M Smolik

    The only reason Mandarin Chinese and Arabic are important is that soon that’s what who takes over the US will speak. haha

    • baal

      Might want to hold off on the laughter until you read more of the comments. We need American Arabic speakers for the intelligence community if for no other reason. There isn’t any likely future where either Arabic or Mandarin Chinese speaking people will have that level of dominance in the U.S. so far as the eye can see. Evenso, that’s not a reason to not learn languages today.

  • Theodore (Tugs) Njáll McCowan

    Are right wingers as stupid as I think they are?

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      They’re stupider than you can even imagine they could be.

    • baal

      It’s hard to tell the difference between actual lack of mental processing power and fully rational though processes based on a skewed version of reality (bad facts). Sometime it’s not even a matter of mental power or errors at all but rather mindless iterations of some canned religious social identifier.

  • Seth Williamson

    I suppose the kids in latin class suddenly start worshipping Juno and Jupiter.

  • LesterBallard

    Alabama? They should probably be concentrating on English; along with math, you know, the basics.

    • godlessveteran

      English – the language of another religion of hate.

      • LesterBallard

        Which is?

        • islandbrewer

          CoE? I thought they were the religion of “don’t do anything untowards, please.”

  • viaten

    I took Latin in high school. I guess that’s why I stayed catholic as long as I did. The Romans spoke Latin. Didn’t the Romans have something to do with Jesus’ death?

  • viaten

    If students learned Arabic, then they could read the Koran and develop a “true” appreciation for it. Maybe that’s what they’re really worried about.

  • ShoeUnited

    “English is”

    Nope, it isn’t. In fact New Mexico has its constitution in English AND Spanish. The local public school has a greeting and notice to check in at the office in English, Spanish, Russian, Korean, and Vietnamese.

    There is no official US language.

    • Derrik Pates

      But you see, that doesn’t matter to them. If it was good enough for the Founding Fathers and Jeebus in the KJV, it should be good enough for those filthy furriners too.

  • Grotoff

    Not the mention the fact that there have been Arab Christians much longer than any of those people have had Christian ancestors.

  • Kimberly Taylor

    Right because teaching religion in school instead of science is just fine and dandy, but learning another religion is a terrible, terrible thing. Trying to take the education out of education? I think so.

  • Andrew Ayers

    You want to really change things up? Perhaps we should teach our kids to code.

    http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/09/ap_code/

  • David

    A very poorly written article. I couldn’t even tell if he made the distinction between modern and ancient Arabic. Ancient Arabic is one of the main subjects of an Islamic Madrasas (School) but modern Arabic is secular. You do know the difference? You are somewhat familiar with the topic you are writing on? The same argument has to made dsitinguishing modern and ancient Hebrew and Greek. But then hate blinds you does it not?

    • baal

      The OP isn’t hateful in what I read and given that this is highschool foreign language class, it’d be the modern (secular) Arabic. The xtians at the school and that community are flipping out based on fear and irrationality.

      • David

        Realy Not hateful? The entire article is fueled on emotion. If not hate then what was the purpose of this article? It was not to inform. He left out to many details. It was not to persuade. The author assumes you are on his side and wont catch his missing information. It was only to berate the religious common people of Alabama who do not know the difference between Ancient Arabic taught by the Imam and Modern Arabic used in business. Thank you for pointing out the key fact that the author ignored. That this is modern english and therefore not religious. Most Americans would not know the difference. Most Americans to enclude the author of this article that just decided to spout off his rectoric to an adoring public.

        • baal

          I don’t see it as hateful to point out when christians irrationally flip out but see that it can feel that way to you. For me, it’s part of learning what’s going on so I know what to fight against.

          Consider for a moment that christian’s actions (majority) often hurt various minority groups in ways that the christians don’t notice or care about. Some of us (Hemant and other bloggers) actively look for problems and then they tell the rest of us atheists about them. It’s a lot like the scout prairie dogs warning the rest of the prairie dogs that a halk is flying overhead.

          Given this view, can you see that the purpose wasn’t only to point and laugh at the silly christians?

  • WillBell

    So we’re going to become an Islam-based society in a ~2% muslim country?

  • rg57

    Languages should be learned based on pragmatism and beauty. In North America, you should learn English, French, and Spanish for pragmatic reasons. But for beauty, there are any number of other world languages worth learning (Dutch, Hindi, Mandarin, for example) I don’t count Arabic among them. Any language that sounds like a person’s pulmonary system being rejected by their body should be left to dwindle away in peace. Some dialects of Spanish substitute “th” sound for “s” because their ruler had a lisp. I have to think some important Arabic ruler at some point had a terrible life-long breathing defect.

    • MineApostasy

      I find it odd that you specifically mention Dutch as a language of beauty when you malign Arabic for a trait that both languages have. Dutch is oft called an affliction of the throat.

    • Bdole

      You think Dutch and Mandarin are beautiful? I disagree strongly and I even know a little German*.
      I don’t particularly like Arabic’s sound(it’s the glottals like Qaf and ‘Ain that get to me) but can we agree that these kinds of things are subjective and one person’s or group’s opinions about the mellifluence of a language shouldn’t determine the curricula of public schools?
      And French is merely pragmatic? ce fou! Anyway, we all know that the most beautiful language in the world is Finnish.

      *His name is Hans, he’s sitting over there.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/ Ani J. Sharmin

    They do realize that there are Arabic-speaking Christians, right? Stuff like this is why the charge of racism, decried as unfair, has to be made against certain types of “criticism” of Islam. How is fear of a particular language a “criticism” of Islam? It’s xenophobia combined with anti-education, pro-ignorance propaganda. And I always find it weird when people combine defending Christianity and defending English, when the Bible wasn’t originally written in English.

  • Bernd Bausch

    Maybe they would settle for Maltese?