The Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic: One Nation, Indivisible?

Pine Bush High School, nestled in upstate New York about 75 miles from NYC, is facing a major divide throughout the school and even county. As part of National Foreign Language Week, the school believed reciting the pledge of allegiance in different languages would be a sufficient way to celebrate. But things quickly went downhill when the recitation of the pledge of allegiance in Arabic echoed throughout the halls and classrooms one Wednesday morning.

Senior class president, Andrew Zink, who regularly takes care of the morning announcements and recites the pledge, allowed a student to recite the pledge in Arabic because he “felt like it was the right thing to do.” However, some students were not pleased by this act and began catcalling throughout the recitation. As a result, Zink was demoted as senior president and received insults and even death threats on Twitter. The student who recited the pledge (her identity has not been revealed yet) was also subject to verbal harassment. According to an article by the Los Angeles Times:

“The anti-Muslim sentiment started to build,” Zink said. “The poor girl who read it, she’s so sweet and when she finished reading it people called her a terrorist. They told her to go back to the Middle East. They mercilessly degraded her and I felt awful for her.”

If that wasn’t enough, District superintendent Joan Carbone, began receiving complaints about the pledge being recited in Arabic from residents who had lost loved ones in Afghanistan and from Jewish parents. Instead of embracing and defending the ethnic and religious diversities that America loves to pride itself on, the school ended up apologizing to those who were offended.

Now that you’re all up-to-date, we need to get some things straight because there’s a lot of BS going on in this story. First of all, why is Arabic automatically linked with only Islam? And why is the Middle East only associated with Islam? Did you know that the birthplace of Christianity was actually in the Middle East? Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Palestine. Where yes — you guessed it — they speak Arabic. Did you also know that Allah (swt) literally translates to ‘God’ and is used by Arabic-speaking Muslims and Christians alike? And lastly, but certainly not least (get ready for this one), Afghanistan is not an Arabic-speaking country, nor is it part of the Middle East (~gasp~). So a language basically offended you because you thought it was being used in a place that it’s not actually being used in. Well you know what, I’m offended that you’re offended by my native tongue. I’m also offended by your straight-up stupidity.

As an Arab-American Muslim woman, growing up in a place where people are constantly trying to invalidate your existence is not easy. We’re always struggling to find that sweet balance and ways to be accepted in a society that does not want us, nor makes an effort to accept us, despite the fact that we hold the same birth certificates or citizenships.

Just because your colonized tongue cannot bend far enough to pronounce the beauty that is the Arabic language, does not mean you can sh*t on it. It does not mean that you have the right to be offended by my rich language. You can’t just enjoy our Arab culture when it comes to smoking our hookah, eating our hummus, asking us to write your name in Arabic because it’s “pretty,” and getting tattoos in Arabic because it’s trendy. Then get your panties in a bunch when the pledge of allegiance is recited in Arabic as a means to highlight the melting pot that is America. You can’t just pick and choose from my culture and take whatever fits into your selfish and racist agenda.

It was National Foreign Language Week and the school wanted to embrace that and teach others. Awesome. If I’m not mistaken, Arabic is indeed a foreign language. So honestly, I’m having trouble figuring out what the big deal is. Some are stating that it’s not the language, but the fact that the pledge of allegiance should always be recited in English and only English. I’m not buying that, because we all know that if it were recited in French or Italian, I probably would not even be writing this piece right now.

But wait, it doesn’t stop there. Good ‘ole Fox news invites their trusty token Muslim Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, from the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, to give his two cents on the matter. He literally says:

“We are at war against radical Islam which uses the Arabic language. Let’s think about it in Arabic, they would’ve said: ummah wa-hida tahit Islam. Or [under] God, or [under] Allah. So to them, Al-Baghdadi is trying to unify the caliphates under that. So our Muslim youth, that might be radicalized, they’re Islamo-patriots going to fight with ISIS. So the pledge really strikes at the core of what we are fighting.”

Yeah, I had to re-read it, too. So we should just ban Arabic completely because extremists have hijacked it? And it will encourage Muslim Youth to join ISIS? Hide yo’ kids and hide yo’ wives from anyone that speaks Arabic because “they’re at the core of what we are fighting” here, folks. The Arabic language has turned evil.

There’s something else we should be concerned about instead of this guy’s theory that saying the pledge of allegiance in Arabic is somehow a secret code to joining ISIS. We should be concerned about the fact that a school district had to apologize for introducing our language as part of a national initiative. Because you know, they’re all for multiculturalism, diversity and acceptance – unless you come from a marginalized community.

Image by Karen Schwallie