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Alabama Residents Up in Arms About Arab Language Class

Okay Alabama, seriously. If you want to do something to counter your reputation as a right wing paradise stuck in the 1950s, you’re going to have to stop having people like this make the news. A group of parents is up in arms that a high school is going to offer a language class in Arabic.

But some Daphne residents are upset that the Baldwin County school system is permitting its students to learn what they call “a culture of hate.”

“When you teach Arabic, you have to teach the culture along with it,” said Chuck Pyritz, whose two sons, Isaiah, 17, and Isaac, 14, attend Daphne High. “The culture is intertwined with Islam.”

Pyritz cited the case of jihadist Omar Hammami, who grew up in Daphne, as a compelling reason that school systems should not offer courses in Arabic. “That’s another red flag for us,” he said.

Hammami, who attended Daphne High, but did not graduate, is believed to have been killed a few weeks ago by members of his former Somali Islamist militant group, al-Shabab.

“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.”

A few words come to mind. The first two are “fucking” and “morons.” Seriously, I don’t want to share the atmosphere with these ignorant idiots. I don’t.

Comments

  1. Who Knows? says

    two sons, Isaiah, 17, and Isaac, 14

    Pretty much tells you all you need to know about these people.

  2. lpetrich says

    This reminds me of the old joke about someone who opposed teaching foreign languages: “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me.”

  3. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ ^ Who Knows : There’s something wrong with having kids with Jewish or biblical names? You really that shallow dude?

  4. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Seriously, I don’t want to share the atmosphere with these ignorant idiots. I don’t.

    So that implies :

    1) you want them dead?

    2) Or you’d rather die than live on this Earth with them?

    3) Or you’d rather you or they could travel to and be on separate planets capable of sustaining human life?

    Two of those three options are really pretty nasty and the third one is for now, sadly, impractical.

    Seems a trifle harsh to me. They have a point of view and whilst we may well disagree with it (hey, Arabic proper names for stars are kinda cool) they’re entitled to have and express it.

  5. shouldbeworking says

    I speak English, so I’m steeped in the English culture and the Church of England? That’s why I like tea and scones so much!

  6. raven says

    “When you teach Arabic, you have to teach the culture along with it,” said Chuck Pyritz, whose two sons, Isaiah, 17, and Isaac, 14, attend Daphne High. “The culture is intertwined with Islam.”

    This isn’t remotely true.

    Quite a few Arabs are…XIANS!!!

    Almost half of the Lebanese, some Palestinians, something like 10% of the Syrians. Iraq used to have the oldest xian communities in the world, so old that they speak Aramaic, the language of…jesus.

    Egypt has 10% xians.

    PS One of the biggest employers of Arabaic speakers in the USA is DHS, NSA, FBI, and other alphabet agencies. And there is usually a shortage. They need them because some of the enemies of the USA are Arabaic speakers and it doesn’t do any good to collect communications no one can understand.

    5

  7. No One says

    It’s not like the United States intelligence community is recruiting or hiring individuals who speak Farsi. Some people can’t see beyond their nose.

  8. raven says

    wikipedia:

    Hammami was born to Shafik Hammami and Debra Hadley, and grew up in Daphne, Alabama, with an older sister Dena.[4] Shafik Hammami grew up in Damascus, Syria, and came to Alabama to go to college, later becoming a civil engineer.[4][5]

    The children were initially raised as Southern Baptist, but also practiced Muslim culture at home.

    Hammani is the American who joined the Somalia group, al-Shish Kabaab and was recently killed by his own group for some reason.

    To call him “Arab” is stretching it. He was born in the USA and his mother is some sort of American.

    I do see where he might have gone off the rails though. He was raised Southern Baptist!!! That is a hate group based on pure hate if there ever was one.

  9. shouldbeworking says

    The goal of the educational system shouldn’t be to actually educate people! Why, some schools in the state actually teach European history! That stuff is full of foreigners!

  10. colnago80 says

    Nothing new here. During WW1 and WW2, many high schools in the US that offered German as a foreign language option dropped it.

  11. left0ver1under says

    If this were 1983, those same parents would be freaking out about a Russian language class.

    If they’re dumb enough to be creationists, then they’re likely dumb enough not to grasp the need to speak the language of the “enemy”.

  12. Mr Ed says

    But some Daphne residents are upset that the Baldwin County school system is permitting its students to learn what they call “a culture of hate.”

    Sort of like the exchange student from Argentina taking Spanish I, I think they already know the basics.

  13. cottonnero says

    What are the odds, do you think, that if they had a third son, he would have been named Ishmael to conform with the “Old Testament name starting with I” theme?

  14. Artor says

    I can understand why the local yokels are up in arms about teaching a “culture of hate.” They already have one, and they don’t need another one competing.

  15. jnorris says

    From an earlier report, the school is offering Arabic because their French teacher died and they already had an Arabic speaking teacher on faculty.

    And I agree with Raven on how convenient for the loons to forget that they also protest the persecution of Christian Arabs in the Middle East.

    colnago80 @ #15: Sir Isaac Newton wasn’t a True Christian ™ and he was a foreigner.

  16. says

    I took Arabic for a summer in college a while back. I was a linguistics major and my advisor thought it would be helpful to take a non-Indo-European language. Here are a few things about Arabic.

    First, it’s insanely hard. There’s an explosion of syntax, like ancient Greek only worse: three genders, naturally, and three voices (like Greek, only the middle voice doesn’t come up as often in Greek as I recall, or it’s the same form as the passive), but also three *numbers* (single, plural, and dual). Fun fact: the name of the country Bahrain is a dual form (two “bahrs”, whatever they are).

    Also, there aren’t just a *lot* of forms. For masculine nouns, as I recall, it is very common for their plural forms to be unpredictably irregular (the “broken plural”). For example (I’m making this up, but you get the idea), let’s say you have a masculine noun “rijl” (or “rijlun”, with the typical ending). But if there are a bunch of them, you often have no idea whether the plural is, say, “rijil” or “rajl” or something like “arjaal”.

    Not only that, Arabic is like Hebrew in that a) most of the time the vowels are left out; b) there’s a whole new alphabet you have to learn, which, just for fun, c) goes right to left. Actually our teacher was Jewish himself. He was a Hebrew scholar, which naturally helps, but get this: he said that after studying Arabic for *ten years*, he could – with the help of a dictionary, and when the subject was familiar to him – pretty much understand a newspaper article.

    That’s because (unlike German or even Greek) you have to be pretty good even to know what to look up in the dictionary. And *that’s* because the dictionary is organized by the three-letter combinations at the root of each word (again like Hebrew). So if a word you’re looking at has four or five letters, you don’t know whether the first one is the first letter of the word, or a prefix – or even that the second letter is one of the three at all, or an “infix”.

    One more thing: it’s hard to pronounce. They have this phoneme that’s a glottal stop on steroids: you basically have to swallow at *just* the right moment to say it right. Our teacher said that they used to use words with this phoneme in it for military passwords, because even if you knew what the password was, if you weren’t a native speaker you couldn’t pronounce it right (although by the end I was getting pretty good).

    Also, while we did do some readings from the Qur’an (we used this book, still in print: http://www.amazon.com/New-Arabic-Grammar-Written-Language/dp/085331585X/), what I really remember was the stuff by Khalil Gibran, whose syntax is pretty easy but whose airy-fairy quasi-mystical crap doesn’t read any better in the original than in translation. I also remember some great example sentences: when you learn French you say “Jean drinks cafe au lait with his baguette” — but in Arabic you say things like “The camel is in the desert.”

    Note also that what one learns in school is Modern Standard Arabic, the “lingua franca” of the Arabic-speaking world. Most local Arabic dialects (e.g. Egyptian Arabic) are apparently mutually unintelligible (I think that’s what our teacher said). So if the CIA is looking for agents they’d do better to hire native speakers than to teach Arabic in school.

    Sorry to go on like this, but this really takes me back …

  17. hunter says

    When I was a senior in high school in the mid-60s, the school began to offer Russian language classes. This was in a very Republican small town outside of Chicago. As I recall, the class enrollment quickly reached the maximum.

    Not all that long ago, there was a rush to institute classes in Chinese and Japanese.

    Offering Arabic is a little late to the game, but better late than never.

    The point being that the countries to which these languages are native are all major players in the world, one way or another. I’d think we’d at least want to be able to comprehend what they’re saying.

    But then, I don’t live in Alabama.

  18. Ramel says

    @19 Dave Maier

    I grew up in Bahrain so just happen to remember that the name means “two seas”.

  19. says

    If you want to do something to counter your reputation as a right wing paradise stuck in the 1950s, you’re going to have to stop having people like this make the news.

    Wow. The 1950s. Their reputation sure has advanced.

  20. jeevmon says

    I count three complainants quoted, two of whom have the same last name (Michael and Donna Rife, with Donna Rife being identified as having two grandchildren in the school system which could be Michael Rife’s two sons). They’re ignorant, but this just seems to be a trolling for clicks article that magnifies the gripes of a very disgruntled and good-for-making-ignorant-statements fringe into something larger. Note the use of “some Daphne residents,” which is journo-speak for “we found a couple of quotable people and are projecting those quotes to represent the sentiments of a larger base according to the method of pulling it out of our ass.”

    Not that there isn’t a lot of high-octane crazy that has come out of Alabama over the years, but this could be one retrograde family and one other person who found a reporter willing to talk to them.

  21. lpetrich says

    Dave Maier #19: Arabic has two grammatical genders, but most of the rest is correct.

    I’ve found the page Wikibooks:Language Learning Difficulty for English Speakers – Wikibooks, open books for an open world — it’s based on experience in teaching people various languages by the Foreign Service Institute of the US State Department. It measures difficulty by how many weeks to reach the sort of proficiency that the FSI targets, likely similar for most of its languages.

    I’ll add x for intermediate difficulties.

    Category I: French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, …
    Category Ix: German, Swahili, Indonesian, …
    Category II: Icelandic, Gaelic, Greek, Russian, Hindi, Tamil, Hebrew, Turkish, ..
    Category IIx: Finnish, Hungarian, Georgian, Mongolian, Thai, Vietnamese, …
    Category III: Arabic, Chinese, Korean
    Category IIIx: Japanese

  22. laurentweppe says

    150 years ago, many Alabama parents were quite literaly up in arms against conscription officers paid to force teenagers from poor families to fight a rich man’s war.

    Somehow, the standard for righteous fury has been lowered quite a lot this past century and a half

  23. says

    Thanks for the correction, lpetrich, it’s been a while. No neuter gender then. And I’ve heard elsewhere that Japanese is the hardest language for English speakers to learn. If it’s harder than Arabic that’s pretty hard! No wonder I’ve picked up so little from all those samurai movies (“Hai!”).

  24. says

    I always find it amusing how the fundies seem to think that religion is like an infectious disease, that too much “exposure” to an enemy religion might result in their children “catching” it and converting.

    It’s a tacit admission that their own religion isn’t persuasive on its merits, that they need constant indoctrination to keep everyone in line.

  25. freethinkercro says

    On the other hand, kudos for principal Meredith Foster and superintendent Alan Lee for recognizing reality and enriching their students’ curriculum with the language of a large segment of the world’s population.

  26. exdrone says

    I also heard that, in geography class, the students are being forced to learn about countries other than the USA. Talk about a slippery slope.

  27. escuerd says

    Dave Maier:

    One more thing: it’s hard to pronounce. They have this phoneme that’s a glottal stop on steroids: you basically have to swallow at *just* the right moment to say it right.

    Is this that 3ayin sound? Always feel like I’m going to cough when I try to make that one, along with its voiceless counterpart. Probably still doing it wrong.

    And I’ve heard elsewhere that Japanese is the hardest language for English speakers to learn. If it’s harder than Arabic that’s pretty hard!

    It at least sounds less intimidating than Arabic, since almost all the phonemes are pretty familiar. I don’t think the grammar is nearly as complicated either (it’s actually more regular than English). Learning to read is rough, though, and I hear one of the major challenges is learning how to understand typical speech which is full of polite but opaque euphemisms.

  28. says

    Is this that 3ayin sound? Always feel like I’m going to cough when I try to make that one, along with its voiceless counterpart. Probably still doing it wrong.

    Right, try to swallow instead of cough. Or maybe gulp.

  29. Erp says

    I wonder whether the Japanese difficulty is partly because of the writing system.

    I gather that though some modern Arabic dialects are mutually unintelligible that the main Egyptian Arabic dialect is fairly well understood everywhere since Egypt is the center of the Arabic movie/TV industry (and also fairly centrally located within the Arabic world). Egypt also has by far the most Arabic speakers (over 80 million) of any country.

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