مرحبا والسلام. <— Does this scare you? I’d certainly hope not because i just greeted you and wished you peace, in Arabic. You see just over 48 hours ago all schools in a county of Virginia, the United States were shut down because a school received so many complaints from angry parents about a Geography Lesson aiming at explaining the complexity of Arabic Calligraphy. The school used the Islamic Shahada (Testimony of Faith) as an example of its complex structure.
The Shahada or testimony of faith in Islam states “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger.” The fact is the school was dealing with language and religion and used quite a specific and important language slogan that details the complexity of the calligraphy, whilst also highlighting the religious importance behind it. Yet many parents and students felt they were being indoctrinated and somehow forced to submit to Islam by simply learning how to write beautiful calligraphy.
The angry backlash caused every school in the county to shut down due to security threats and fear of negative repercussions- all because this alien language and religion was used as a study topic in a school. Seems nonsensical but not in modern day America it isn’t. Especially with the likes of Donald Trump getting more TV air time than anybody of higher significance – we are seeing such fear and hostility is spreading into the communities.
Only weeks ago a woman was attacked in an Applebees restaurant in Minnesota, the US. 43 year old Jodie Burchard-Risch was so disgusted that a fellow diner in the restaurant – Ms. Asma Jama was speaking with her family in Swahili that she yelled “In America you speak English” then physically assaulted her by smashing a beer glass on her face.
One must beg the question, what is it with this obsession that you “must” speak English and why does it disturb so many people that others speak another language in public? Why must you understand what others are saying when they are in fact not speaking to you? Are there any laws in the United States that claim it is illegal to publicly speak another language? All of these are pressing questions for the ones that have a burning ear when they hear something besides English.
Yet this isn’t only an American problem.
Yesterday here in Sydney, Australia we have the case of a woman on a train abusing another lady who was speaking Spanish to her mother on the phone. A middle aged “Australian” woman decided to hurl verbal abuse at the young Natalie Soto for daring to speak another language in public besides English.
“We speak English in this country. If you can’t speak it in public don’t speak it at all.” – Said the angry patriotic woman who had such an itch for Spanish that it somehow forced her to speak out in disgust. “Speak it in your own home, don’t speak it in public” – she continues.
What is odd is that this woman, amongst all the others who hold no tolerance for Multi-Lingual speakers could even come up with a logical excuse on why the other party should stop. It is not against any Australian law. It is absolutely harmless. Most times another language sounds beautiful and exotic and really highlights what a vibrant multi-cultural society we live in.
You see Australians who have huge issues with others not speaking English do not have a leg to stand on. The major problem is that i can assure you none of these bigots could speak even one of our many Native Aboriginal languages that existed in abundance before their colonial ancestors stepped foot on this land. It would only be fair that if they say all “others” MUST speak English in Australia, that then indeed all English speakers MUST speak one native Aboriginal language.
Claiming that we “Only” speak English in this country is wrong. You see this country has a history that spreads further than our 230 year Colonial history. Rewind that tape to find that Australia, before any explorers settled the area already had multiple peoples and languages within it. Many of which became extinct and depleted once settlers and prisoners came in. Yet i have never seen or heard of a single Aboriginal person telling me i MUST speak Dharug (the Native language of Sydney). Yet what i do hear loud and clear are post colonial “Australians” yelling at anyone who does not speak English- a language that is actually FOREIGN to Australia itself.
This all falls back with another example of the Media onslaught of the Grand Mufti of Australia Mr. Ibrahim Abu Mohammed who speaks very little English. People seem to focus more about the language than what words are actually being used. I’d rather someone tell me they Love me in French than they hate me in English. The bottom line is its not necessarily the language itself, it is how we use the language and what we say.
The Grand Mufti of Australia has openly denounced terrorism, loud and clear on multiple occasions in Arabic and with English translators. Yet there was no applause for condemning terrorism, instead there was dismay that he was not speaking English.
I really think people are missing the point….
Peace, Salam 🙂