One Alabama high school decided this year to offer an Arabic language class in place of a French course, and that has a number of local residents crying: “Sacre bleu!”
Is Alabama home to a large Francophile community? Not likely. Here’s what happened:
Daphne High School, which is not far from Mobile, had an opening for a language instructor after its French teacher retired. So the school hired Sanaa El-Khattabi, a former University of South Alabama professor, to teach Arabic, the Birmingham News reported.
According to a Daphne High spokesperson, teaching Arabic offers students opportunities for global success. Indeed, Arabic is the official language of more than 20 countries, some of which are not overwhelmingly Muslim. Not a lot of Americans speak Arabic, so if you can master it, doors do open.
“I’m very excited about [our language program],” Alan Lee, superintendent of Baldwin County Schools, told the News. “I’m sure many parents will want their children to learn Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese or Arabic.”
Lee added that multilingual people are in a prime position to land jobs in the state, given the number of international corporations with a presence there – including Airbus Americas, ThyssenKrupp, Outokumpu, Toyota and Hyundai. (There are numerous out-of-state opportunities too. The CIA is desperate for people who can speak Arabic.)
“The growth of international businesses in the South is increasing exponentially,” Brian Heuser, an international education policy professor at Vanderbilt University, told the News.
Maybe that’s why the school’s three Arabic classes are currently filled.
But practicality or popularity doesn’t seem to matter to some local residents, who said the school is teaching “a culture of hate.”
“When you teach Arabic, you have to teach the culture along with it,” said Chuck Pyritz, who has two boys at Daphne High. “The culture is intertwined with Islam.”
Other equally enlightened residents said much the same thing.
“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 Daphne resident Michael Rife. “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, and I’m not willing to let that happen without …something to say about it,” Rife added.
It isn’t just a leap in logic to suggest that if high school students learn Arabic, America will end up with Islamic law. It’s more like trying to jump across the Grand Canyon without so much as a running start.
Unfortunately it’s quite clear that some people genuinely believe teaching Arabic is a threat to their Christian faith. Some of them are so threatened by this that they’re perfectly happy to deny their children the opportunities that learning a foreign language can bring.
“They’re trying to indoctrinate our children with this culture that has failed,” Rife 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.”
Donna Rife, another resident and grandmother to two Daphne students, said it’s unfair to teach Arabic in a public school since Christianity has been “silenced.”
“If they want to speak their language, that is their privilege in this country,” she 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.”
It’s safe to say Donna Rife isn’t a big supporter of church-state separation, unless it’s her church that’s being separated from government. In reality, she’s just another hypocrite who stands up for what she believes at the expense of common sense.
“Arabic leads right into the Muslim teaching, and that is where the danger is and that is what I am absolutely against,” Donna Rife added. “Let them teach that in their mosques -- but keep it out of our schools.”
It continues to amaze me that these devout Christians think their faith is so fragile that it cannot stand up to language classes that have nothing to do with religion.
But the larger issue is, of course, this supposed concern that teaching Arabic is the same as forcing Islam on students. It’s not, and it’s not even close. The school should not be forcing Islam or any other religion on anyone, but we have no evidence that any sort of proselytizing has occurred. We don’t even know if El-Khattabi is a practicing Muslim.
What we do know is that these “concerned residents” would be perfectly happy if some sort of Christian cultural class was being taught in public schools. They’d be thrilled, in fact.
We also know that they find a sudden love for church-state separation when they think another faith is being favored. Real church-state separation isn’t conditional, and that seems to be something fundamentalists will never understand.