So, as you may have read, I am performing at Comix in New York City on Monday the 29th of March. I really need 15 people to come, so do it. Call ‘em up at 212 - 524 - 2500 and tell them you’re seeing John Barrett on the 29th of March. Do it now! Save my family!
Doing a show at Comix in New York City on Monday the 29th of March. It’s gonna rule.
Today’s New York Times had several articles having to do with the plight of American Muslims. A former principal of an Arabic-language school in New York has gotten the support of the EEOC in her campaign to be reinstated, and a New Jersey man was arrested in Yemen after apparently joining an Al Qaeda cell there. These stories are incredibly different, but both speak to the growing problem of anti-muslim sentiment in the United States. The former story involves a woman removed from her job for alleged extremist ties, and the other shows the unfortunate side-effect of muslim persecution - radicalization.
So what, fundamentally, is the problem here? Can this be chalked up to good old American racism? Certainly in large part, yes, but I think there is another issue that remains largely unexplored: Language.
An argument that at least I have heard about Islam is that muslims believe in a different god. This is an argument made by particularly ignorant people, yes, but it’s an argument none the less. This argument stems from the Arabic word Allah. Some people believe that Allah is a new god, but it is simply the Arabic name for the Jewish Yahweh.
Then there are the frequently misrepresented Arabic words like “Jihad” and “Intifada” (the word for which the former principal was removed from office)*. These are words that have gotten a negative connotation after being associated with extremist Islam. Jihad is an Arabic word which literally translates to “struggle.” It is an integral part to being a muslim and is generally used to describe the normal day to day struggle to be a good, practicing muslim. Intifida is a word that literally means shaking off, and generally means resistance to oppression.
Then finally there is the term “al qaeda.” This seems to be one of the most misunderstood terms in Arabic. Al Qaeda, in popular understanding, is some international terrorist organization headed by Osama Bin Laden from wherever he’s hiding in Eastern/Central Asia. Really, al qaeda translates to the list and is a list of like-minded terrorist cells working independently around the world.
This may seem like Semantics, but a proper understanding of certain terms will at least make further discussion make sense. Right?