Who would have ever thunk it. Right here, on the outskirts of the Heights – known for its eats, arts and bungalows – terrorists from ISIS are opening a training center under the auspices of education.
Sounds like a bad joke from a bad writer, huh? Not if you read the comments from a rather controversial story we published a few weeks ago. In case you haven’t heard, HISD has announced the opening of an Arabic Language Immersion Magnet School, designed to teach children the fifth most-spoken language in the world.
Just for fun, nibble on a few of these comments from our readers:
“We are witnessing the continued assault against American Nationalism in our country amid a raging fire and smoke background,” wrote one person, quite poetically, I might add.
“How dare they try to come over and attempt [to] infiltrate our society with their beliefs!” wrote another.
“Why not just pack the kids up and send them off to ISIS training camps?” questioned yet another.
Before we go any further, let me make something very clear. There is absolutely nothing flippant about the acts of terror being committed in the name of Islam today. Seeing Christians and reporters and aid workers marched along blood-stained beaches, beheaded before cameras and the rest of the world, beckons our nation to stand stronger than ever against warped allegiances to a perverted translation of religion. My stomach turns at these continued murders, and the facts are quite clear that nearly all of these acts are carried out in the name of Islam.
But as the attacks against HISD’s new school continue, I have to ask a very simple question: How many of these crimes have been committed in the name of Arabic? Is there a difference in being a Muslim and being someone who speaks Arabic?
I’m no linguist, and I have neither the time nor desire to write a thesis on the roots of the Arabic language being formed on some of the tenets of Islam (because that appears to be the case). For that matter, I’d rather not discuss that the basis of Arabic can be found in Aramaic, which is the language Jesus spoke. Instead, I’d like to talk person-to-person, not conspirator-to-conspirator.
Here’s a little history. My grandmother, great aunts and great uncles are descendants of Lebanon. As a child, I spent one weekend in June, every year, eating kibbeh, tabbouleh and baklava. The tabbouleh and baklava became staples of our home – the kibbeh (raw hamburger), not so much. Heck, I’d spread a smattering of hummus on a car bumper and probably eat it if I were hungry enough.
What obviously bothers me now is that, by eating this Lebanese food, in a country where they speak Arabic, am I at risk for becoming a terrorist? Did I ingest something that will trigger hate?
My wife and I have a dear friend whose grandparents live in Lebanon. What concerns me is they travel over to the Middle East every couple of years to visit grandma and the cousins. It’s also frightening that they’ve managed to learn some of the language (Arabic) over there. Who knows? Maybe they’re not even visiting family. Maybe they’re undercover ISIS – you know, because they speak some of the language.
Ludicrous, you say? No way. I’m not stopping there.
I know some people who are trying to learn to speak Spanish. At one point, I even thought it would be a great idea for my son (who still can’t speak English) to learn some Spanish while he’s still young. Then I got to thinking. They have cartels in Mexico and if my son learns Spanish, he may join the cartel.
Here’s another concern. My wife, at one point in her life, was fluent in French. She spent a semester in Paris and even lived in French Polynesia for a bit. In hindsight, I probably never should have married her, given that all the French are snobs and I never really wanted to marry a snob.
Let’s remove the frivolity now.
The conversation opponents are having about HISD’s decision to open an Arabic Language Immersion school are grounded in a fear that makes absolutely no sense. Sure, there may be connections between the language and religion, just as there are ties between English and Christianity, but all the people who speak English are not Christians, just as all the people who speak Arabic are not violent Muslims.
In essence, opponents of this school are making that old argument that we should blame the pencil for misspelling a word; we should blame the gun for shooting an innocent victim.
The reality, which is where this conversation should head – and fast – is that our city and our nation have become leaders in a whole lot of countries. Yes, some of those countries and their religions are a threat to the American way of life, but we are not isolationists. Never have been; never will be.
My wife (who I’m thankful married me) is like a lot of people in our city whose job is dependent on the energy business. If she ever had the opportunity to work in Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, it would be wonderful for her career.
The young people who will attend this school may, one day, have the same opportunity. Maybe they could work in Morocco or Oman or Algeria or Jordan. Maybe they could help rebuild Iraq. Maybe they could work in the booming financial center of Bahrain. Maybe they could serve the U.S. government as we try to stamp out the terrorist threat to our nation. And yes, maybe they’d even learn how to speak like a terrorist and become one.
HISD is to be commended for their plan to launch an innovative school. Any person who opposes this plan is living in fear, and that’s more un-American than learning to speak Arabic.