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Author Topic: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.  (Read 1324 times)

Hariti

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The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« on: October 24, 2017, 06:56:30 pm »
Most people in the US tend to associate phrases such as "Allahu Akbar" or "insha'allah" with Islam, and with radical Islam in particular. This is just... incorrect. These, and other Arabic phrases, are used by Muslims of all types, as well as by non-Muslim Arabic speakers. Arabic is, after all, just another language, spoken by people of varied beliefs, and it actually one of the most common languages in the world. Whenever I hear a Muslim, Christian, or other person use an Arabic expression that means something I agree with, I don't reject the message simply because of the language in which it is uttered. You can find the Bible in Arabic, or the Bhagavad Gita, or the Dhammapada, or the Torah.

Many Americans, including Christians and other religious people, respond negatively or sarcastically when they hear someone say "Allah."  If you were to ask them, "Do you agree with the phrase "Allahu Ackbar" they would most likely say "no," despite the fact they do, in fact, think that God is great/is the highest/mightiest etc. I think that people should stop assessing religious messages based on the language in which they are spoken, and instead should actually consider the *meaning* behind the words. What do you think? Is it fair to say that most people in the US (Or other countries) have negative reactions to Arabic phrases they would otherwise agree with?

I think this article, though not scholarly, does a good job of illustrating what I am talking about. "Allah" is not just the proper name of the Muslim God, it is also the Arabic word for god, in any religious context.

http://globaltheology.org/allahu-akbar-a-christian-call-to-worship/

EDIT: This post also seems relevant
http://www.arabnews.com/columns/news/715716
« Last Edit: October 24, 2017, 07:40:50 pm by SunflowerP »
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

Hariti

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Re: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2017, 07:01:34 pm »
EDIT: This post also seems relevant
http://www.arabnews.com/columns/news/715716

Or perhaps not. Hmm. I don't want to edit it again, but that is not the article I thought it was. It's still tangentially related, but not quite the same.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2017, 07:41:19 pm by SunflowerP »
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2017, 06:57:12 am »
Many Americans, including Christians and other religious people, respond negatively or sarcastically when they hear someone say "Allah."  If you were to ask them, "Do you agree with the phrase "Allahu Ackbar" they would most likely say "no," despite the fact they do, in fact, think that God is great/is the highest/mightiest etc. I think that people should stop assessing religious messages based on the language in which they are spoken, and instead should actually consider the *meaning* behind the words. What do you think? Is it fair to say that most people in the US (Or other countries) have negative reactions to Arabic phrases they would otherwise agree with?

As far as I can tell, many of the Americans doing this object to hearing ANY foreign language spoken in America. I've heard some of the same people who have a fit on hearing "Allah" get upset when some Latino dares to pronounce "Jesus" as it is like Spanish ("Haysus", for those who don't know). I suspect that many of the people who have this language issue are the same people who get upset when someone says something like "Happy Holidays" instead of their preferred greeting of "Merry Christmas". Most of the type it is basically just language bigotry, IMHO. Of course, with Arabic you also get religious bigotry as "Arabic" equals "Islam" equal "terrorist" to some, but I suspect if a Muslim said "God is great" instead of "Allahu Akbar" around these folks they wouldn't even be noticed by most of the people having a fit: so the reaction seems more language based than religion based to me.
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Re: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2017, 10:17:39 am »
As far as I can tell, many of the Americans doing this object to hearing ANY foreign language spoken in America.
I havent lived there so I can't say, but this is the impression of the USA I get from the media and the internet, where English has all the prestige and anything else has none.

 I imagine if you create a vast territory where people can't hear anything else through their lives, and where they are only ever exposed to local media and cultural production, other languages might just seem way too weird?

In southern Spain I've seen funny circunstances where people like Arabic, can't understand any of it, low key hate Muslims, and you can see Arabic signs on the roads in specific places.

I really like how it sounds, and I flirted with it sometime in the past, but these days I lack motivation and it seems too daunting. Plus the diglossia, plus not being able to visit most of the countries...
« Last Edit: October 25, 2017, 10:20:04 am by Naunau »

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Re: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2017, 06:25:05 pm »
In southern Spain I've seen funny circunstances where people like Arabic, can't understand any of it, low key hate Muslims, and you can see Arabic signs on the roads in specific places.

I wonder if this is in any way related to the history of Moorish presence in Spain?

Quote
I really like how it sounds, and I flirted with it sometime in the past, but these days I lack motivation and it seems too daunting. Plus the diglossia, plus not being able to visit most of the countries...

I always liked the way Arabic looked, as a script. Alas, I too lack the resources (mental and otherwise) to study it in any detail.

Fun fact: several English words beginning with al-, including alcohol, alchemy and algebra, are fairly direct borrowings from Arabic.

Altair

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Re: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2017, 07:57:44 am »
Fun fact: several English words beginning with al-, including alcohol, alchemy and algebra, are fairly direct borrowings from Arabic.

Plus most of the stars bear Arabic names, including...oh, I don't know...Altair! And I 100% agree that Arabic is the most beautiful written language. My guess is that the Muslim sort-of ban on "graven images" is the reason Arabic evolved such an amazing tradition in calligraphy. (If you're ever in NYC, check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Arabic calligraphy exhibit; it's breathtaking.)*

As for Spain, that Moorish influence can be seen in expressions as well; most notably (since it's commonplace and has clearly religious roots, but nobody thinks of it that way) "Ojala" (pronounced "oh-hah-LA"), which means "I wish" such-and-such would be so, derived fairly obviously from "O Allah!" (God willing).

BUT I think it's pointless to bemoan negative reactions to "Allahu Akbar" in the West; it is the cry of choice of radical Islamists while perpetrating acts of terror, and because that's the only time most of us hear of it, it has become so associated for us. It's like bemoaning the status of the swastika, a potent symbol with an ancient history in the East having nothing to do with the evil of the Nazis, but because it was so thoroughly coopted by them, you simply can't use it in the West. I imagine Christianists feel that way about rainbow imagery, which is now widely associated with the LGBT movement, to their chagrin.

*My non-Muslim use of Arabic calligraphy is with my personal sigil, which I had framed with the phrase "al-ta'ir al-nasr", the flying eagle, which is the expression from which the star Altair gets its name.


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Altair

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Re: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2017, 08:15:41 am »
Is it fair to say that most people in the US (Or other countries) have negative reactions to Arabic phrases they would otherwise agree with?


I just realized that, because it's so embedded in our culture, we're all overlooking the most obvious and perhaps significant influence of Arabic, not only in the West but worldwide: "our" numerals are all borrowed from Arabic.

So the next time someone starts complaining about the use of Arabic, ask them if in an emergency they plan to call IX-I-I.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Hariti

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Re: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2017, 04:34:51 pm »

BUT I think it's pointless to bemoan negative reactions to "Allahu Akbar" in the West; it is the cry of choice of radical Islamists while perpetrating acts of terror, and because that's the only time most of us hear of it, it has become so associated for us. It's like bemoaning the status of the swastika, a potent symbol with an ancient history in the East having nothing to do with the evil of the Nazis, but because it was so thoroughly coopted by them, you simply can't use it in the West. I imagine Christianists feel that way about rainbow imagery, which is now widely associated with the LGBT movement, to their chagrin.


Well, to be honest, I do bemoan the status of the Swastika. I'm Hindu after all, and if history had been different, I would probably have a Swastika around my neck right now. Because of Hitler, I will never have that option, and doing so would be social, political, and career suicide.

I do feel that "Allahu Akbar" is different because it is a phrase, not a symbol. A very common phrase at that, and one which cannot be easily substituted. It is not hard for a Hindu to wear an Om sign, or a Dharma wheel, instead of a Swastika. Although for Jains, that's a different story; the Swastika is their *main* symbol and they still use it. Asking them to stop would be like asking Catholics to stop using the Crucifix. I feel that asking Arabic people to stop using "Allahu Akbar" is likewise unreasonable. It's one of the most common Arabic expressions.

"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

Altair

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Re: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2017, 05:41:47 pm »
Although for Jains, that's a different story; the Swastika is their *main* symbol and they still use it. Asking them to stop would be like asking Catholics to stop using the Crucifix. I feel that asking Arabic people to stop using "Allahu Akbar" is likewise unreasonable. It's one of the most common Arabic expressions.

I agree that, whether it's Jains using the swastika or Muslims using "Allahu Akbar," it would be unreasonable to ask them to stop using it. The flip side, though, is that when they use it in the West, they need to be prepared for some misunderstandings and negative reactions, albeit through no fault of their own.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Hariti

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Re: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2017, 08:10:11 pm »
I agree that, whether it's Jains using the swastika or Muslims using "Allahu Akbar," it would be unreasonable to ask them to stop using it. The flip side, though, is that when they use it in the West, they need to be prepared for some misunderstandings and negative reactions, albeit through no fault of their own.

Honestly, if you are a Jain or Muslim in the "west" at ALL you should expect negative reactions. Hemant Mehta, an ex-Jain who is now an atheist author, has been accosted because he was presumed to be Muslim based on nationality. It happens to Sikhs and Hindus too, the only reason I haven't faced such harassment is because I am white and you can't tell my religion from looking at me or hearing me speak. Those who are *actually* Islamic get even worse treatment than those who are mistakenly harassed.

The "Western" world is very paranoid about Brown people and their spiritual systems right now. It has been since September 11, 2001. I hope that someday it gets over that fear, but I don't know if it ever will. ISIS and other Islamic terror groups don't help the problem.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2017, 08:12:10 pm by EnderDragonFire »
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

dubba814

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Re: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2017, 12:00:04 am »
Most people in the US tend to associate phrases such as "Allahu Akbar" or "insha'allah" with Islam, and with radical Islam in particular. This is just... incorrect. These, and other Arabic phrases, are used by Muslims of all types, as well as by non-Muslim Arabic speakers. Arabic is, after all, just another language, spoken by people of varied beliefs, and it actually one of the most common languages in the world. Whenever I hear a Muslim, Christian, or other person use an Arabic expression that means something I agree with, I don't reject the message simply because of the language in which it is uttered. You can find the Bible in Arabic, or the Bhagavad Gita, or the Dhammapada, or the Torah.

Many Americans, including Christians and other religious people, respond negatively or sarcastically when they hear someone say "Allah."  If you were to ask them, "Do you agree with the phrase "Allahu Ackbar" they would most likely say "no," despite the fact they do, in fact, think that God is great/is the highest/mightiest etc. I think that people should stop assessing religious messages based on the language in which they are spoken, and instead should actually consider the *meaning* behind the words. What do you think? Is it fair to say that most people in the US (Or other countries) have negative reactions to Arabic phrases they would otherwise agree with?

I think this article, though not scholarly, does a good job of illustrating what I am talking about. "Allah" is not just the proper name of the Muslim God, it is also the Arabic word for god, in any religious context.

http://globaltheology.org/allahu-akbar-a-christian-call-to-worship/

EDIT: This post also seems relevant
http://www.arabnews.com/columns/news/715716
Well, I feel as if this is quite the conversation for me to make comment on saying as my username is in Arabic, dubba means bear. Now, I am not Arab myself, but the love of my life is, he's Palestinian, currently in Jordan working on moving to Minnesota (American here with a solid Norse heritage), and he also has a lot of Romani in his bloodline.

 His 2 cents on the whole "Allahu Akhbar" comment is, "I honestly never thought the direct translation of "God is good" could potentially get me shot or taken into custody in your country, but here we are." Which, I grew up quite lutheran, and in my family's church we said "God is good" over everything.

I completely agree that Arabic visually is a most beautiful language. But, word to the wise, anything that is written conversationally is almost impossible to get a good translation of online. It's a running joke when I translate his Facebook posts, because they make no sense. First time I sent him a screen shot got the response, "oh Lord, my women thinks I'm convening with the devil." A recipe translated to "put Alex in the tomato tub after the brothel". Even Chinese translates better, which I have been around a lot, my ex husband was from Shenyang, and we spent extended vacations there. because of this, I was honestly horrified to find out the FBI had one arab speaking agent at the time 9/11 happened, and I doubt we have enough in the military. Arabic isnt something you can just Google translate.

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Altair

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Re: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2017, 12:29:48 am »
Honestly, if you are a Jain or Muslim in the "west" at ALL you should expect negative reactions. Hemant Mehta, an ex-Jain who is now an atheist author, has been accosted because he was presumed to be Muslim based on nationality. It happens to Sikhs and Hindus too, the only reason I haven't faced such harassment is because I am white and you can't tell my religion from looking at me or hearing me speak. Those who are *actually* Islamic get even worse treatment than those who are mistakenly harassed.

The "Western" world is very paranoid about Brown people and their spiritual systems right now. It has been since September 11, 2001. I hope that someday it gets over that fear, but I don't know if it ever will. ISIS and other Islamic terror groups don't help the problem.

Too true. The U.S. didn't need any help being paranoid about brown-skinned folks, but it's certainly getting it from those you mentioned.

Even here in relatively liberal NYC--where we see all types, and so for most it just rolls off our backs--you hear tales of harassment, anecdotally and in the news. I haven't seen much myself, but NYC can be a bubble. I plan to be prepared if I do:

Bystander Intervention Strategies
https://www.ihollaback.org/resources/bystander-resources/

I think Sikhs may have it worst of all; they're not even Muslim but are too often mistaken for it by the ignoramuses, catching all that flak...and because (as I understand it) their religion requires them to keep their hair bound up in that turban, they don't have the fighting chance to blend in that genuinely Muslim men do.


The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Noctua

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Re: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2017, 06:18:38 am »
Too true. The U.S. didn't need any help being paranoid about brown-skinned folks, but it's certainly getting it from those you mentioned.

Even here in relatively liberal NYC--where we see all types, and so for most it just rolls off our backs--you hear tales of harassment, anecdotally and in the news. I haven't seen much myself, but NYC can be a bubble. I plan to be prepared if I do:

Bystander Intervention Strategies
https://www.ihollaback.org/resources/bystander-resources/

I think Sikhs may have it worst of all; they're not even Muslim but are too often mistaken for it by the ignoramuses, catching all that flak...and because (as I understand it) their religion requires them to keep their hair bound up in that turban, they don't have the fighting chance to blend in that genuinely Muslim men do.

Depends on how orthodox they are. I spoke with a Sikh couple last week (the wife was my patient) and the husband had his hair cut short. I only knew they were Sikh because the wife had a bandanna with the khanda on it (they were both lovely people, I really enjoyed chatting with them). But yeah, I agree that orthodox Sikh have it the worst, having the hair bound up makes them stand out. Which is a shame because if more people actually understood their belief system they'd realize that a Sikh is more likely to be the one who stands up to stop a terrorist (of any color).

Hariti

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Re: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2017, 03:13:06 pm »
Depends on how orthodox they are. I spoke with a Sikh couple last week (the wife was my patient) and the husband had his hair cut short. I only knew they were Sikh because the wife had a bandanna with the khanda on it (they were both lovely people, I really enjoyed chatting with them). But yeah, I agree that orthodox Sikh have it the worst, having the hair bound up makes them stand out. Which is a shame because if more people actually understood their belief system they'd realize that a Sikh is more likely to be the one who stands up to stop a terrorist (of any color).

My understanding is that it comes down to whether or not they have taken Amrit Sanchar. Unbaptized Sikhs have few mandatory religious laws, but rather mostly have moral guidelines and suggestions. Baptized Sikhs, on the other hand, have much stricter rules, much like ordained priests do in Catholicism (they aren't clergy though!).

Granted, Sikhism does permit for "Baptized" Sikhs to break the rules if following them places them at physical, social, or financial risk, but most understandably don't want to do that.

*I use the word "Baptized" because that is the closest English-language analog, Amrit Sanchar is not actually the same as Christian Baptism!
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

Noctua

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Re: The Arabic language and its non-Muslim usage.
« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2017, 11:04:24 am »
My understanding is that it comes down to whether or not they have taken Amrit Sanchar. Unbaptized Sikhs have few mandatory religious laws, but rather mostly have moral guidelines and suggestions. Baptized Sikhs, on the other hand, have much stricter rules, much like ordained priests do in Catholicism (they aren't clergy though!).

Granted, Sikhism does permit for "Baptized" Sikhs to break the rules if following them places them at physical, social, or financial risk, but most understandably don't want to do that.

*I use the word "Baptized" because that is the closest English-language analog, Amrit Sanchar is not actually the same as Christian Baptism!

Ahh, I'm always so excited when I learn something new! To be honest the patient I had a couple weeks ago was the first time I'd encountered "unbaptized" Sikhs so I had no idea this was even a thing, I just assumed it was a matter of how strictly they stuck to the guidelines of their faith.

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Host:
Sunflower

Message Board Staff
Board Coordinator:
Darkhawk

Assistant Board Coordinator:
Aster Breo

Senior Staff:
Aisling, Jenett, Sefiru

Staff:
Allaya, Chatelaine, EclecticWheel, HarpingHawke, Kylara, PerditaPickle, rocquelaire

Discord Chat Staff
Chat Coordinator:
Morag

Cauldron Council:
Bob, Catja, Emma-Eldritch, Fausta, Jubes, Kelly, LyricFox, Phouka, Sperran, Star, Steve, Tana

Site Administrator:
Randall