News & Politics

Why Are Americans Blindly Afraid of a Language That Is at the Center of Human Civilization?

What happens when bigotry makes people feel afraid of a language?

Arabic write

While sane and insane voices exist in every society, it is common knowledge by now that Islamophobes are pretty loud in the West, especially in the U.S. The story of Ahmed Mohamed, the kid who brought a self-made clock to school, is a case in point. Of course, Islamophobia is not the dominant ideology in the U.S., as can be seen in the efforts of several good-willed Americans who seek nothing but peace. After all, Ahmed did get support and appreciation from all corners, didn’t he?

However, what happens when such Islamophobic paranoia, even though it might be in the minority, spills out and makes itself visible in stuff that is otherwise not a monopoly of Islam? What happens when bigotry makes people feel afraid of a language?

Apparently, some Islamophobes in the U.S. seem to be scared of the Arabic language.

Islamophobes Dislike Arabic?

Recently, a teacher at a school in Augusta County, VA handed out a homework assignment. The homework, part of the geography curriculum, dealt with world religions, and included a question asking students to copy Arabic calligraphy, in order to help them understand the complexity of calligraphy in the Arabic language.

The result? It led to an angry backlash from several parents, who felt it was an attempt to convert their kids to Islam. The school received multiple calls from angry parents, and some even demanded the teacher be fired from her job. Things got ugly, with more hate-filled calls and messages coming in, and more parents reacting to the incident with threats. All the schools in the county had to be shut down and then reopened amid high security. Eventually, the question was eliminated from the workbook.

Thankfully, there were voices of sanity too, and some former students created a Facebook group to defend their geography teacher.

This is not the first time Islamophobic paranoia has resulted in bias against the Arabic language. Back in March 2015, a school near New York City had to apologize for including Arabic as one of the languages during its Foreign Languages Week celebration.

Why Should They Not Hate Arabic?

To help Islamophobes realize just how poor their logic is, I decided to put together a small fraction of things for which they should thank the Arabic language and Arabic speakers: 

  • Renowned Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas was influenced by several philosophers; guess which language those philosophers wrote in? Yes, Arabic.

  • While the good and bad qualities of Christopher Columbus are surely debatable, it is established beyond doubt that during his voyage to America, Columbus depended heavily on the calculations of al-Farghani. In fact, al-Farghani was one of the first to prove that the earth was spherical, and he wrote all of that in Arabic.

  • It is argued that zero first originated in India. However, the circular zero in use today comes from the works of Arabic scholars. Don’t like the zero? Good luck dividing XLIV by CLXIV.

Need more? There is a lot more.


If Islamophobes want to turn their children away from the Arabic language because they feel it is related to Muslims, they will be turning their kids away from trigonometry, algebra, chemistry, pharmacy and medicine. All of these were, in some way or the other, invented and developed by Muslims.

Obviously, paranoia and religious bigotry are purely illogical. Such ignorance needs to be fixed, because Arabic is a language that has been nothing but beneficial for human existence as a whole.


Sufyan bin Uzayr is the author of Sufism: A Brief History. He writes for several print and online publications and blogs at Political Periscope

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