By Kalia Abiade
A Fort Collins, Colo., high school principal is the target of angry and threatening phone calls and emails after he gave the go-ahead last week for a student group to lead the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic.
The Cultural Arms Club at Rocky Mountain High School aims to “destroy the barriers” and “embrace the cultures” at the school and beyond. The group’s members approached Principal Tom Lopez about reciting the pledge in different languages over the school’s PA system. In past months they’ve said the pledge in French and Spanish.
As if on cue, the comments sections across blogs and news websites lit up with racist remarks and anti-Muslim paranoia.
Commenter Noam Giber kept it simple on the Fox News Radio website:
“Welcome to America. Now speak English.”
A commenter calling himself StoneMike elaborated on The Blaze:
“What is wrong with America, every parent of every child should pull their child out of this school! Every teacher, every administrator should be fired and loyalty oathes [sic] should be given to every teacher in America! We are headed for civil war and when it starts I hope someone pops the mexican teacher that instigated this treason!”
The students said they expected some “resistance” from schoolmates, but Lopez said he has been shocked with just how vitriolic the some of the broader response has been. He and the students insist that the exercise had no other agenda than to promote diversity and acceptance.
“When they pledge allegiance to the United States, that’s exactly what they are doing,” Lopez said. “They’re just using another language as their vehicle.”
Of course, the outcry isn’t just about language. There was no national or international news coverage when the pledge was recited in French or Spanish.
The problem is in the phrase “one nation, under God.” Fox News’ Todd Starnes said that it is part of a “disturbing trend” of accommodating Muslims students that the students used the word “Allah” instead of “God.”
Just as “Dieu” is “God” in French and “Dios” is “God” in Spanish, “Allah” means “God” in Arabic. Arab Christians call their deity “Allah,” too. It’s not clear which word Starnes would have preferred.
Lopez said he was, rightfully, taken aback by the many callers who have accused him of allowing un-American activity at the school and one woman who even said he is pushing a Muslim Brotherhood agenda
“I’m getting worn down a little bit by how intense their sense of hate has been,” Lopez told KUSA 9News.
Ever at the front of the so-called “Counter-Jihad” movement, Pamela Geller chimed in. Calling the students’ move “madness,” she quoted from her interview with Canadian conservative Mark Steyn, she reasserted the fear that Arabic is a foot through the door for an all-out Muslim takeover.
“it is explicated the language of Islam, so in that sense it is part of the Islamic religious imperial project. Radical Islam advances through the Arabic language,” Steyn said.
“Arabic is not just another language like French or Italian, it is the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States.”
Fox News roundtable The Five also took up the issue last Wednesday and libertarian co-host Greg Gutfeld seemed to agree.
“But you know what? I’m looking forward to dodge ball in burqas. I think that would be fun.”
Gutfeld added, “And I will say, there’s no country in history that survives by raising the self-esteem of others. It just doesn’t happen.”
The attacks got more personal on the website for the newspaper The Coloradoan. In response to a remark in support of the students, commenter Cathy Gardino went full force:
“Perhaps you’ve not lost anyone in the wars against Terror since 2001 … perhaps you will be the first one to have your throat cut … be our guest.”
For their part, the students say they have plans to continue translating and reciting the pledge in different languages: Chinese, Korean, perhaps even American Sign Language. The willful ignorance displayed in response to their cultural experiment underscores the need for more language and cultural training, not less.