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Sorry, You Can't.

Reader comment on item: Teach Arabic or Recruit Extremists?
in response to reader comment: How Can American Citizens learn "defensive Arabic language"?

Submitted by Abu Nuwas (United States), Sep 10, 2007 at 20:33

To: TASKER

In response to your query about how to learn "defensive Arabic language", my answer - and any judicial answer - would have to be "You can't", mainly because there is no such thing, anymore than there is such a thing as "defensive English language".

And if there were such a thing, it's obverse would also exist - namely "offensive Arabic language", something I would heartily recommend.

It is time for the West to stop thinking about "defensive" anything.....the time for an approach that has more of the "offense" to it is nigh.

The question of "language" looms large in the backrooms and corridors of the War on Terrorism (a misnomer, but that's another subject). But it is largely an issue that has been totally misunderstood.

For one thing, they've got the wrong language (!). You learn Arabic if you want to convert to Islam (or if you're a scholar specializing in the medieval Middle East). But if you want to fight the War on Terrorism, a much more useful language to learn is Urdu, one of the official languages of Pakistan.

This is because Urdu (a variant of Hindi) is understood and can be used by literally hundreds of millions of people living at the borders of Iran, right through Afghanistan, into Pakistan all the way into and including Bangladesh and even up into Bhutan and Nepal.

From there it spreads all the way down the vast Indian subcontinent to the shores of Ceylon and beyond into Malaysia and even into Indonesia where millions of native Urdu speakers dwell. This is not to mention the millions of Urdu speakers in Africa, Latin America and, believe it or not, the USA (and Britain).

These people all speak their own native languages, of course, but for a variety of historical and cultural reasons, most of these people will at least understand and be able to communicate in basic Urdu.

Arabic? Outside the Middle East it is quite unknown. Yes, as the language of the Koran, it is widely "recognized", but when it is used it is not used for normal daily communication. It is used purely as a "liturgical" language.

Not a single Afghani will know how to say "Come here and sit down" in Arabic, but most of them will have no trouble giving that order in Urdu, even if it's not their actual native language.

I will soon write an article on this very subject tentatively entitled "Learning Arabic is a Waste of Time" or some such. I hope you get to read it.

--Abu Nuwas--

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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