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Know Thine Enemy

Reader comment on item: A Madrasa Grows in Brooklyn

Submitted by Abu Nuwas (Saudi Arabia), Apr 26, 2007 at 09:53

From my reading of its descriptive pamphlet, the Khalil Gibran International Academy appears to be another exercise in futility rather than a threat, masking what will undoubtedly be its poor academic reputation under the mantra of "multiculturalism". (Under multiculturalism, it's not quality that counts but "diversity", diversity being a code word for disarray and dissonance.)

After all, the pamphlet specifically is looking for teachers who can meet "the needs of English language learners and students requiring special education services"…..and you know what all that acadamese really means. (It means students who can barely read (in any language) and who are incapable of ever being able to excel at academics).

Any academy which emphasizes "activities" is bound to be another dumping ground for the academically challenged. In fact, the pamphlet is all about activities, testing, coordinating, communicating, assessment and so on. Nary a peep about actually "studying", let alone "homework", two terms – among many – that have practically been banned from the realm of the academy, from kindergarten to post-doctoral studies.

I agree that studying Arabic is "inevitably laden with pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage." as Dr. Pipes suggests. But I don't see the practice generating problems.

My experience has been that studying Arabic (by a westerner) hardly ever wins anyone over to the Islamic "side", so to speak. In fact, the opposite reaction is much more likely. The more the intelligent and well-adjusted westerner delves into the whole "Islamic universe", the more he is likely to be ultimately repelled by it.

I've seen this happen over and over again. It's almost inevitable.

What I have seen is the disenchanted, the outcast, the socially inept, the marginalized, the pathological - in other words, the whole panoply of "losers" in our society – "embrace" the Islamic line - hook, bait and reel - as a form of escapism. At last, they say to themselves, they have found a place where they are "accepted". It's pathetic, really.

Arabic may be an interesting language linguistically speaking, but in fact, for the modern westerner, it's largely a useless language. Reports to the contrary, its importance is diminishing, not increasing (despite the fact that the number if its speakers is rising). It has very little connection to the modern, technological world and the themes that it can treat have long ago been resolved by the West.

Learning Arabic is –ipso facto – an exercise in being indoctrinated with the Islamic-Arabist point of view. After all, what else is there to discuss? Music? Painting? Medical advances? Modern astronomy? Finances? Literature? Education? Any of the themes that inform modern western discourse? They simply don't exist in the contemporary Islamic world in any productive capacity….it's all imitation.

The Islamic world – and particularly the Arab portion of it - is totally marginalized and isolated from the rest of the planet. This pathetic remnant of a dead civilization has nothing else to discuss except its past "glories".

Ultimately, Arabic is a fossil – fascinating but useless. Anyone interested in this aspect of Arabic should really read Eli Shouby's classic: "The Influence of the Arabic Language on the Psychology of the Arabs". It's an eye-opener.

I personally don't worry that the establishment of the Khalil Gibran International Academy could possibly have a negative influence students, anymore than, say, a circus might have a negative influence on them.

It would be interesting to find out, though, if any classes will actually teach anything about the author Khalil Gibran or assign his writings to students. After all, Mr. Gibran was a committed Christian.


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