By Corey Habbas “Look at any advertisement. Is a woman being used to sell the product? How old is she? How attractive is she? What is she wearing? More often than not, that woman will be…taller, slimmer and more attractive than average, dressed in skimpy clothing. Why do we allow ourselves to be manipulated like this?” So asks a Muslim teen, Sultana Yusufali, in an article she wrote for Toronto Star Young People’s Press. Her indignation is not unlike that which Muslims living here in the Twin Cities and elsewhere feel when they see women treated like commodities.
This month, the Arabic language came under attack when Debbie Almontaser, principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, New York’s first public school that integrates Arabic language and cultural studies with a public school curriculum, explained that the English translation for the word “intifada,” literally means to “shake off.” Almontaser had been asked to explain a word on the T-shirts circulated by the AWAAM (Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media), a Brooklyn-based organization that empowers girls and women.
The attack on Khalil Gibran International Academy is one of the most recent examples of America’s fear of the Arabic language, but it is only one of numerous examples throughout the nation. In August 2006, JetBlue Airways refused to allow an Iraqi man to board a flight at Kennedy International Airport because he wore a t-shirt inscribed with Arabic and English. The phrase read, “We Will Not Be Silent.”