“…Is this about fighting Islamism or about bringing it into the National Education Ministry?” -Luc Ferry (Former conservative education minister)
‘Allahu Akbar’. (God is [the] Greatest)
What did you immediately think of after reading those two words? God? Terror? Threat? Peace? Community? Sadly, due to the influence of media, most people get suspicious and scram. Presently, Arabic is associated with terrorism in many parts of the world. But now think: has your language ever caused anxiety or terror in others? I bet it has.
France’s Educational Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer proposed a curriculum policy to implement teaching Arabic in the French school system to revive a ‘prestigious’ language. His rationale comes from the report “The Islamist Factory“, which explains the concept of Islamism and fear. On the opposing side, the right wing or conservatives have been disputing the proposal, as they believe Islamism and Salafism will rise. Overall, French Nationalist foresee many problems coming from instilling Arabic in schools.
Everyone uses language every day of their lives. Language is in culture, race, and religion. English has taken over the world, as being considered one of the most ‘important’ language to learn. Learning Chinese is now more popular. But then, there are other languages, like Arabic, which is seen as a threat to a country – and it’s people.
France is not the only country that has a pushback towards implementing a “foreign” language. Within Morocco, there is a debate about implementing Darija (Moroccan Arabic) in school books. Morocco World News published an article highlighting Blanquer’s statement of calling Arabic one of the “great languages of civilization”.
I start to wonder what consequences French Nationalist foresee happening. Would Christian or Catholic French students automatically convert to Islamism once learning Arabic? What “incalculable consequences” could arise from reviving another important language? It seems like some French are terrified of the extreme, and are correlating Arabic with the extreme news that media portrays. However, by not accepting and integrating a group’s language, they are stripping away a vital part of the group’s identity. The conservatives’ argument is a perspective that actually affects the group of people who identify closely to Islamism and Arabic. By generalizing that Arabic language is going to induce terrorism, it creates an ignorant and uninformed perspective in decision-making.
The debate in Morocco aligns with France’s problem where both are arguing the role of Arabic in schooling. It was interesting how Morocco news applauds France’s attempt in integrating Arabic into France’s education culture. Yet, French legislatives think of integration as assimilation, where children should only be learning the national language. In contrast, it seems like Blanquer’s goal is to inscribe Arabic to revitalize the important language. In a way, the minister might be attempting to preserve one’s identity and teach others about that same identity and culture.
Language itself should not be perceived as perilous. As an example of using language as a method of unity, Israel’s Hagar and Hand in Hand schools teach in Hebrew and Arabic with a goal to tolerate the “other side” and live in a peaceful society.
I believe that language unites people, but at the same time any language can produce anxiety in others due to media portrayal. Now ask yourself this: has your language caused unity or happiness? I bet it has.
Beydoun, K. (2018, August 25). The Perils of saying ‘Allahu Akbar’ in public. The Washington Post. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
French Education Minister seeks to strengthen teaching of Arabic. (2018, September 10). Morocco World News. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
French kids should learn Arabic? Education minister suggests controversial curriculum change. (2018, September 10). RT. Retrieved September 17, 2018
French right wing calls into question proposal for more Arabic teaching in schools.(2018, September 11). France 24. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
[HandInHandIL]. (2016, June 10). Hand in Hand building a shared society for Jews and Arabs in Isreal. [Video file]. Retrieved September 16, 2018
Karoui, H. (2018, September 9). The Islamist Factory. Institut Montaigne. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
Leichman, A. (2018, September 2). Where David and Dawud play together at recess. Israel 21c. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
Campbell, L. (2015). Headteacher Sarah Dawson with her pupils. Digital photograph. Independence, accessed September 18, 2018.