Traduttore Traitore

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Today I was reading an article (that I cannot find at this time) about the large number of Internet searches for the meaning of the Arabic phrase “as-salam alikum” after it was used by Obama in his recent Cairo speech.  The article correctly explained that the phrase meant “peace be upon you” but then went on to translate another sentence in Arabic but leaving the word “Allah” untranslated.

Why is “Allah” not translated? Allah means “God” in Arabic. Not the Muslim God, just God plain and simple. Christian and Jewish Arabs say “Allah” when they refer to God, so why does the press always insist on giving the impression that Muslims pray to a different Allah? And the name Abdallah (literally, “servant of God”) historically was both a Christian and Muslim name, just as the name Jihad is very common amongst Arab Christians. Did the genius writing the aforementioned article bother to explain that the Arabic word “salam” actually comes from the same root as the Hebrew “shalom” or that all Arabs, regardless of religion, address each other with the exact same greeting?

Another good example would be the word “madrasa”. We are led to believe that a madrasa is a religious school where some odious form of extremism is taught to Muslim jihadists. Actually, madrasa is the generic word in Arabic for school. Evangelical Christians from America established missionary schools in Syria and Lebanon in the 19th Century, all called madrasas. And today, A Christian school in Bethlehem, for example, would be a madrasa. A public school, a private school, or a religious school — like the ones that Republicans would love to give tax-payer funded vouchers for — would all, in Arabic, be madrasas. And guess what? The great majority of suicide bombers, jihadists and Al Qaeda members, like Osama himself, have no formal religious training from madrasas or elsewhere.

So why the insistence on creating differences where they simply do not exist?

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