The principle of Pine Bush Central High School in up state New York issued an apology to parents and students following the request to recite the United States' Pledge of Allegiance (POA) in their native tongue, including Arabic, which was part of the National Foreign Language program organized by this school. Both students and parents were upset when the Arabic students were asked to do this so the school principle promised parents to have the POA read in English only from now on.
Since there is no official language within the United States and the first amendment grants freedom of speech-- reciting the pledge in any language should be acceptable. In fact it does not say anywhere that the POA should be read in English. The men and women of the United States military forces serve to protect this nation not for us to read the pledge in English.
If Americans wish to show respect to the sacrifices and contributions made by Arab Americans or any other minority, why not symbolically accept and honor the fact that they can read the POA in their native tongue as was requested by their school . Following the Arabic recitation, some parents and students went ballistic. They complained that it was insensitive to the feelings of the families who lost loved ones in Afghanistan and some of the students showed disrespect by refusing to stand up during the reading.
The High School principle obviously is not aware that Afghanistan is not an Arab country and neither were the parents and or their students who acted rudely during the Arabic reading of the POA. Languages spoken in Afghanistan are: Pashto and Dari. The Arabic reading took place days after the POA was read in two other foreign languages. Strangely, those readings did not provoke any sense patriotism or anger among the students or their parents. Reading the POA in Arabic should not be treated differently. Following the logic of the misguided parents and students and using their argument as a bar, the POA should not be read in English either, since an estimated 25,000 American Revolutionary soldiers died and another 25,000 wounded fighting against England during the war of Independence.
It is an undisputable fact that 3.5 million Arab Americans have played a vital role in the safety and welfare of our nation. They have served in every conflict and war since the Revolutionary War.
Private Nathan Badeen was a soldier who fought in 1776 in the battle to liberate Boston from the British. Petty Officer 2nd Class Mike Anthony Monsoor was the third U.S. solider to receive The Medal of Honor in the Iraq war in 2008. In September 2006, he threw himself on a hand grenade hurled at him by an Iraqi fighter, smothering it to protect his teammates who were lying in close proximity. The grenade detonated as he came down on top of it, mortally wounding him. His father is of Lebanese and Irish descent and his mother has Irish ancestry. Nathan and Mike would have been both smiling in their graves to know that POA was read in Arabic.
Two years ago, Tom Lopez, the principle of Rocky Mountain High School received a death threat from parents after allowing the POA to be read in various foreign languages including Arabic. The main objection once again was against the Arabic reading. His reaction was "This is very American and not un-American", adding, " When people pledge allegiance to the United States, that is exactly what they are saying, they are just using another language as their vehicle."
Human decency requires that we treat others with dignity and respect, even if their looks, culture or views are different from ours. After all, Arab Americans are part of the fabric that makes our country great. Reading the POA in Arabic was an effort to create awareness of the enormous diversity of people who are proud to call themselves Americans and live in the United States of America
I am tired of people waving the "Old Glory" to justify their racism and saying "If you don't like it then leave", thereby forgetting that Arabs are Americans too. It is the students of Bush Pine Central High School and their parents who should apologize over their rude and racist behavior.
Mahmoud El-Yousseph is a retired USAF veteran.
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