A recent news story about a New York school allowing students to recite the pledge of allegiance in Arabic sparked controversy across the country. It appears that many were upset by this, and the school ended up apologizing for allowing it. My question is why?
The school had been reciting the pledge in different languages each day. Why is it that when it was recited in Arabic, it was offensive? The translation remains the same. The pledge of allegiance is just that — a statement of allegiance to our nation. If it can be transformed into every language, it serves the purpose of being inclusive to all of the diverse people who live in this country. America is not an exclusively English speaking country. In fact, there is no national language. I do feel that people who live here should have at least a basic grasp on the English language because it is the most commonly spoken one. If I moved to China, I would expect to start learning Chinese. But that is a different topic from the one at hand.
I am trying to understand why pledging one’s allegiance is offensive. Do we prohibit people from saying the pledge in Japanese because of Pearl Harbor? Or in German because of WWII? Or in Russian because of, well, read the news these days about Putin? No. Specifically getting defensive once it is recited in Arabic is wrong. Americans should not feel offended that it was recited in Arabic (and how are we defining Americans in this situation? English-speaking white Americans?) If anyone should be offended, it is the large number of peaceful, hardworking Arabic-speaking people that live and work in this country, many of them American citizens. I feel ashamed that there was such a terrible reaction and that the school actually conceded and apologized rather than standing up for the equal rights of its Arabic-speaking students. After all, the last line of the pledge of allegiance is in fact “With liberty and justice for all.”