Posted by on February 05, 2013 in Blog

By Jennine Vari

Spring 2013 Intern

A student club at Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins, Colorado has been working to break down cultural barriers by translating the Pledge of Allegiance and reciting it in other languages. However, the most recent translation has sparked controversy among students, parents, and a few uninformed and opinionated others. On Monday, a student from the school’s Cultural Arms Club (CAC) recited an Arabic translation of the Pledge of Allegiance over the school intercom for their classmates as a club activity. After word spread about the Arabic version of the Pledge, the school began to receive phone calls and emails from parents and locals who felt that the student’s translation was inappropriate and the school should not have allowed it. People on Twitter also expressed their concerns about an Arabic translation of the Pledge, claiming that it is “unpatriotic” and is a way to promote Islam in public schools. The school district’s communications director said she understood why people were upset, but also pointed out that there were those who supported the students’ decision.

For the last week, the principal and members of the club have been defending themselves against the remarks and accusations based on fear and misunderstanding. Principal Tom Lopez defended his students and their decision, saying, “When they pledge allegiance to the U.S. that’s exactly what they’re saying – they’re just using another language as a vehicle.” Skyler Bowden, a Rocky Mountain sophomore, also commented on their decision, “No matter what language it’s said in, pledging your allegiance to the United States is the same in every language.” Other members were very clear about the purpose of the Arabic translation. The student who recited it, Nuha Kapatayes, explained that her objective was not to offend but to understand and accept diversity.

This is not the first time CAC has translated the Pledge of Allegiance into another language. In the fall, they recited it in French and Spanish, both of which drew little criticism. The Arabic translation however, drew criticism they didn’t expect.  Despite the controversy surrounding the innocent and educational project, the student-initiated, student-led club still plans to translate the pledge into American Sign Language, Korean, and Chinese.

This negative response to an Arabic recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, clearly demonstrates the widespread misunderstanding surrounding the Arabic language, culture and religion. Arabic, like all other languages, is simply a vehicle for the communication of ideas, like French or Spanish. Student projects such as this should be encouraged in an academic setting for promoting cross-cultural understanding, not discouraged out of fear and lack of understanding.

comments powered by Disqus