Daphne High School is offering Arabic language classes instead of French classes this fall, taught by Sanaa El-Khattabi. School officials believe the class will help prepare students to succeed in a global economy. But Daphne residents are upset that the Baldwin County school system is permitting its students to learn what they call “a culture of hate.”
AL.com “When you teach Arabic, you have to teach the culture along with it,” said Chuck Pyritz, whose two sons, Isaiah, 17, and Isaac, 14, attend Daphne High. “The culture is intertwined with Islam.”
Pyritz cited the case of jihadist Omar Hammami who grew up in Daphne, only to join the al-Qaeda linked terror group, al-Shabaab, in Somalia, as a compelling reason that school systems should not offer courses in Arabic. “That’s another red flag for us,” he said. (Hammami was known as the ‘American’ who made recruiting videos in English and was reportedly killed by his al-Shabaab brothers recently)
“This is America, and English is our language, and while I understand the alleged premise of offering Arabic at our high school, I don’t agree with it,” said Michael Rife, who lives in Daphne. “It is not just another language; it is a language of a religion of hate. I’m concerned about our taxpayer dollars going to fund such a program, because I don’t believe it has a lot of foundational value.
“It just concerns me that we’re headed down a path of further eroding our society to a Muslim-based society, or Sharia law (the moral code of Islam), and I’m not willing to let that happen without … something to say about it.”
Pyritz was also disturbed, he said, after meeting with Baldwin school officials to voice his concerns and learning of plans to expand Arabic and other language course offerings in Daphne’s elementary and middle schools.
“They’re trying to indoctrinate our children with this culture that has failed,” he said. “…Why should we want to teach our kids a failed culture when we have a culture that has been successful? All we have to do is follow our Christian culture, which has brought this nation to the pinnacle of success. … I don’t see why they would want to teach this.”
“The growth of international businesses in the South is increasing exponentially,” said Brian Heuser, a professor in international education policy at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. “Those countries that decide not to learn languages, that decide not to invite immigrants from all parts of the world, are the ones that will fall behind in the global economy,” he said.
“We also know that a lot of folks from the Arab world have relocated here,” he said, particularly in the South. “We need to embrace this new global reality of having a multicultural society.”
Donna Rife, a Daphne resident who has two grandchildren in Daphne schools, questioned the fairness of teaching Arabic when public school systems often discourage any expression of religion.
“If they want to speak their language, that is their privilege in this country,” she said. “But don’t silence another voice, such as Christianity. … We are not a Muslim nation, and yet they’re trying to bring this kind of nonsense into (schools). I am absolutely against it.”
Rife was also disturbed, she said, about the possibility of her grandchildren studying Islam. “It’s a great concern to me, because they’re being indoctrinated with this,” she said. “Arabic leads right into the Muslim teaching, and that is where the danger is and that is what I am absolutely against,” she said. “Let them teach that in their mosques — but keep it out of our schools.”
Heuser, who also has a master’s degree in theological studies, said he understood that view. “There’s a larger point to be made here,” he said. “Not all Christians are the same, and not all Muslims are the same. There’s a huge spectrum in Islam. There are some on the extreme end of things … but by and large, if you think about the fact that there are a billion Muslims, they tend to be fairly peaceful overall.
“I’m not an apologist, but you have to put it in context as a whole. All of the religions have violent pasts.”
Pyritz is attempting to organize a group of parents and pastors to attend a Baldwin County school board meeting to express their concerns.
He also was upset because he felt that the school system didn’t give parents much advance notice about the Arabic classes. “They did not give us a chance as parents to say whether or not we wanted this in our community,” he said.
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