A Jihad Watch reader recently said: "We need people to be able to learn Arabic. How is this going to be achieved without indoctrination?"
The need for "people...to learn Arabic" is greatly exaggerated. There is no need to "learn Arabic" in order to learn the contents of the Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira. 80% of the world's Muslims are not Arabs and do not know Arabic. Arabs today have a great deal of difficulty understanding Qur'anic Arabic -- though not as much as English speakers would have reading, unaided, Beowulf or The Seafarer or The Wanderer or the riddles in The Exeter Book. But it is less important to pick up your Thackston (for an elementary guide to Qur'anic Arabic) than to pick up your book on Islamic law, by Joseph Schacht, or on war and peace in Islam (by Majid Khadduri), or other books by Snouck Hurgronje, or Henri Lammens, or others by those Western scholars, those Orientalists, who wrote before the age of fear, the age of flattery, the age of mental confusion, the Age of the Great Inhibition, set in.
And besides, there are native speakers of Arabic -- Maronites, Copts, Jews in Israel who came from Arab lands -- who can give us all the help we need, and who, what's more, can vet others, including possible "islamochristians," who might otherwise be hired or even put in charge of critical translations. When you have no idea what you are doing, as this Administration has not, you hire, you rely, on all kinds of doubtful characters to give you "insight" and "knowledge."
Hire Youssef Ibrahim. Hire Franck Salameh, whose devastating article on his own experience teaching Arabic one summer at Middlebury deserves to be read. It should be read not only by the President of Middlebury and others who may work to clean up the thought-police and implied threat-thuggery at the Arabic School, but also by those in the government in charge of giving students grants to attend such a school in the dreamy belief that they will "merely be learning the language and so politics can't come into it." Of course it can.
Hire the equivalent of Kanan Makiya, or if he finally comes around on Islam, and realizes that the missing explanation for what happened in Iraq, is the effect of Islam, its habit of mental submission, its aggression, its Victor/Vanquished view of the universe (its everything that he has had a hard time defending, but still can't quite bring himself to jettison), hire Makiya himself.
Just as the outspoken Magdi Allam, in Italy, from time to time mentions his humble, decent, and officially "Muslim" Egyptian parents (who nonetheless, despite having very little money, made sure to send him to a Christian school in Egypt), so Kanan Makiya has been quick, in the past, when he senses that others (say, on a television panel discussion) are impugning Islam, mentions his pious Shi'a grandmother. But while it is clear that Magdi Allam has reached the stage of "Muslim-for-identification-purposes-only" Muslim, Kanan Makiya has not yet shown that he has connected the dots of behavior, attitudes, atmospherics, in societies and individuals suffused with Islam, with the texts and tenets of that same Islam. But eventually, because he is an honest man, he will be forced -- he will force himself -- to do so.
And the absurd reliance on Muslims, rather than on non-Muslim native speakers of Arabic, maddens. It shows that there are too many people in positions of authority who have not studied Islam, not even a bit, and are deep believers in "using moderate Muslims" as their guide to... the other kind.
Gordon England, being led by the nose, is hardly the only one to have been deeply impressed with the quiet voices, sincere looks from liquid-brown eyes, and expressions of deep loyalty to the American Way, and great personal charm -- an entire shtick that may be transparent to you and to me, but then, we're the kind of people who are wary, who don't simply accept things but do our own homework, and are therefore not the kind of company men likely to rise high in an atmosphere that rewards groupthink, and company men.
Look at how Hesham Islam has England wrapped around his little finger, or should we vary the metaphor, and have him, rather, leading England around by the nose?
Oh, we have all the Arabic speakers we need, but fearful, ignorant, and also dangerous people are keeping them out, and hiring the wrong ones, on the principle that "only a Muslim can understand Islam" or "only a Muslim can be hired" to deal with "fellow Muslims" or "only a Muslim can possibly broadcast to Muslim countries."
Only a Communist can be hired to broadcast about democratic freedoms, for Radio Liberty? For Radio Free Europe? Or could an émigré, a refugee, a defector from Communism, or someone who never was a Communist at all, be the best person to describe the attraction of Western-style democracy and individual rights, and link the failures and hideousness of Communist-ruled societies to Communism itself?
And the same is true, mutatis mutandis, with dealing with the meaning, and menace, of Islamic Jihad.