February 23, 2005

Pejmanesque: Arabic Linguistic Appeals

Pejman covers an article on an interesting topic - not only are a good quarter of Arabs illiterate (it's a complex language and a region squelched by economic over- and mis-management) but they differ greatly in dialect between countries. The different references, idioms and sounds make it seem perhaps that they are different languages, not simply different dialects.

The suggestion is that the US ought to follow this trend. What good is a Radio Free Mid-East if only the elites and most educated can understand it? That's an excellent point (I'm summarizing it rather inelegantly - follow the link for an explanation superior in composition and structure).

My addition to this point at first might seem minor, but I think it's important. We need to make sure our communication efforts are linguistically compatible, but we should avoid direct attempts to undermine pan-Arabism. I have no particular feelings on pan-Arabism, but I do think it could be quite unwelcome to give fuel to our opponents by obstructing Arab unity. After all, if England and France had tried to keep the US in 13 colonies or otherwise divide America, we'd be mightily pissed (both the UK and France DID support the Confederacy, to some degree, to this anti-unifying end). We shouldn't abuse Arab conceptions of unity any more than we'd accept our own conceptions of unity being mocked or derided.

After all, TRYING to keep Arabs divided would only impel them to further unity out of spite for us. We should try to appeal to local quirks and customs, but not at the further expense of the public image of our communications efforts in the Greater Middle East. Trustworthiness must be the first and last tool of a Radio-Free-Europe style project in the Arab world.


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