Weekly Standard still trying to convince us Obama is Arab

June 3, 2009

President Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia this morning (click here for a really breathtaking picture of his arrival). He met with King Abdullah. And then, in what would normally be appreciated by most as a gesture of cultural understanding, respect, and open-mindedness, Obama said: “Shukran.” That is the Arabic word for thank you. It’s like the first word we learned in Arabic 101 (and yes, full disclosure, I studied Arabic for years).

But that doesn’t stop the Michael Goldfarb over at conservative mag the Weekly Standard from whipping out the fear-mongering:

It seems there is some legitimate confusion on just what languages Obama speaks, and as far as Arabic, the only real hint has came from Nick Kristof, who heard Obama recite the Muslim call to prayer in Arabic and with a “first-rate accent” back in 2007. With even the White House now smearing Obama as a Muslim, one wonders if the president hasn’t been concealing some greater fluency with the language of the Koran.

Really? The President says one word in Arabic, and Goldfarb is trying to insinuate that the President is a secret Arabic speaker, and possibly even a Muslim when he tucks in that Koran reference at the end of the post. Oh no, what did we get ourselves into! We elected a secret Arabic speaker!

The problem with the Weekly Standard here is twofold. First and foremost, there’s the obvious issue that being able to say “thank you” in a foreign language does not by any stretch of the imagination mean the person in question can speak that language. Especially when the language is Arabic, a language so difficult to learn that one can spend years studying and still not be proficient in conversation. It’s a ridiculous correlation to make. And Nick Kristof is hardly a judge of whether Obama has a “first-rate” Arabic accent. NO one who is a native English speaker develops a first-rate Arabic accent just like that. It’s more difficult than you might imagine.

Second is the problem that Goldfarb, like many conservatives, is once again using the Muslim Smear. Once again, they’re implying that speaking Arabic or being Arab or being a Muslim are negative, un-American, un-welcome traits in America. Once again, they’re trying to instill fear in the hearts of Americans who still are wary of Muslims in the post-9/11 era.

Doesn’t it ever get old?



  1. It’s also kind of messed up because it’s an failure of Americans to understand diversity. Goldfarb has a hidden bias; Obama isn’t concealing that fact. And that’s his problem.

    I’ve had experience with Islam, does that make me dirty? I’m not a Muslim and conversion isn’t in my plan but people ask those two questions all the time. It gets old.

  2. I once subscribed to TWS just to try to get another outlet on conservative news and opinions. I lasted about 3 days. There’s a lot of fearmongering and subtle racism in right wing media but the Standard is the worst that I’ve come across. They specialize in conspiracy theories and insinuations that appeal to our lowest impulses as human beings. It says a lot about the conservative movement that the magazine is as popular as it is.

  3. Who cares if Obama is Arabic? In this melting-pot country of ours, does that really matter? When did being Arab become a thing to hide or to denigrate? Who cares? Obama is who he is and we should simply accept him for that. Judge him not by his heritage or race but by the character of his being.

    • I completely agree — in this country it shouldn’t matter if he is Arab. Calling someone Arab shouldn’t be a negative slur — but to many conservatives, like Goldfarb who wrote that article, it is almost heresy if Obama is Arab.

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