Posts Tagged ‘Islamic State’

Book for Learning Arabic in Three Months

November 27, 2020

Mohammad Asfour, Arabic in Three Months: Simplified Language Course (Woodbridge: hugo 1990).

I bought this nearly thirty years ago when I was briefly trying to do a postgraduate degree on Islam in Britain. Hugo are a publisher specialising in languages. According to the blurb and the introduction, this book is written for people, who want to speak the language but don’t want to be able to read or write it. There are a number of different dialects spoken in different countries, but the book states that the standard, written language isn’t used in ordinary verbal communication and it’s very unusual for foreigners to use it. The author is a professor at the University of Jordan, and so the form used is the Jordanian dialect, which will allow the student to converse in ‘almost any Arabic speaking country’.

Along with the chapters taking the reader through the language, there’s also sample conversations and an Arabic-English mini-dictionary in the back. Like many other language books, this also includes written exercises, whose answers are also in the back of the book.

I bought it because I wanted to get an idea of what the language was like before learning the script. That’s almost certainly a mistake, if the spoken and written forms of the language are so different. You almost certainly need to learn the standard language if you also wish to be able read and write it. No language is easy, but some are definitely more difficult than others. Arabic is a Semitic language like Hebrew, Syriac and some of the languages spoken in Ethiopia. They’re very different from the Indo-European languages, like French, German, Welsh, Polish and so on spoken in Europe, and so Arabic is particularly difficult. So much so that I eventually gave up.

I think the book was partly written for tourists to the Middle East, as well as possibly people from the English-speaking world working out there, but not in jobs which require the literary language. I remember one of the words in the vocabulary is ‘funduq’, which I think means ‘hotel’. It’s also a sad reflection of the politics of the region that another word that crops up is ‘inqilab’, which means ‘coup’ or ‘uprising’.

Unfortunately since the attacks of 9/11 and the ensuing chaos of the War on Terror, the invasion of Iraq, the Syrian and Libyan uprisings and the rise of Islamic State, much of the region is in turmoil and far too dangerous for western tourists, quite apart from the international lockdown everywhere due to the Coronavirus. Still, hopefully peace will return to this fascinating, ancient and historic part of the world, and Europeans will once again to be able to visit it and meet its peoples in peace and friendship.

Labour May Oppose Cameron’s Anti-Terrorism Bill if too Draconian

October 19, 2015

The Guardian has reported today that Labour’s Andy Burnham has said that they will oppose the government’s new anti-terrorism laws if they are too harsh. The article begins

Labour has signalled it is prepared to oppose new surveillance and counter-terrorism legislation if it is too heavy-handed, as David Cameron announces more details about his anti-terror strategy such as measures to prevent teenagers travelling to join Isis.

Andy Burnham, the shadow home secretary, said Labour will support legislation that is “reasonable and proportionate” but stressed the party had a duty to make sure the government gets the balance right.

He warned Cameron to proceed with the utmost caution and make sure his laws do not fuel “resentment, division and a sense of victimisation”, especially among Britain’s Muslim population.

Cameron is planning to spell out more details of his strategy on Monday, as well as making the case for two new pieces of law – the investigatory powers bill and a counter-terrorism bill.

As part of the overall strategy, he will extend the powers of parents to cancel their children’s passports if they are worried that their children may be about to travel to Syria or Iraq to join Islamic State. The powers that currently apply to under-16s will now be rolled out to all those under-18.

There will also be new measures to automatically bar convicted terrorists from working with children and vulnerable people. Cameron will also announce that suspected jihadi returning from Syria and Iraq will be forced to attend classes to address their support for extremist ideology.

The article can be read at http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/oct/19/labour-warns-cameron-surveillance-and-anti-terror-laws-andy-burnham-counter-terrorism

The passage of unnecessarily and excessively harsh legislation under the pretext of combating terrorism by the Tories is a real threat. They’ve already passed laws providing for Kafkaesque secret courts, in which the accused may not know what he is charged with, the evidence against him, or even who his accusers are, if the information is considered sensitive and its divulgence a threat to national security. The have furthermore passed domestic legislation severely curtailing the right to peaceful protest and to go on strike. In the latter, trade unions on picket lines must give their names to the police. And Daniel Gardonyi, a Hungarian man involved in the Sweet’s Way protest, has been threatened with deportation despite the fact that he has not been charged with any offence.

The government has shown itself repeatedly more than willing to use the threat of terrorism to clamp down on domestic dissent. Burnham is absolutely correct to show that Labour is determined here to do something to protect civil liberties if the Tories threaten them further here.