Yes, Even Arizona Dust Storms Inspire Islamophobia

Jul 24 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Some say ignorance is bliss, but ignorance is shameful and inexcusable. We still have public education in this country, and if standards aren’t up to where they should be, the latest Republican efforts to condemn and fire teachers and cut off education spending aren’t going to help. But then that’s exactly what they want. Ignorance is what permits people to get upset about the Arizona dust storm being called a “haboob” by local television (never mind that haboob is the correct term).

Watch Rachel Maddow have some fun with this:

The New York Times offers a few examples of this ignorance:

“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?”


Diane Robinson of Wickenburg, Ariz., agreed, saying the state’s dust storms are unique and ought to be labeled as such.

“Excuse me, Mr. Weatherman!” she said in a letter to the editor. “Who gave you the right to use the word ‘haboob’ in describing our recent dust storm? While you may think there are similarities, don’t forget that in these parts our dust is mixed with the whoop of the Indian’s dance, the progression of the cattle herd and warning of the rattlesnake as it lifts its head to strike.”

At least nobody blamed the dust storms on Islam! (though that could still come, given liberals being blamed for the heat waves we’re enduring).

What these ignorant wretches fail to understand is that without loan words, including Arabic loan words, we wouldn’t be able to talk to each other.

You can find these words in a number of sources, including online etymological guides or dictionaries but Wikipedia also provides a comprehensive list. Given the well-attested conservative penchant for revising Wikipedia, it’s rather surprising these conservative haboob opponents haven’t seen it. Here are a few examples:

أمير amīr, commander. Amīr al-bihār = “commander of the seas” was a title in use in Arabic Sicily, and was continued by the Normans in Sicily in a Latinized form, and then adopted successively by Genoese and French. Modern French is “amiral”. An English form under King Edward III (14th century) was “Amyrel of the Se”. Insertion of the ‘d’ was doubtless influenced by allusion to common Latin “admire”

الكيمياء al-kīmiyā, alchemy. The Arabic entered medieval Latin as alchimia, first attested in about the year 1140 in an Arabic-to-Latin translation by Plato Tiburtinus. The Arabic word seems to have had its root in a late classical Greek word (the alchemy article has more details). The late medieval European words alchemy and alchemist gave rise in the 16th century to the words chemical and chemist, beginning in French and Latin.

الجبر al-jabr, completing, or restoring broken parts. The mathematical sense comes from the title of the book “al-kitāb al-mukhtaṣar fī ḥisāb al-jabr wa al-muqābala”, “The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completing and Balancing” by the 9th century mathematician al-Khwarizmi. When translated to Latin in the later 12th century, the book’s Latin title contained the newly minted word “Algebrae” representing al-jabr.

Here’s one even fundamentalist children enjoy

قندي qandī, sugared. Arabic is from Persian qand = “cane [sugar]”, and possibly from Sanskritic before that, since cane sugar developed in India. “Candi” entered all the Western languages in the later medieval centuries

Here’s one the right-wing militias and border vigilantes are more than familiar with:

الكحل al-kohl, finely powdered kohl, especially stibnite. Crossref kohl in this list. The word with that meaning entered Latin in the 13th century. In 14th century Latin it could mean any finely ground and sifted material.[8] In the later medieval Latin alchemy literature it took on the additional meaning of a purified material, or “quintessence”, which was typically arrived at by distillation methods. The restriction to “quintessence of wine” (ethanol) started with the alchemist Paracelsus in the 16th century

And where would America be without this one?

قندي qandī, sugared. Arabic is from Persian qand = “cane [sugar]”, and possibly from Sanskritic before that, since cane sugar developed in India. “Candi” entered all the Western languages in the later medieval centuries

Fundamentalist churches would have no music without this one:

قيتارة qītāra, a kind of guitar. “The name reached English several times, including 14th century giterne from Old French. The modern word is directly from Spanish guitarra, from Arabic qitar.” ( The Arabic is descended from ancient Greek kithara (which might be connected to ancient Persian Tar meaning string, and string instrument).

And where would all those beer-swilling fundamentalists sit when they got home from church if we didn’t have this word?:

صفّة suffa, a bench or dais. The Arabic was adopted into Turkish, and from Turkish it entered Western Europe in the 16th century meaning an oriental-style dais with rugs and cushions. Today’s definition of sofa is dated to late 17th century French and early 18th century English.

Now while the anti-science and anti-education conservatives might be just as happy to do without algebra and chemistry, they’d have a hard time plopping down on their couch to drink some alcohol while they watch a fundamentalist church service on TV, voices of hatred lifted to heaven to the accompaniment of guitars.

They might miss that. I trust they will let us know what terms they intend to use in the future to avoid the taint of Islam.

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