Language lessons

Learning with Muslims

During the 1990-1991 Gulf War, George Dardess, an English teacher in Rochester, New York, watched on television as the U.S. dropped “smart bombs” on Baghdad. He felt anger and self-reproach. He turned to his wife and said, “I am complicit in this war through my ignorance. I don’t even know if I could find Iraq on a map. I know nothing about the Iraqi language, nothing about Iraqi culture. It is shameful. I am going to learn Arabic.”

He knew rather quickly that he was unlikely to follow through on this bold statement. Where would he learn Arabic in Rochester, and how would he find the time? Part of him realized that he was salving his conscience with a declaration of good intentions.


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