Sunday, July 10, 2016

Please tell this reporter (and other reporters as well) that: No, Arabic newspapers are NOT using the N-word

I hate when people with no command of Arabic or of little command of Arabic making generalizations and judgment about the Arabic language.  I am accustomed to that living in the US and reading Western correspondents and some academics.  Look at this article: "Arabic newspapers, for example, often use racist language, both out of ignorance or malice – and major newspapers with large circulation are no exception.  This week, following the anti-police brutality protests in the United States and the violence in Dallas and Colorado, one Egyptian newspaper used the Arabic equivalent of the N-word.  On Saturday, al-Shuruq al-Jadid, a major Egyptian newspaper, used the word Zunuj, Arabic for "negroes", for its front-page story on the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States."  This is quite false and silly.  To refer to blacks as zunuj or Zanj or Zinj (all are equivalent) is not at all offensive or derogatory.  You may consult the old classical dictionaries like Lisan Al-`Arab and others for this.  Zunuj simply referred to people coming from the Sudan and it has none of the connotation of the word "niggers" or its equivalent.  It is true that some in the Arab world refer to blacks in colloquial Arabic as "`abid", which means "slaves".  That is indeed offensive and racist but it is not used in any Arabic newspapers.  So there is no story here except that the writer of this article should not write on matters of Arabic language.

PS The story has been also covered in some Arabic newspapers as well.

PPS Zanjibar is from the word Zanj or Zinj.