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January 15, 2007

Razor's and Preciousness, or I'm so very Muslim posturing

Tardily, but I thought I would share this. Of course I am right, as always, but I am sure many will disagree with my viewpoint but frankly I am tired of reading Muslim [it seems esp. an Indo-Pak non-native Arab speaker disease] writing in English that pretentiously uses Arab-lish translits for religious terms that are perfectly adequately expressed in ordinary English.

Worse, the idiotic responses pretending to tell me how "Muslims" speak about such issues (amusing pretention that), or trying to imply a lack of familiarity - rather than grasping the unnecessary self-segregation and foolish pretentiousness of injecting such terms.

Posted by The Lounsbury at January 15, 2007 10:07 PM
Filed Under: Religion , Society & Culture

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Comments

I see you wish to prolong this bizarre skirmish.

I'm the rogue whose use of this overly "ethnic" jargon incurred your Archie Bunker-like wrath.

People can weigh the arguments for themselves by looking at the comments on my post. Seems to me that you've been beat.

BTW, I'm not only not South Asian--I'm a lilly white Bostonian of Scandinavian descent--but I'm a native speaker of "Muslim English". Aside from French and Danish (languages in which I've, incidentally, heard the very same expressions), it's what I grew up with and indeed all that I know. I most certainly grew up hearing the phrases that you find so artificial and pretentious around the Muslim community in Boston.

How you figure that the usage of *Arabic speakers* is inherently normative for English speakers really eludes me. Seems to me that you turn to Arabs to find out how to speak Arabic, not English. Would you ask a Frenchman what "menage a trois" or "double entendre" mean in English just because the words are French? These loan words don't mean the same thing in their original language.

Posted by: svend at January 16, 2007 12:35 AM

I agree with you Col. I've had a similar discussion years ago. I did object to the use of that kind of terminology by a non-Muslim who did so for the sole purpose of making simple concepts sound alien when they came from a Muslim context. (I was young and stupid and wasted energy trying to educate hopeless ones or counter ill-willed others).

Posted by: Shaheen [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 16, 2007 04:24 AM

You know, you already made a prat of yourself at Svend's site, I guess you decided to spread a bit of it here.

If you are so familiar with Arabic, as I have said before, I think we would all continue this conversation in Arabic. What do you think?

If you do not speak Arabic, I find it a bit pretencious of you to try to lecture others on the use of Arabic.

I dont speak Russian and I would not have the minerals to try and lecture others in it's use, even though I have a good understanding of the basics.

You claim to spend a lot of time with native Arabic speakers, yet this isnt shown in your posts. If you did you would certainly be aware of the fact that in religious and academic discussions Fus7a Arabic is alaways used, in the same manner that Svend used on his site, in his post.

I am married to a native Arabic speaker from Saudi Arabia. I speak Arabic. I learned my Arabic, first from travels in the Middle East, my wife, then from university level studies.

Look, I am an engineer. When I talk to others who are well versed in my field, I would not feel the need to break down technical or semi-techinical terms to the lowest common denominator.

If I was writing an article targeting a Muslim population I would use terms and phrases that would be readily understandable to other Muslims. There is no need to break down common terms and common usage for a non Muslim audience in such a case.

If I was talking about Islam to some redneck population I would not use such terms. But to a Muslim audience such words are common usage, whether the Muslim comes from South Africa or Bosnia. They are terms that come from The Qur'an and Hadith and are well known to any born Muslim.

Inta tifakir inak inta tifham al-3arabi? Aw hata titkalam al-lughah? Fa suali lak, lesh 3amil nafsak shatir wa tinaqit al-akhareen fe al-lughah al-3arabiyah? Mumkin lau samaht tijawib bil-3arabi?

Posted by: Abu Sinan at January 16, 2007 04:38 AM

Hmm, while I can see both sides (and am fairly certain that svend wasn't intentionally being precious), that type of usage can imply a "clubbishness" that sometimes makes non-Muslims (or less devout Muslims) feel a bit left out. Myself included.

Ah well, to each his own.

Posted by: eerie [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 16, 2007 05:54 AM

There is a trend towards an "Islamic English"
See for instance UCBerkley Scholar Barbara Metcalf's note in this ebook - Making Muslim space in North America and Europe
http://content.cdlib.org/view?docId=ft2s2004p0&chunk.id=transliteration

Posted by: history_lover at January 16, 2007 05:59 AM

Well, I've had similar discussions in related (not Arabic, which I do not konw at all, but in East Asian history, which I do know quite well), where people insist on using obscure jargon in the local languages where there are perfectly appropriate (and technically equivalent) substitutes in English are available. Often, they were done by relative novices who were just learning the material and lacking in deeper and/or broader understanding--and were much more hung up on how "strange and different" their topics were--and, I suppose, for that end, using weird jargon served the purpose well, and based on what I've just seen--without either deep or wide understanding, as I must add--does strike me as somewhat analogous (especially if the guy is a relatively recent North American convert, as he seems to be).

I don't know what side to take on this--I do know that use of overly pretentious language does tend to rub me the wrong way, but then, what do I know...

Posted by: Kao Hsienchih [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 16, 2007 07:50 AM

The Pontifex Maximus, Servus Dei Servorum, has declared a plenary indulgence on all those who have partaken of this discussion. Given that the Scriptures are not perspicuous, despite the disputations of the anathematized, purgatorial existence can be considered de fide definita. Ergo, ecclesastical Magisterium is firm that the power of indulgence for temporal consequences of iniquity is invested in the Chair of Peter and those invested in the succession.

The above paragraph actually makes sense in Catholicese, if a bit silly in the opening sentence. How far did Svend Avesta go in sounding like that and to what audience is an answer I know not? Certainly the above Catholicese paragraph could be expressed in plainer English.

OTOH, I understood Svend's post pretty thoroughly. There are others who do much worse.

Posted by: matthew hogan at January 16, 2007 07:58 AM

A prat, why I haven't heard that in years.

As for being "beat", I am expressing a view - it's not a motherfucking debate mate, it's a view. I would expect your regular readers of course to take your side, they like your preciousness.

And I am well aware of your ethnicity, the Sub Con item was a mere aside. I left aside the convertitus.

And Abu, go right the fuck ahead in Arabic if you fucking want, stupid twat.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 16, 2007 08:34 AM

Matt nailed it...what Arabic is to Muslim converts, Latin is to Catholic converts. The holy language through which we perceive the divine, gilded and sparkling. Oh so shiny.

Like music journalists in newspapers who insist on using whatever jargon in italics to demonstrate how strange and underground it is.

Posted by: Klaus [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 16, 2007 09:10 AM

Ah, I missed this from Mr. Sinan

Inta tifakir inak inta tifham al-3arabi? Aw hata titkalam al-lughah? Fa suali lak, lesh 3amil nafsak shatir wa tinaqit al-akhareen fe al-lughah al-3arabiyah? Mumkin lau samaht tijawib bil-3arabi?

Well, first, you don't need the pronouns doubling (as in inak inta tifham, the verb serves) and the Egyptian style irritates me, but to respond:

n3m oualid, 3rif inni faahim al-3arabiyah lianni ashghoul fiha, 7ata fi majaal at-tamouile, oua ta7lile al-sherikat al-maliyah. mashallah, ad-darous oua akthir oua a7hsen min hatha, liya tedjriba min teqriban 3shr senaouat fil mintaqa, m3athem l-ouqt ka radjul l-3mal, oual-laqaat l-3aliyah fil mintaqa bizeyada 3la kul hathhi.

Mzien haik, had arrud? Oua b3ad n7derou bideridja, bash kanfdlha daba 3la l-fus7a. Knder ma bqish shek daba, ieyah? Fa sir fi 7alek, ould.

Satisified? Or need I find some stupid online keyboard and tap it out in Arabic letters for you? You can rest assured my contempt for the precious usage of Arabic in English, for ostentatious religious Arablish, derives not from a fear of languages, nor Arabs, nor Arabic, nor Muslims, but the precious ostentation and self-limitation of the usage.

There are times when, as a Muslim using English, usage of Arabic is necessary and desirable, there are more times using terms like deen when the simple English carries effectively the identical meaning, merely puts you pointlessly in self-ghettoization.

So, indeed, I remain sympathetic to "the cause" but contemptuos of harmful self-indulgence.

Oua hakatha, faahim oua la, ou sateshteki min an-neqd?

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 16, 2007 11:32 AM

Some further thoughts, in response to Sven:

Aside from French and Danish (languages in which I've, incidentally, heard the very same expressions), it's what I grew up with and indeed all that I know.

Queer, outside new converts trying to show off their shiney Arabic, I never, ever hear such usages in French from the bilingual.

Never.

Rather, ordinary words are used, unless of course there is a real technical need.


I most certainly grew up hearing the phrases that you find so artificial and pretentious around the Muslim community in Boston.

Yes indeed, the tiny community in Boston, playing self-defeating and self-segretating identity games.

How you figure that the usage of *Arabic speakers* is inherently normative for English speakers really eludes me.

The usage of born Muslims fluent in both English and Arabic, without the identity crisis and need for ostentatious usage to show off their Arabic strikes me as a good baseline for a minority community if it wishes not to follow a route to ghettoization, but rather be self-confident.

Ghettoization and self-segregation, of course, is prefered by some.

Would you ask a Frenchman what "menage a trois" or "double entendre" mean in English just because the words are French?

If the usage was being newly imported into the language, and was something being used by say new Catholic converts fetishising their new language reference, I would suggest to them that their usage was silly.

But it is nice of you to illustrate you missed the point.

I should note for eerie I am entirely sure that Sven and Sinan are 100% sincere, utterly unaware of their pretensionsness and completely baffled and offended that I have poked a stick in their eyes.

That does not remove the issue that the usage of words like deen inserted into English for no other purpose - as the concept does not convey more than it does the English can - than to underline "We're Muslim and Different" is pointless preciousness that merely marginalises them.

But what the fuck, if they need to use Arablish pretentiously to congratulate themselves on the Muslimness, they will do so.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 16, 2007 11:37 AM

"n3m oualid, 3rif inni faahim al-3arabiyah lianni ashghoul fiha, 7ata fi majaal at-tamouile, oua ta7lile al-sherikat al-maliyah. mashallah, ad-darous oua akthir oua a7hsen min hatha, liya tedjriba min teqriban 3shr senaouat fil mintaqa, m3athem l-ouqt ka radjul l-3mal, oual-laqaat l-3aliyah fil mintaqa bizeyada 3la kul hathhi."

I thought he said Arabic?

Posted by: Ali K at January 16, 2007 03:38 PM

"dhaaaaaaLLeen" - I usually go for the six-beats on the "aaa".

Lounsbury seems to underestimate the importance of Tarteel-e-Qur'an, which is why to him your usage of "Suratul-Fatiha" seemed pedantic. But Surat al-Fatiha tends to underplay the neccessary linkage between "Surat" and "al" that is clear and critical in the original Arabic.

Posted by: Aziz at January 16, 2007 03:53 PM

Underestimate? (leaving aside your insertion of Urdu/Farsi terms)

No, I estimate it perfectly well, for Arabic.

Transliteration is another matter. Either bloody well write in Arabic, or in the inverse, leave your translits simple at written (as of course the linkage is oral).

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 16, 2007 04:25 PM

BTW, for the observer wishing to take pokes at me, I note that I dropped several vowels in that ugly translit supra, making my verb form wrong - poke away.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 16, 2007 04:32 PM

Note: The debate is being cross-posted around.

It occurs to me that you might want to give this issue main page treatment.

Posted by: eerie at January 16, 2007 06:44 PM

Go right ahead. I have made my observations, and if the whinging gits feeling like distorting my commentary elsewhere, that's their priv.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 16, 2007 08:27 PM

why not introduce Urdu and Farsi? The islamic lexicon is, of course, broader than Arabic. We are talking about tarteel here, in a fundamental sense. I dont know if tarteel is an urdu or arabic word but its certainly something that matters regardless of linguistic origin.

leave your translits simple at written (as of course the linkage is oral).

why is simplicity necessarily favored? in fact overly-zealous simplicity amounts to omission. the Qur'an emphasizes the linkages using the diacritical marks. We lack those in english, so the translit just sounds them out. Hence in arabic you are literally writing surat al fatiha but pronouncing it suratul fatiha. You know what to do because of the marks.

And for those who subscribe to the symbolic interpretations - or rather, forgive me, tafseer - wrong pronounciation of a given ayat amounts to actual error in recitation. Inerrancy for the word of God being the prime principle here, I choose to err on the side of alphabetical clutter.

It is a shame that this debate turned rancorous. No call for calling Lounsbury a twat or prat or whatever, folks.

Posted by: Aziz at January 16, 2007 10:27 PM

at any rate, I like the direction Willow went with this.

"It's agonizing being a convert, and Egypt is an incredibly difficult country to navigate under the best of circumstances. But what they don't seem to realize is this: adopting Arab (what they would call Islamic) culture in a country whose own population is prevented from practicing it is an exercise in white privilege. Egyptians are not permitted to wear traditional dress to government offices, government-run schools and even the national opera. But I've seen foreign converts get away with it time and time again, because the authorities are too afraid of the color of their passports and their skin to do anything about it. That is not 'identifying with the oppressed', it is oppressing the oppressed. It is saying 'I have a greater right even to your clothing than you do.' "

Awesome.

Posted by: Aziz at January 16, 2007 10:31 PM

I do think it sad that y'all bruised L's virgin ears with your harsh language.

Posted by: Tom Scudder at January 16, 2007 10:56 PM

Well mate, some good questions:

Why not introduce Urdu and Farsi?

Well, my logic at the moment, which I fully admit in this instance was weak and reactive, was merely that arguing for a translit that showed full Quranic pronunciation, and refering to it via Farsi or Urdu was rather silly.

However, it does smack of a bit of Arabism that I normally find annoying.

Nevertheless, I found the juxtoposition jarring.

The islamic lexicon is, of course, broader than Arabic.

Yes, it is.


We are talking about tarteel here, in a fundamental sense. I dont know if tarteel is an urdu or arabic word but its certainly something that matters regardless of linguistic origin.

It's Arabic. rtl, also used in Christian Arabic for the same concept and usage, religious recitation, chanting.

Rather makes me point, actually, regarding ostenttous and overly precious usages.

why is simplicity necessarily favored?

Accessability.

in fact overly-zealous simplicity amounts to omission.

Well, then, it's all about finding the happy middle.

the Qur'an emphasizes the linkages using the diacritical marks. We lack those in english, so the translit just sounds them out. Hence in arabic you are literally writing surat al fatiha but pronouncing it suratul fatiha. You know what to do because of the marks.

Depends on the text.

Actually one knows it because of the grammar, if one knows the Arabic, and not all texts come fully voweled, although yes, most Quranic text and excerpts do.

I find such translit precious and a barrier.

The casual reader will not make the connexion with Sura - Suratul looks like a new word. Indeed many non-fluent (in Arabic) Muslims make such errors.

Simple, un-complicated approaches to presentation have the advantage of clarity for the non-fluent, be they Muslim or not.

And for those who subscribe to the symbolic interpretations - or rather, forgive me, tafseer - wrong pronounciation of a given ayat amounts to actual error in recitation.

Then they should recall Merciful and Compassionate, and stop being silly whankers, but otherwise mere reference to a Sura is not recitation, and even the precious (if itself deforming) translit doesn't ensure correct pronunciation.

Inerrancy for the word of God being the prime principle here, I choose to err on the side of alphabetical clutter.

What can I say, I find it foolish and ill-thought out, but that's your choice.

It is a shame that this debate turned rancorous. No call for calling Lounsbury a twat or prat or whatever, folks.

Oh, bother, they can call be a bloody fool if they want. I'm not bothered.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 16, 2007 11:37 PM

As for the post cited, well, I got lost in the namby pamby "narrative" talk of the Academic, but I have the queer sensation the person seems to be of some strange impression that I was arguing for using English, which is a fundamental misapprehension of my point.

Otherwise, her statement seems in agreement, if so very polite, with my critique of posturing and preciousness, when using language other than Arabic.

Well, no matter, the preciousness of this all now bores me now.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 16, 2007 11:46 PM

from my understanding, Svend was saying that he was BORN in a scandinavian muslim family, and is therefore not taking the pretentious (or simply insecure/naive) posture of some converts. The inclusion of Arabic words in his english narrative is therefore a natural result of his upbringing, bilingual culture, and very appropriate for his target audience which is well attuned to the use of arabic terms.

Of course, how many times have we heard speakers giving religious talks in english confuse the hell out of their audience who cannot understand why on earth they keep using "sabr" or "akhi" instead of patience and brother.

The discussion/debate could have been much more constructive if Lounsbury wasnt such an overconfident, pretentious wanker (i am simply trying to fit in with the lingo around here) who always needs to be right, but that's another issue...

Posted by: marocain at January 17, 2007 12:58 AM

>> Suratul looks like a new word. Indeed many non-fluent (in Arabic) Muslims make such errors.

Not to be mean, but I see such patterns alot among Bengalis. Years ago, the Letterman show had two Bengali-origin newspaper sellers on his show named Sirajul and Rahimur. I swore they were Hindu names until I finally figured it out...

Posted by: OmarG at January 17, 2007 02:08 AM

The most illuminating and damning thing about all this is how Lounsbury has shown himself incapable of grasping how language *naturally* varies between the mainstream and subcultures. He kees insisting that this is all psychological complexes (insecure converts proving their bona fides, etc.).

Taking his argument to its (il)logical conclusion, Blacks must tend to speak differently from Whites not because they have different backgrounds but because they're anxiously posturing to establish their "street cred". They're just showing that they're badasses, you see. WHY DON'T THEY JUST ACT "NORMAL" LIKE ME, he implicitly asks.

He has yet to address the glaring flaw in his reasoning that I've pointed out, namely the inane expectation that non-Arabs should discuss a topic in English based on Arab usage.

I suggest he stick to subjects he actually grasps when heckling people. I don't suffer name-calling fools lightly.

Posted by: svend at January 17, 2007 05:13 AM

Svend,

A lot of black Americans in fact DO speak with the stereotypical lingo precisely because of street cred. In fact, a lot of social problems among African-American communities stem from their own self-ghettoization. For example, the tendency among African-American children to consider studying "acting white" IS a major education problem in U.S. inner cities. Yet, when outsiders point out these problems, they are subject to loud accusations of racism (which is rather analogous to what's taking place here, isn't it?).

By the way, if you don't suffer "name-calling fools lightly," I have to say you're fighting with the wrong guy....

Posted by: Kao Hsienchih [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 17, 2007 10:10 AM

You still don't get it eh?

Well, I suppose it goes to the heart of identity, and thus unreason.

The most illuminating and damning thing about all this is how Lounsbury has shown himself incapable of grasping how language *naturally* varies between the mainstream and subcultures. He kees insisting that this is all psychological complexes (insecure converts proving their bona fides, etc.).

Shown myself incapable of grasping?

Hardly.

My criticism in no way has denied that dialects vary, indeed I made no comment on the naturalness at all (however discussable the term is in terms of conscious langauge usage).

As for the comment on insecurity - it stands.

The need to prove muslimness through ostentatious usage of Arabilish transliterations in instances where there is no need underlines it, and for me stands in stark contrast to more confident usage by Muslims speaking French, etc., not making unnecessary recourse for an ordinary idea (e.g. "my deen" or as cited supra, "subr" where patience is a perfectly fine word)

It is self-segregating, and painfully clear that it is street-cred in-speak.

What puts me off about it, mate - Akhouia if you wish - is the self-segregation of it all, which frankly I think damages.

Taking his argument to its (il)logical conclusion, Blacks must tend to speak differently from Whites not because they have different backgrounds but because they're anxiously posturing to establish their "street cred".

Black Americans do, in part, speak differently for those very reasons.

It is not an "illogical" conclusion, it is a hard truth.

"Acting white" is, as Kao, notes supra, a major issue of community tension when members of say the urban black sub-culture adopt majority language features.

Now, if I were, as you are trying to suggest, a bigot, I would find black dialects inherently inferior.

I do not. I like them in fact.

However, pragmatic reality says that excessive recourse to special dialect is self-segregating and eventually harmful to said minority community regardless of the naturalness or not of said dialect.

Rather clearly in social and economic spheres, one needs to have a mastery of the majority dialect, and in cross-community communications situations, well, that is doubly important. My criticism - which is not as you put it below - from lack of understanding, I understand it all too well - but rather from my dislike of the pretension and cliqueishness - or from the self-segregating in-speak aspects.

All in a false search of "more correctness" - I'll write Suratul-Fatiha in the pretension it avoids error, when in fact it does not, and merely serves to segregate those who have a command of the grammar from those who do not, giving those who do not an extra puzzle - an extra bit of mystification, why not Sura, well the wise Brothers say suratul...

They're just showing that they're badasses, you see. WHY DON'T THEY JUST ACT "NORMAL" LIKE ME, he implicitly asks.

You amuse me, white boy.

I suppose it feels better to lash out and accuse me of racism or bigotry, but do try to pause for a moment and read for comprehension and leave aside your angry knee-jerking.

He has yet to address the glaring flaw in his reasoning that I've pointed out, namely the inane expectation that non-Arabs should discuss a topic in English based on Arab usage.

No, I addressed it several times. You're simply to angry and knee-jerking to read for comprehension.

My point, if you can take a moment to read for comprehension was not that non-Arabs should take English usage lessons in general from Arabs, but rather that typically fluent Arabic speakers (underlining they are perfectly capable of having recourse to Islamic terminology in Arabic when necessary) from confident communities do not in my experience reflect the same need/desire to engage in Islamo-Arablishisms such as "My Deen" or "having Subr" when discussing their faith and religion, but rather using the English terms (unless truly a term of fiqh) as a general matter - when speaking in English.

The same in French.

The point of illustration was then that this usage, which I have noted among new converts and in the minority Muslim Indo-Pak communities in the West, is at once overdone in my opinion, unnecessary and so very clearly the reaction of those seeking an identity.

Not that the above is bad as such, but excessively it becomes a point of self-segregation and in the long-run harmful to the interests of the community - harmful self-indulgence as it were.

I suggest he stick to subjects he actually grasps when heckling people. I don't suffer name-calling fools lightly.

Kha. The irony.

I grasp the subject quite well, thank you very much, little one, but you do not seem to grasp my critique. That being said, I expect that once you do, you will still not agree. My opinion evidently differs, I expressed it in irritation with your preciousness in this particular area, and there it is. Now you know some persons - not just myself, but like say Shaheen and eerie, find it off-putting, unnecessary and overdone.

I suppose I should emphasize my issue and irritation lies soley in the ostentatious importing of Arablishisms to express ordinary concepts (e.g. Deen, Sabr) when the English will do, and will communicate better with the wider readership, be they new Muslims, or casual readers w/o a background in Arabic or alternately in Islam, etc. For genuinely technical terms, of course marhaben bikoum and with jocularities, akhouia, why not?

Now, shall we bury the hatchet? I really don't have an issue with you except in this area, and it's certainly not just you. My bastardness may not amuse, but now I am bored having I suspect irritated and riled half the Muslim blogosphere who think I am a kaffir now, and a bigot. Pity there was so much emotive reacting and so little reading for comprehension. Amusing actually come to think of it, but I don't delve into deen personally.

And Marocain, welcome. I am a bastard, so one either likes it or not. Never forced anyone to read this bloggie, but I only comment in areas where I have knowledge and a strong opinion, so yes, I do always have to be right.

And you don't get where I am by not being confident, so, yes, bastard I am and will remain.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 17, 2007 10:59 AM

Dear Omar G

>> Suratul looks like a new word. Indeed many non-fluent (in Arabic) Muslims make such errors.

Not to be mean, but I see such patterns alot among Bengalis. Years ago, the Letterman show had two Bengali-origin newspaper sellers on his show named Sirajul and Rahimur. I swore they were Hindu names until I finally figured it out...

It's a natural result of non-fluency in Arabic combined with transliteration, such that the non-fluent get the sensation that Sirajul is the word.

No harm in the end, I suppose, and certainly not something to be snobby about; although my snobbish instincts arise in such situations. I readily confess, such that I confess an irrational and in seeing something like Eteraz as a transliteration of 3teraad, although I am well aware in some places the DAD has a vernacular ZA pronunciation in sub-Con lands (and Farsi if I recall correctly) making 3teraad into Eterad. It would be precious of me to run around correcting such things (although I came close to indulging in that in poking at tarteel-e-Quran in place of tarteel al-Quran or some more Arabic rendition).

What I found ironic, though, is the mix and match of attitudes.

But no matter, beni adam, all humans we are, eh no? Including the thin skinned and the bastards.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 17, 2007 11:15 AM

marocain - That would be "whanker".

all - All this deen/religion fuss aside, a bigger issue for Muslim/Arab bloggers I think would be that everybody has their own private rules for transliteration -- plus dialects from muhit to khalij. And with computer keybords and numericals added, (3ayn, `ayn, 6ayn, 'ayn, (ayn, cayn; haa, Haa, 7aa, 2aa, h.aa) it's even more anarchic. That's what you should be fighting about.

Posted by: alle at January 17, 2007 05:33 PM

Hey, Whanker is my private spelling, no interlopers allowed.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 17, 2007 05:44 PM

L, our subthread is teaching me something. I'll take up the topic at my blog later, on the off chance you grow less weary of it. Will try to be less precious :)

Posted by: Aziz at January 17, 2007 09:34 PM

And you don't get where I am by not being confident, so, yes, bastard I am and will remain.

Indeed. I've always had an affinity for iconoclasts.

Posted by: eerie [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 18, 2007 12:35 AM

Kao,

Obviously dialects and accents can be deployed for tactical reasons, and all sorts of things are done by eccentric people due to anxieties of one sort or another. But that isn't what we're talking about. My point is that cultural differences (even when consciously chosen) are not automatically symptoms of pscyhological complexes, as Lounsbury implies in his talk about converts etc.

I don't think Lounsbury is engaging with the issues raised, so I will leave it at that.

People are welcome to be bastards. But they needn't come to my blog.

BTW, "suratul" isn't a new word or weird rendering, it's the best transliteration. If you're going to transliterate, it might as well be accurate. That's exactly how it's pronounced, at least before one of the "moon letters".

Posted by: svend at January 18, 2007 12:59 AM

This is foolish.

BTW, "suratul" isn't a new word or weird rendering, it's the best transliteration. If you're going to transliterate, it might as well be accurate. That's exactly how it's pronounced, at least before one of the "moon letters".

Perhaps you are dim. Certainly your reading comprehension is at best marginal.

No one said it is new world.

What I pointed out was that it may be read as such by the uninitiated.

And our friend supra cited just some misreadings - if one wishes.

As for transliteration, there are a number of approaches, and hardly an one way. Best transliteration I would give to a translit that had greater clarity and did not dupe the uninitiated into thinking it was one word. Such as "sura-t-ul-" although any method is going to have drawbacks.

But you prefer your precious approach with all its in language and mystification. Fine, your call. Self segregate and congratulate yourself for using "best" transliteration.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 18, 2007 06:07 AM

Yeah, I would think "suratu l-fatiha" would be more informative (or "suratu-l-fatiha", "suratu 'l-fatiha", "surat ul fatiha" or some other variant), if one insists on proper Fusha transliteration. The ma3rifa "l" is in no way part of the first word, but is written together with the second. So why drag it into the first one?

Personally, I'd write it "suuratu l-faatiha", since, to correctly mark long vowels is rather more important than arguments over where to put a final damma, no? Whether that means I'm a pants-wetting convert or Archie Bunker, I don't know. Bit of both, perhaps.

Posted by: alle at January 18, 2007 06:11 PM

Ya Svend, dear alle, dear all,

Yes, "suuratu l-faatiha / suratu l-fatiha" is the correct transliteration.

Period.

And Svend, if we'd go by your method we'd have to write it "suuratulfaatiha" as its spoken without any glottal stop.

--MSK

Posted by: MSK at January 19, 2007 07:11 AM

Now, I'm curious, because transliteration is a big problem with some of the people I deal with routinely.

Theoretically, there are formal rules for transliterating Korean and Chinese--but, somehow, these aren't well known among Koreans, Hong Kongers, and Taiwanese, and they transliterate terms in their languages into English, ahem, with a great deal of freedom. (Interestingly, PRC people rarely make this mistake--I'm told this is due to the way Mandarin Chinese is taught on mainland--they apparently use Roman alphabet as pronunciation guide for Chinese characters)

I'm guessing from MSK's post (is this Raf?) that there in fact is an officially "correct" transliteration guideline for Arabic. I'm curious how widely this is known among Arabic-speakers or religious Muslims and whether people do follow this in general.

Posted by: Kao Hsienchih [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 19, 2007 08:56 AM

There's not one official system, so as in the East Asian writing systems translits case, there is a chaos with a variety of systems serving different purposes.

I can't say I think any single form of translit is "correct" but there are certainly methods that are better at conveying certain kinds of information.

Alle's suggestion and analysis, or MSK's is I think (excepting the correct statement) more logical and internally consistent.

Of course more logical and internally consistent given the stated reasons for adopting rarely win over emotion and identity.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 19, 2007 09:29 AM

"is this Raf?"

You know, I've been wondering that myself.

Posted by: Ali K at January 19, 2007 02:38 PM

Dear all,

There seems to be confusion between transliteration and transcription.

Transliteration: Technically, from a linguistic point of view, it is a mapping from one system of writing into another. Transliteration attempts to be exact, so that an informed reader should be able to reconstruct the original spelling of unknown transliterated words.

Transcription: In a strict linguistic sense, transcription is the process of matching the sounds of human speech to special written symbols using a set of exact rules, so that these sounds can be reproduced later.

(Source: Wiki)

Obviously, there are a number of Arabic->Roman script transliteration AND transcription systems although, for the sake of fairness, I would like to note that the differences between them are minor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_transliteration
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style_(Arabic)

When choosing how to romanize Arabic words/phrases one should think about who the target audience is.

Non-Arabic speakers will almost inevitably confused or even misled by transliteration, as it is faithful to the WRITTEN word, whereas transcription is oriented towards reproducing the SPOKEN word.

Thus, where transliteration has النهر (the river) written as al-nahr, transcribed it would be an-nahr.

Therefore, the transliteration of سُورَةُ الْفاتِحَة (first sura of the Quran) would be something like sūratu al-fātiHah (with the "tu" of the first word & the final "h" of the second even in supersript to indicate the "ta marbuta").

[eerie, 'Aqoul doesn't accept html-tags for superscript, and is there a list of html codes for dots/lines under/over letters?]

But the transcription would be more like "suuratu l-faatiha / suurat ul-faatiha" in order to resemble the pronounciation.

HOWEVER, transcribing it "suratul faatiha" is (1) asserting a break in pronounciation that doesn't exist, (2) unnecessary, and (3) misleading.

There are perfectly fine transcription systems that are true to the pronounication AND also preserve the original Arabic orthography to the extent that such strange developments like "Sirajul" can be prevented.

I understand that the aim of Muslim Arabic writers who write Arabic words in non-Arabic scripts is to be accessable, understandable, but also to avoid that non-Arabic readers coming to wrong conclusions about the original spelling.

Shouldn't the aim be to bring non-Arabic speakers closer to Arabic?

Of course, many (if not most) writers have little understanding of linguistics nor are they bilingual.

And now a personal comment on Svend: I am actually quite puzzled that he, coming from his background, would make the "suratul" mistake. It's commong among Muslims who have never studied Arabic, but I was under the impression that he had.

--MSK

Posted by: MSK at January 20, 2007 01:44 PM

Well, I am afraid that the distinction you're making is one of a specialist and not something even I would think about.

That being said, it seems useful.

As for Svend making the error you're highlighting, well, even in stuying Arabic, there strikes me as no obvious reason why one would be trained or educated per se on the analytics of transcription/transliteration.

I would rather suspect he learned his Arabic in the Quranic school / masjid context, where frankly peity (esp. ostentatious peity) rather frequently trumps pedogogy and clarity. At least as far as I have seen.

So by identity politics (see e.g. the rather strident assertions re Muslims in that original post comments, and supra the argumentation where he seems to think identity issues are accusing him and others of some mental illness) trumps - learned it that way, it's "the way" Muslims do it... and any criticism means the critic is a Kaffir who doesn't get it.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 20, 2007 04:48 PM

Dear L,

while the distinction may be that of a specialist (& even I got it wrong in my preceding comment), since Svend seemed so hellbent on precision, yet used "transliteration" instead of "transcription", I thought it to be useful to point it out.

The thing with "studying Arabic" ... well, usually one starts with "MSA for Beginners" & that means that one is confronted with transliteration when learning spelling of words etc. Also, beginners tend to visualize Arabic words in Roman script.

So it is actually a conscious step to "drop" the "a" in the "al" when writing suratu l-fatiha ...

As for something being "the way" ... well, that's no guarantee against said something not looking silly.

--MSK

Posted by: MSK at January 20, 2007 11:42 PM

I agree, I thought I would merely observe.

Re Standard Arabic, I certainly had zero exposure to translit as such - forced to go to Arabic letters actually. Better in the long run.

But I agree with your observations.

Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 21, 2007 12:31 AM

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