By Wajahat Ali
April 22, 2016
A COLLEGE student was recently escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight after a fellow passenger said she heard him making comments in Arabic that were “potentially threatening.”
In a statement, Southwest Airlines said that the student, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, who came to the United States as a refugee from Iraq, was removed for the “content of the passenger’s conversation” and not his language choice.
Mr. Makhzoomi wasn’t ranting about death, terror, Trump or artisanal mayonnaise — any of which might warrant such a drastic response.
No. What he said on the phone right before the passenger expressed concern, he later explained, was the Arabic phrase “Insha Allah,” which translates as “God willing.”
This trisyllabic, Semitic weapon of mass destruction is a hallmark of the Arabic vernacular. Some anti-Muslim bigots in recent years have argued Arabic is “the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States,” one that seeks to replace the United States Constitution with a Halal cart menu. Most sane individuals, however, believe Arabic is simply a language that millions of people around the world speak.
But now Arabic has become a nightmare that terrorizes passengers at 30,000 feet. In November, two men said they were questioned before boarding a Southwest flight because a few passengers heard them speak Arabic and were afraid to fly with them. Several years ago, six imams were kicked off a plane for what fellow passengers deemed suspicious behavior, including praying in Arabic near the gate.
Arabic is so threatening to some that it doesn’t even have to be spoken. In 2006, a man said he wasn’t allowed to board a plane because he was wearing a black shirt with an Arabic inscription that translates as “We will not be silent.”
Opportunity is often born from absurdities. I believe this latest episode is actually a great moment to bring the versatile and glorious term Insha Allah into the vocabulary of more Americans.
Insha Allah is the Arabic version of “fuggedaboudit.” It’s similar to how the British use the word “brilliant” to both praise and passive-aggressively deride everything and everyone. It transports both the speaker and the listener to a fantastical place where promises, dreams and realistic goals are replaced by delusional hope and earnest yearning.
If you are a parent, you can employ Insha Allah to either defer or subtly crush the desires of young children.
Boy: “Father, will we go to Toys ‘R’ Us later today?”
Father: “Yes. Insha Allah.”
Translation: “There is no way we’re going to Toys ‘R’ Us. I’m exhausted. Play with the neighbour’s toys. Here, play with this staple remover. That’s fun, isn’t it?”
If you are a commitment-phobe or habitually late to events, Insha Allah immediately provides you with an ambiguous grace period.
Wedding Planner: “We only have the hall from 7 to 10 p.m. We’ll incur extra charges if we go past 10. Please tell me you’ll be on time.”
Wedding Attendee: “But of course! Insha Allah, we’ll be there.”
Translation: “Oh, you sad, sad, silly little man. I hope you have saved a lot of money or have access to an inheritance. I’ll leave my house at 9:45 p.m.”
Insha Allah is also an extremely useful tool in the modern quest for love.
Man: “So, you think we can go on a date later this week?”
Woman: “Yeah, let me think about it, Insha Allah.”
Translation: “No. Never. There is no way we are ever going on a date. Even if there was a zombie apocalypse and you were the last man on earth, I would not consider this an option and would rather the human species perish as a result of my decision.”
I drop about 80 Insha Allahs a day, give or take. I’ll get to the gym, Insha Allah. Yes, I’ll clean up around the house, Insha Allah.
Most commonly, Insha Allah is used in Muslim-majority communities to escape introspection, hard work and strategic planning and instead outsource such responsibilities to an omnipotent being, who somehow, at some time, will intervene and fix our collective problems.
Many Americans may want to do a Hail Mary Insha Allah to wash away the ugliness leading up to the 2016 elections. One Republican presidential candidate suggested temporarily barring Muslims from entering the United States. Another recommended that law enforcement agents patrol Muslim neighbourhoods.
We’re encouraged by authorities to say something if we see something. Unfortunately, the toxic mix of fear, ignorance and hate clouds the better judgment of otherwise well-intentioned Americans who transform common occurrences, and dark-skinned neighbours, into permanent threats.
Here’s my humble request: If you see me sitting on an airplane, drinking coffee, playing Assassin’s Creed on my laptop and praying out loud “Insha Allah, Trump and Cruz get zero votes,” don’t worry. (Coffee, assassin and zero are all words with some Arabic roots, by the way.) I assure you there’s no need for panic. I’m just a harmless dork like you, hoping to stay on the plane.
Wajahat Ali is the author of the play “The Domestic Crusaders” and creative director of Affinis Labs, a hub for social entrepreneurship and innovation.
Source: nytimes.com/2016/04/24/opinion/sunday/Insha Allah-is-good-for-everyone.html