Sunday, January 23, 2005

Abuse of Civilians

The Washington Post's Jackie Spinner gives this report of the terrible abuse to which occupation troops are subjecting Iraqi civilians. Iowahawk gives further examples, and Tim Blair also comments. I'm struck by something else:
On the night of Jan. 5, Imaad and his mother, Um Imaad—both of whom declined to give their full names for fear of retribution—were watching a movie in the living room.
Um Imaad just means "Imaad's mum". It's not a name, it's a title. It's perfectly common in Arabic culture for a woman to be referred to primarily as "X's mother" (um X), especially if she's a widow with only one son. It's also common for a man to be called "X's father" (abu X), if he has a son he's particularly proud of, or who's well known.

So the quote above really says "Imaad and his mother, Imaad's Mother", like a excuse note that a kid forged for himself. Throughout the rest of the piece, when Spinner keeps referring to the mother as Um Imaad, all she's really saying is "Imaad's mother" – so why not just say so? Why use Arabic for this particular word instead of English? She doesn't use the Arabic for "television" or "mosque", or "feelthy peectures", so why the Arabic for "mother"?

Unless, of course, Spinner has no idea; but if she knows so little about the culture she's writing about, why is she writing about it?


Blogger Charlie (Colorado) said...

To be mildly fair to the silly git, it's apparently quite customary (got this from Ali's blog, I think) for a parent to use "X's mum" or the like as a cognomen. So, while she was clueless, it's probably that she could have asked about "Um Imaad" in the neighborhood and gotten the lady in questino.

Sun Jan 23, 09:56:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Milhouse said...

Yes, I said as much. The woman probably goes by "Imad's mother" more often than she goes by her own name. My question is why the reporter chose to translate "Imaad's mother" into Arabic. The only explanation I can think of is that she didn't realise she was doing that, and thought "um Imaad" is really the woman's name. In which case I say she doesn't know enough about the local culture and society to be reporting on it.

Sun Jan 23, 10:55:00 PM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a really noteworthy catch you made. It really does reflect on the utter silliness of the article and the psuedo-journalist who drudged up this story. This is news? This is a reporter for the Washington Post who's granted a press pass to go spread propaganda to undermine a war effort? Frickin' unbelievable.

Tue Jan 25, 01:20:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the story and I read Iowahawk's parody of the story. I can't figure out which is the story and which is the parody. Two weeks later he stopped slapping his mother? Come on.

Tue Feb 08, 11:29:00 AM 2005  

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