The GOP’s latest free speech “jihad” was sparked at a high school graduation ceremony Thursday, when the student body president of Justice High School in Fairfax County, Va., Recited the oath of allegiance and replaced “God” with the word “Allah” – as in a nation “under Allah”.
Among those on the far right who took offense at the substitution was a panel of commentators from conservative news outlet Newsmax, whose members widely decried the student’s choice of words on the air.
I’ve developed a saying over the past few years: âEvery time we trigger a Trump supporter, an angel takes his wings. So I have to applaud the student for freaking a panel of Trump-loving Newsmax guests into a panic by uttering a single harmless word.
In fact, this article should come with a trigger warning for the right wingers, as they will read the word “Allah” several times. Even my own last name might cause blood pressure to increase conservatively, since it contains the word “Allah”. (My last name translates from Arabic to English as “little servant of God”.)
Of course, the word Allah is simply the word for God in Arabic. Allah is not the name of the “Muslim” God, as the far right wants you to think, but the same God worshiped by the three Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Indeed, the word “Allah” is used for “God” by both Christian and Muslim Arabs.
But the facts don’t matter when it comes to the right-wing culture war – all that matters is outrage so people watching can forget for a moment that former President Donald Trump was crushed in the 2020 election. Hence, the Newsmax freakout.
Newsmax panelist Melanie Collette said saying “Allah” in the pledge of allegiance was “an absolute disgrace”. Christian nation.
The message, of course, is that Muslims are not part of the founding of this nation. In fact, nearly 30 percent of African slaves brought to North America were Muslims. So Muslims were here before the United States and actually helped build it.
Makki then blamed President Joe Biden, saying, “President Biden just made it so easy for people to do what they want and say what they want.”
The word “Allah” is used for “God” by both Christian and Muslim Arabs.
But the winner of the conservative panicking Olympics was GOP strategist Mark Vargas, who called the student “un-American” and “unpatriotic,” worryingly stating that “there must be consequences for this.” Vargas suggested this “young student might serve a year in the military, and I think that would change her perspective.”
But on Friday, Vargas was back on NewsMax following the lead of his beloved Trump, doubling down on his comment. This time, Vargas falsely accused the high school student of committing a crime by saying “Allah” and demanded that “the state attorney general investigate this matter”.
First, Vargas is 100% wrong – there is no criminal violation for uttering the word “Allah” in the Pledge of Allegiance instead of God. Just as it is not a crime to replace “God” with “Dios”, Spanish for God – or to say any other word you want to say. The federal law which sets out the oath of allegiance does not provide for any sanction. And overall, the student cannot be prosecuted for saying “Allah” because it is protected by the First Amendment.
This event simply once again illustrates the instinct of some in the GOP to silence anything they don’t want people to say, even under the threat of criminal prosecution. This is the same mindset that drives the current set of GOP-backed laws that prohibit teachers – at the possible risk of losing their jobs – from teaching students critical race theory and systemic racism.
The GOP seems to literally take a page from the Chinese Communist Party, which has mandated a “patriotic” program that bans what the government has seen as “bad ideas and ideology” – that is, an ideology that the state perceives as a threat to his regime. The Chinese Communist Party and the GOP both want to indoctrinate students only with the “facts” that help them stay in power.
The real question that should be asked here is why the word “God” is even in the pledge of allegiance in the first place. When the oath was originally drafted in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a socialist and son of a Baptist minister, it did not contain the word God. This was added later, in 1954, when President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, encouraged Congress to add the words “under God” to distinguish the United States from “ungodly Communists.” (The irony should not be lost on the fact that today’s GOP now emulates the Chinese Communist Party from which they once strove to differentiate themselves.)
The word “God” should not appear in the oath in any language. It’s not that I’m an atheist – in fact, my relationship with God is very important to me. But it is clear from Thomas Jefferson, the founding father who wrote the Declaration of Independence, that there absolutely should be “a wall of separation between church and state,” explaining “that religion is an affair which is situated only between man and his God â. Jefferson would be appalled that Congress included the word “God” in our oath of allegiance.
I probably just triggered another panel on Newsmax with this argument. And I am happy. We cannot censor ourselves and allow the extreme right-wing forces to silence us. And I swear never to allow that – so help me Allah.