Ribbity Blog

baqqa mqarqra
A Frog's-eye view

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Friday, April 18, 2003

I have become increasingly suspicious about the Arabic language abilities of Robert Fisk, The Independent's so-called "reporter" on Middle-Eastern Affairs. Recently, during a random sortie on Google, I came across the following comment:

The message to us – the West – is simple and repeated three times. If we want to back George Bush, the "pharaoh of the age" – and "pharaoh" is what Anwar Sadat's killers called the Egyptian president after his murder more than two decades ago – we will pay a price. "What business do your governments have in allying themselves with the gang of criminals in the White House against Muslims...?" I have heard Bin Laden use that Arabic expression ifarbatu al-idjran twice before in conversation with me. "Gang of criminals". Which is what the West has called "al-Qa'ida".

My only problem with this statment is that I can't see how the word "ifarbatu" can have any meaning in Arabic, and don't know of this meaning of "idjran". Now admittedly, there are hundreds of Arabic dialects, so it's possible that this word has escaped my attention, but I expect it's probably a mistake for Arabic "idjram", 'criminality'. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Bin Laden would have used the 'al-' form of the Arabic definite article after a vowel. All in all, very strange.

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