Tourists visiting the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City can read its brochures in 10 different languages – but Arabic is not one of them. Nor will it be any time soon.
“Nine languages are spoken by over 97 percent of our visitors: English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Mandarin, Italian, Japanese and Russian,” a representative from the memorial told the New York Post.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, claiming Arabic is the world’s fourth-most-spoken language, is sending letters to memorial coordinators demanding answers on why the language is not included.
But it appears that the Arabic community is looking for more than just brochures printed in its language. An August AlJazeera.com report describes Manhattan as the area once known as Little Syria:
Less than 100 years ago, New York City’s renowned commercial district was home to the largest Arab community in the Western hemisphere. Since the 1880’s, Arab immigrants from what was then known as Greater Syria – and later divided into present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine – settled in this neighborhood, the first stop in New York City after Ellis Island.
Streets that are now lined with skyscrapers housing the headquarters of world financial institutions were instead lined with low-rise Arabic coffee shops, Middle Eastern restaurants and shops. Men in traditional fezzes poured coffee for passers-by on the streets.
The group is petitioning the 9/11 Memorial Museum to include Little Syria’s history in its permanent exhibit.
“The lack of Arabic brochures and the apparent exclusion of Arab-American history suggests a pattern of discrimination towards Arabs and Arab-Americans,” Raed Jarrar, communications director for the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, told Al Jazeera.
9/11 Memorial spokesman Michael Frazier told Al Jazeera the museum had offered to include an oral history of Little Syria in a temporary exhibit, but there was not enough time to include the perspective in the museum’s permanent exhibit because of the work involved.
As for printing tourism materials in Arabic, the museum said there aren’t enough Arabic-speaking visitors to justify the cost.
“As Arabic-speaking visitors currently represent our 25th-largest group, Arabic translations are not yet among the initial foreign language editions,” the museum’s representative told the Post.