Researching a recent post, I found items about Arabic and Abu Sayyaf that didn't quite relate to the post's topic, but were too interesting to file and forget.
Abu Sayyaf has quite a few names. "Abu Sayyaf," "Jamāʿah Abū Sayyāf," (جماعة أبو سياف written in the Roman alphabet), and "al-Harakat al-Islamiyah." The Wikipedia article says that the name comes from Arabic ابو, abu ("father of") and sayyaf ("Swordsmith").
As usual, translations of the name don't agree. "bearer of the sword" or "Sword of God" or literally "Father of the Sword" in Arabic.
Council on Foreign Relations, renown experts since the Wilson administration, says this about them, "Abu Sayyaf (the phrase means 'bearer of the sword' in Arabic) is a militant organization based in the southern Philippines seeking a separate Islamic state for the country's Muslim minority."
So what? I'm directing the next remarks mostly at American citizens, but the principles apply to many other people.
Unless you read, and speak, Arabic and other languages, you're getting your information about affairs in the Islamic world through a medium that translates statements. And translation involves choosing which word or phrase to use, of many possibilities.
I don't advocate not believing what you read. I do suggest that you think about what can happen in translations as you read.
- The Names of Abu Sayyaf: Thinking About Translations (August 19, 2007)
- "Quagmire," the Revolutionary Guard, and the News (August 19, 2007)
- News, Truth, and the Big Picture (August 11, 2007)
- Watch for Weird Words: Election's Coming Up! (August 9, 2007)