The recent terrorist attacks in Britain and Egypt have once again highlighted the need for Westerners to understand the root causes of terrorism. Dr. Eugene Urquhart, professor of sociology and Resident Sociometrist at the University of Virginia, thinks he has found the answer.
“We tend to overlook the fact that the Arabs have been deeply affected by the removal of the letter ‘u’ from its customary place behind the ‘q’ in Arabic words, names, and place names,” says Dr. Urquhart. “It’s not significant to us, but it’s extremely important to the Arabs. Every time an Arab looks at a map and sees Al Ghardaqah or Qatar, it reminds him of his loss.”
There is even a scientific name for the phenomenon: hypo-upsilonuria, meaning “a deficiency of the letter ‘u’”. Dr. Lucius Burroughs of Oxford University is a linguistic biologist and an expert on hypo-upsilonuria. “It began in the Middle Ages when the Crusaders returning from the Holy Land brought back the vowels of their Saracen victims as trophies attached to their shields. But it wasn’t until the early 19th century that the exploitation of the Arab ‘u’ really took off.”
That was when enterprising British inventors discovered that the vowels could be used for fuel in lamps and stoves, and were cheaper to extract and process than whale oil. The u-trade continued, dominated by the British, until the development of petroleum refineries in the latter half of the 19th century. By then the impoverished indigenes of the Arabian peninsula had been systematically stripped of their u’s, leaving them in a distressed condition, one that they remain in to this day. The trade has declined considerably since then, but u’s are still in demand for some uses, such as specialty jewelry items featuring horseshoe motifs.
The effect of this condition on the Arab world is significant. For example, in the original Mesopotamian dialect, the name “Iraqu” meant “Pleasant Land of Peace and Plenty”, but “Iraq” means “Land Where One’s Feet May Be Amputated Without Anesthetic”. Some places, such as Saqqara, tried to make up for the loss by doubling up on the “q”, but to little effect.
“The entire Arabic-speaking community experiences this as a profound loss,” says Dr. Urquhart. “There is even an accompanying psychological disorder listed in the DSM-IV: ‘Vowel Inadequacy Syndrome’, or VIS. Members of Al-Qaeda such as Zarqawi are known to suffer from VIS, but it afflicts many ordinary Arabs, and even prominent leaders such as Qaddafi are said to experience it.”
It is a source of great shame for Arab men, even though certain occupations — such as muezzins, ulemas, and mullahs — have been protected from hypo-upsilonuria. Unfortunately, the shame for men is intensified by the fact that women were generally exempted so that they could make hummus and ululate at weddings and funerals.
When I was Yemen I talked to Qasim al-Qatif as he sat chewing qat in the bazaar in ’Irqba. “I feel this shame as a stab in my heart every day,” he said. “My brother Tariq and I are planning to go to Iraq and join the jihad against the u-stealing Americans.” Another man sitting nearby, Qatadah al-Qatari, nodded his head in agreement. “My sister Nuha constantly paraded her shame before us, so that my uncle Iqbal and I were forced to kill her to preserve the family honor.”
Hypo-upsilonuria has spread to the West along with Arab immigrants, especially to northern Europe. Restive Arabs in Denmark and Norway are demanding the return of what is rightfully theirs. The problem is so acute that the U.N. has scheduled a conference on the topic, “Fighting the Scourge of Hypo-Upsilonuria”, to be held in Timbuktu in August of 2006.
But the U.N. will have its work cut out for it, since Arabs in Norway are demanding that restitution be made to them in the form of the letter “v”, as is the custom in Norwegian names. “This will be very difficult for us,” says Gunnar Inqvist, the Norwegian Minister of Immigrant Affairs, “because at the moment there is a severe shortage of v’s in Norway.”
The Welsh are experts in the field, and are sending a team of Vowel Restitution Engineers to the conference in Timbuktu. The team leader, Mr. Kynwyl Llwyd of Llandudno, says, “We have had centuries of vowel deprivation in Wales, due to the cross-border vowel raids conducted by the English from the 13th through the 19th centuries. If anybody can help those poor bloody Arabs, we can.”
Staff writers Dudley Sununu and Ursula Underburgh contributed to this report. For further frivolous satirical information on other topics, see Point Five.
Once of the great consequences of our invasion of Iraq is that I can now proudly use our plundered spoils to spell:
The Uuuuunited States of America.
Take that Uuuuuunited Kingdom.
BTW- This post is really funny. Check my time stamp– I’m still laughing.
In my understanding of Semitic languages (Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic) is that none of them actually have any vowels, only consonants, with jots and tittles that imply vowel sounds, so do they really have any legal footing with regards to a missing vowel that was really never there to begin with?
a4g — Well, I wrote to you guys last week to offer you the idea. But nuthin’ happened, so I had to do it myself.
It’s much harder for me to write satire than it is for you — takes me forever — so I’d really prefer that PointFive do it for me, since you do a better job…
Cdilley — that’s a good question. We’ll have to submit it to the Intrntnl Rthgrphcl Rcncltn Cmmssn and see what they say.
Whoops. Left off the jots & tittles. Oh well.
The best part of this excellent piece of satire is that the Koran may just be a poor translation from earlier oral tradition of a Christian tract aimed at the pre literate Arabs.
Google the following for some very interesting reading: “Christoph Luxenberg” AND Koran.
Andrew, really interesting links! Thanks
I second wildiris. This author’s hermeneutics remind me of all the brouhaha in the late 19th century-early 20th re Christian scripture. Did it a world of good, though it also cost some for the literalists…
Islam has never had the kind of scholarly scruntiny and discussion that Christianity inherited from the Jews. It’s made Islam rigid and brittle…
Not much chance any of this will ever be accepted.
Most interesting part? This author is German, just like the Christian scholars way back then…Of course Rudolf Bultmann, et al, were free to write and publish under their own names without fear of murder and mayhem…well, maybe a lot of loud backtalk….
Remember Qantas Airlines?
Arabs are not the first or worst victims of this. Long before moving into the Middle East, vowel-raiders plundered the poorer parts of Eastern Europe, looting those they considered heathens. This is why Srebrnice is so vowel-deprived.
Click and Clack had a charity effort to make amends for this, but “Vowels for Bosnia” has apparently gone the way of the “Save the Skeets” fund.
Engineer, you are quite right — there’s Brno and Lvov, for starters. Puur deprived people…
This reminds me of a story that appeared in The Onion years ago during US operations in Bosnia. It talked about Operation Vowel Storm, in which thousands of vowels were bought from Ethiopia, and dumped on Bosnia. It sited a Bosnian named ‘Grg’ as saying “In America, I’d be named George”.
I did your search and found that the Islamokazis may be in for a slight disappointment when they arive in heaven.
“But Allah, what about the 7 virgins!”
From a url too long to post:
“Luxenberg’s analysis is strictly linguistic, not theological, but it inevitably ends up questioning some traditions and dogmas that Muslims hold central to their faith.
For example, he says the Koranic passage promising men “virgins” in heaven — often cited as a supposed incentive for male suicide bombers — really used a word for “white raisins”.
This is just another example of mono-cultural exploitation.
I think it is the fault of the French. Do you have any idea how many sentences you can go in French before finding a decent consonant to wrap you tounge around? That’s where the missing vowels are!
That is exactly the scholarship tradition Luxenberg comes from. Rigorous textual analysis with solid linguistic underpinnings. I believe that Lebanon figures in his background somehow.
Really interesting stuff, what? I have an English translation of his book on order. Just enough time to brush up on my archaic Syriac.
This is a grenade with a hanging fuse.