Public outrage ensued after it was reported yesterday that a reading of a “Muslim poem” replaced the Pledge of Allegiance over the intercom at Concord Carlisle High School in Boston—and on 9/11 of all days.
Principal Peter Badalament proffered an apology and an explanation for the mishap, saying, “Yesterday was the first Wednesday of the school year; we were unaware that our student Pledge reader had an internship commitment on this day . . . This was our responsibility to know. We humbly apologize that this oversight and communication gap occurred.”
While the apology seemed to cover all of the appropriate diplomatic bases, it did not attempt to explain why the Pledge went unpledged over the intercom by anyone else at the school. The reason given for the reading of the poem was, according to the principal, “cross-cultural understanding.”
Mohja Kahf’s poem was titled “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” and was read thusly over the intercom:
Respectable Sears matrons shake their heads and frown, as they notice what my grandmother is doing … an affront to American porcelain … a contamination of American Standards by something foreign and unhygienic requiring civic action and possible use of disinfectant spray.
When casting a public critique of “American Standards,” in such general terms, tough sledding will follow. But proposing such a critique on 9/11, through a patently Islamic lens, becomes all the more difficult to justify, and stands out, ironically, as a sign of severe cross-cultural misunderstanding.
In any case, the responsibility must lie with the school and not Mohja Kahf; regardless of the miscommunication, why another student or staff member could not step in for the absent “Pledge reader” is beyond perplexing.
With that said, one hopes that this communication gaffe will help ensure that the significance of 9/11 and the senseless loss of American lives will never be forgotten or overshadowed again.