“A crime in another language?” revisited
Arabic-centered discourse in the Yousry case
In 1995, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman was convicted for his role in the 1993 plot to bomb the World Trade Center. In 2002, Abdel-Rahman’s attorney Lynne Stewart and his interpreter Mohammed Yousry were arrested and charged with aiding terrorism. The crux of the evidence against them came from their jail visits with Abdel-Rahman. This article examines the roles of Abdel-Rahman, Stewart, and Yousry during those visits. It argues that due to factors such as ethnicity, gender, and religious background, the Arabic language and its related cultural discourse became the central context of interaction. The article focuses on three main facets of this interaction: Arabic-English vis-à-vis English-Arabic translations, Yousry’s mediation of relations through Arabic-centered cultural phenomena, and Stewart’s acceptance of — and to a certain extent participation in — an Arabic-centered discourse through her use of Arabic phrases (particularly religious ones). Twelve segments have been selected from the transcripts to illustrate these phenomena in this situation of violent conflict, which is highly relevant in today’s politically charged climate.
Keywords: religious phrases, culture, identity, Arabic-centered discourse, interpreter’s role
Published online: 30 June 2011