Spelling "Quran:" Who Are We Trying to Reach?


BELOW IS AN email conversation I had with a reader of Citizen Warrior. This exchange is about a minor issue — how to spell "Quran." But it points to a bigger issue: Whether we are trying to appeal to (and hopefully reach and influence) people who don't already know about Islam's prime directive, or whether we are merely trying to appeal to each other.
At Citizen Warrior, we have been spelling the word "Quran" with a Q, rather than "Koran" with a K. The first email of the exchange said simply:

I never spell Koran with a "Q"...that is the preferred Muslim spelling.

I replied:
I prefer the preferred Muslim spelling. I am hoping to reach and inform people who "respect all religions" (multiculturalists — people who don't yet know much about Islam) so starting out with something deliberately disrespectful seems to me to be counterproductive.
If we were only speaking with each other, I would spell it however you like to spell it. But since many people have told me over the years that they share my articles with people they are hoping to influence, I try to keep it respectful. I never spell Muslims "Mooslims" or Muzzies or do anything else that would immediately stop a multiculturalist from reading. Those are the people we need to reach. Everybody else already "gets it."
She said:

How long do you think we have until they overrun our system of law? The Muslims have declared they are at war with us...I do not think that placating them in any way works...George W. Bush tried to tell us all that there are moderate Muslims but this is hogwash (no pun intended.)

I said:
I'm not trying to placate Muslims. I am trying to reach non-Muslims who don't know about Islam. This is a rule of basic public relations: Do not offend the person you are trying to reach. I have no interest in reaching Muslims. I don't care whether they like what I say or not. But many educated people know that Muslims prefer the word Quran spelled with a Q and they believe that spelling it with a K is what "Islamophobic bigots" do, and they just won't read something by such a person.
This is one of the most difficult points to get across to many people who want to do something about Islam: They don't understand that if they are a self-righteous zealot who just "speaks the truth and people's politically-correct sensitivities be damned" then the only people who will listen are those who already agree with them. If they want to reach the rest of the non-Muslims, they'll have to stop offending them every time they open their mouths.
I'm not saying you're a zealot. I'm using an extreme example to help make my point. This message is hard to get across to some people in the counterjihad movement, but I think it is an extremely important point, and it's one of the biggest things preventing us from bringing more non-Muslims to our cause.
I think our situation is urgent. We need to reach as many people as possible, in the shortest time possible. I believe spelling "Quran" with a Q helps us with that purpose and spelling it with a K hinders us.
She said:

If you are trying to reach non-Muslims, they usually spell the Koran K-o-r-a-n...

If you are trying to reach the educated non-Muslims, like me, they will usually know that Muslims prefer the spelling Qu'ran. You may lose them because they think you are placating Muslims spelling it that way....or being politically correct....

People today who are busy and educated do not have time to waste reading politically correct versions of Islam, so they rule yours out right away...why not ask and do a survey on it if you doubt what I am saying...ask people their relative awareness about the spelling, and their educational background.

I said:
You're kind of proving my point. While it's true that people who are already educated about Islam do not want to read politically-correct versions of Islam, those aren't the people I am trying to influence. My goal is to increase the number of people who are on our side. And the people I am trying to reach (those who don't know anything about Islam) would not read something that is blatantly or defiantly politically-incorrect. They are pretty sensitive to anything that smacks of prejudice, and they're looking for any excuse not to read something that runs counter to what they already know.
People like you already know. You don't need to be educated about Islam. You don't need to be reached. You're already on our side. It's okay if I "lose" you. I'm not really losing you, after all. You're still in the Resistance. You have not been turned away from the counterjihad; you've merely been turned away from Citizen Warrior.
She said:

My point is that the educated people you say you are trying to reach are the ones who would not know the difference between Koran and Quran...the ones who do have already decided their stance...whether educated correctly or not.

There is
no reason to spell it the way Muslims prefer.

I said:
That is an interesting point, and might be worth considering: If people don't understand Islam's prime directive, they may not know the preferred Muslim spelling of the Koran, so they wouldn't be turned away by the information, so I might as well spell it with a K.
As I was pondering this, I realized that a lot of multiculturalists actually read a lot about Islam; but what they're reading is the PC version — the wishful-thinking version from mainstream news sources. So I thought I would find out how those news sources spell "Koran," and I decided to spell it however they spell it most often.
I decided to test the New York Times and the LA Times, as representatives of mainstream politically-correct news sources. Readers of these newspapers are the people, I believe, who would be most likely to be ignorant about Islam and yet feel informed. Those are the people I want us to educate (starting first with the undecideds). The point of view about Islam represented in the NYT and LAT is the standard, mainstream point of view about Islam. The people who read those newspapers have seen the word "Koran" (or "Quran") many times. The question is, when they see the word, how do they see it spelled by the sources they respect?
The reason I want to spell it the same way as the NYT and LAT is so my writings are not prematurely dismissed by readers of these sources because of their preconceived conclusion that I am a Muslim-hating Islamophobic bigot.
So I went to the NYT and LAT and searched the two spellings. And I discovered the opposite of what I expected. In the LAT, it was spelled "Quran" 223 times and "Koran" 333 times. In the NYT it was spelled "Quran" 292 times and "Koran" 4,060 times! Just for a contrast, I did the same search in the Wall Street Journal. They did just the opposite: It was spelled "Quran" 504 times and "Koran" 236 times.
So from now on I'm going to spell it with a K. That's what NYT readers are used to. They won't feel it is insulting to Muslims. They won't turn away from my writings. So although I'm doing it for a different reason than you proposed, I am grateful to you for motivating me to looking into it.
As a follow up to this conversation, I found a question and answer session with Merrill Perlman, the head copy editor of the New York Times. Someone asked why the NYT spells it "Koran" instead of "Quran" since the Arab world prefers "Quran." Perlman answered that the NYT's "overall guideline is to refer to our dictionary of choice, Webster’s New World College Dictionary, when it deals with the subject. W.N.W. prefers Koran, and so we do as well. The Associated Press, whose style governs many publications, uses Quran."


Damien 11:46 AM  

Citizen Warrior,

You make a good point. I've always spelled it "Koran" with "K," just because that's the way I'm used to spelling it. I never thought about it before. I'll try to remember to spell it as "Quran" from now on.


Damien 12:51 PM  

Citizen Warrior,

I should have read through your article more carefully, you think we should spell it "Koran" instead of "Quran?"

Citizen Warrior 1:22 PM  

Yes, indeed.

Lexcen 11:30 PM  

Wikipedia prefers Qur’an with the pronunciation of Koran. You say potato I say potarto...:)

Anonymous 12:03 AM  

So much care.. just forword Q and K

the fight is on in right direction
i appreciate efforts with open minds here

Anonymous 7:42 AM  

I switched from Q to K because someone persuaded me that was "correct". Now, because everything you say emphasises that Q is the received Muslim manner im switching back to it again.

All your reasoning explained in the example is totally spot on perfect.

Ben 8:05 PM  

The French spell it Coran. In vocal communication, it is the sound is important, a close match in vocalization, accompanied by context, allows the listener to interpret the sound correctly.

The Arab and Western languages use different sounds. We are not going to match theirs exactly, nor are the Arabs our primary audience.

My blog posts are read in America, Canada, Britain, Germany, Holland, Arabia and Asia. I am not going to please all of them. My content will offend most of them.

I want to provoke my readers to do two things: explore the source texts for themselves and think rationally about what they read.

Sometimes I spell it Qur'an. At other times, I spell it Koran.

If I quote a source that spells it one way or the other, I may or may not adopt the source's style for that post. On all occasions I curse and condemn Islam.

In any case, most of the self-righteous, willfully self-blinded bigots firmly convinced in their error will not be provoked either to read or to think. They are lost already.

I will frequently use the accepted style, but I will not cater to prejudice. I will not give respect where it is not earned any more than I would give undue credit.

Some Zealots refuse to capitalize words relative to Islam. I am not one of them, but I have drifted away from capitalizing mosque.

Two of my blogs have resource pages with extensive lists of links to Islamic texts. Sadly, their audience is predominantly Arabic & Asian even though their titles are aggressively Zealous: "Go Burn With Muhammad" and "Islamophobia Exposed". Most Westerners do not go searching for Islamic texts.

John K 7:05 AM  

This is also an issue of whether or not the conversation is politically charged.

Many Americans who do not know there is a debate about Islam received an education in less volatile times. In normal English classes they were taught spellings like Koran and Moslem.

So their usage of these spellings is quite innocent and not intended to be choosing a side in our debate. Citizen Warrior is making a thoughtful analysis of what methods will best advance our cause. That effort is commendable.

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

I don't think it matters; I prefer Koran because in English qu- is ALWAYS followed by a vowel and Qu'ran looks to me contrived and unnatural. In a way another example of Islamic supremacy, riding roughshod over the English language.

To hell with ANY 'consideration' for Islam, it neither deserves nor has earned it, quite the reverse. Muslims are experts at taking offence at the slightest thing, part of the jihad to terrorise us- and it works so well. IF WE ALLOW IT.

Anonymous 1:35 PM  

it should be Qur'an

Anonymous 8:35 AM  

This has been beneficial to my understanding of Islam if not comforting. Thanks for taking the time to actually learn and share your information.

Unknown 2:27 PM  

Well, crap! Now I'M confused because I figured as sensitive as the Muslims are, there would Be a clearcut: This is the respectful/accepted way...and THIS is the derogatory, inflammatory/unaccepted way, so that people could use it 'the 'appropriate' way in their writing', lol! Seriously,CW, I love your approach and have been watching Robert Spencer's youtube vids lately, and a calm simple Reading of the Koran is pretty damning to anyone in western civilization. Almost every step the West considers to have take toward 'civilization', islam (see, here I Am like your commenter in NOT spelling it with a capital) keeps the barbaric beliefs, on pain of dismemberment or Death!
But I loved his and Pamela Geller's 'draw mohammed' contest, and have also been exploring those that ridicule and defame islam and it's associated terrorism, because as you tell her: I'VE already been reached!, because I believe it will have an important role in fighting islamic terrorism as soon as your ilk have reached a large enough audience and worked your magic. So keep up the good work, way to keep an open mind in your exchange with her!
PS While I Love your stated objective, don't you think That calm, rational statement is about as Big a TURNOFF to your target audience as shouting F Allah in a mosque,lol?!! Be careful my friend, Robert Spencer got banned from Britain for saying simply: "Islam has a written doctrine of war on the unbelievers." ...approximately


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