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Americans spark tornado over ‘Muslim storm’

The term 'Haboob,' Arabic for wind, prompted angry anti-Muslim comments when it was used to describe a storm in Texas

Published: Updated:

When an Arabic word was used to name a windy dust storm in Texas this week, a storm of another kind began to unravel over anti-Muslim sentiments in America.

The term “Haboob,” Arabic for wind and pronounced Hu-boob, prompted angry anti-Arab and anti-Muslim comments when it was used to describe a storm heading towards the city of Lubbock, which was still affecting Texans on Wednesday.

“The hullabaloo over ‘haboob’ ranged from run of the mill xenophobic comments such as, ‘Its a freakin’ dust storm people!! Its not a Haboob!! This is America....be proud!!!’ to the more angry, racist remarks,” wrote Daily Beast writer Dean Obeidallah on Monday.

Obeidallah cited some of the online comments, made in response to Texas television station KCBD posting a photo on its Facebook page with the caption: Haboob headed toward Lubbock.

“Since when do we need to apply a Muslim vocabulary to a good ole AMERICAN dirt storm?? ...I take great offense to such terminology! GO BACK TO CALLING THEM DIRT STORMS!!”

“It’s called a dust storm..Texas is not a rag head country.”

“John Robinson [the station’s meteorologist] wants to call it a Haboob, let him MOVE to where a SAND STORM is called that!!!!!!!!!!”

While the word itself is Arabic in origin and is linked to bad weather in Sudan, the American Meteorological Society atmospheric science dictionary defines it as a “strong wind and sandstorm or dust storm.”

Another website, Climate Crocks, mocked the news, with the headline: “Panic Over Muslim Terrorist Haboob in Texas.”

But while the anger over the use of the term was evident, there were comments countering the “racist” remarks:

“You realize your racist comments made are going viral and brought down Lubbock as a whole?...You people are really just intolerant and racist”

“People saying, ‘I ain't using that Arab term,’ are probably the same ignorant people who don't believe in moving forward and think our president is the Anti-Christ.”

Meteorologist Jerome James told Climate Crocks that while the Arabic word is more commonly known as a “dust storm,” it also refers to a particular weather phenomenon.

James also said that dry conditions in Texas had made the phenomenon, with its distinctive brown skies, more common in recent years.