Fact Check

Did Minnesota Schools Make Arabic Classes Mandatory?

A site posing as satire often pushes racial rumors.

Published July 19, 2019

Arabic young people having school activities together (Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com)
Arabic young people having school activities together (Image courtesy of Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com)
Minnesota public schools made learning Arabic mandatory.

On June 25, 2019, the junk news site Taters Gonna Tate falsely reported that schools in Minnesota were teaching mandatory Arabic classes.

The story falsely claims that students must learn Arabic in order to graduate because, "After Obama allowed hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees to enter the USA and settle down in Minnesota, that state’s ethnic landscape changed radically."

The website, along with others operated by the America's Last Line of Defense network of junk sites, claims to offer satire and that therefore nothing on the site should be believed.

The story in question is a type of racial incitement that plays off ongoing hoaxes targeting U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents Minnesota's 5th Congressional District. Omar is one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress and the first to wear a traditional head scarf, an achievement that has also made her a target for racist attacks.

It also plays off overarching biases against Muslim people and immigrants, notably "creeping sharia," the Islamophobic conspiracy theory that Muslim people are plotting to take over.

Minnesota has between roughly 42,400 and 55,200 people of Somali heritage, not "hundreds of thousands." The population makes up 1 percent of the state's total. And although Minnesota public school students can opt to learn Arabic, it is only one foreign-language offering. Others include Spanish, French, American Sign Language, Dakota, Ojibwe, Hmong, Japanese, and Somali — the mother tongue of Somalian people.


Dickrell, Stephanie. "What Minnesota's Somali Population Looks Like: Young, Minnesota-Born and Working."   St. Cloud Times. 17 December 2018.

Connley, Courtney. "Meet Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the First Muslim Women Elected to Congress."   CNBC. 7 November 2018.

Farley, Robert, and Robertson, Lori. "Fact Check: Trump’s False Claims About Rep. Ilhan Omar."   USA Today. 18 July 2019.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and has covered everything from crime to government to national politics. She has written for ... read more