US Pledge of Allegiance
Children in a US school pledge allegiance to the flag. AFP / Getty Images

A New York school has apologised after a student recited the US Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic.

The foreign language department at Pine Bush High School in Pine Bush, New York, arranged for the pledge to be read in a different language each day for a week, in celebration of National Foreign Language Week.

An Arabic-speaking student read the pledge during morning announcements, prompting fellow students to shout their disapproval during the recitation. Complaints were also made on social media. Meanwhile, people who lost family in Afghanistan and Jewish parents made formal complaints, an official said.

Reacting to the public outrage, the school's principal made an announcement to explain why the pledge was read in Arabic.

The school district superintendant, Joan Carbone, told the Times Herald-Record newspaper that the Arabic pledge had "divided the school in half".

In a statement the district apologised "to any students, staff or community members who found this activity disrespectful" and said the reading was intended to "promote the fact that those who speak a language other than English still pledge to salute this great country".

The school's student leader, Andrew Zink, who is responsible for the morning announcements, told US media that he knew the reading would attract controversy.

He allowed it to go ahead because he believed it was "the right thing to do". "What makes you American is not the language you speak, but the ideas you believe in," he said.

Ms Carbone said the pledge would only be read in English in the future.

Arabic is not widely spoken in Afghanistan, where the major languages are Dari and Pashto.