Khalil Gibran "Jihad School" plan "postponed" DOE head Klein "If the school becomes... a religious school... I will shut it down"
May 6, 2007
Apr. 28, 2007 update: In a comment on this article on the New York Sun site, one of the members of the KGIA Advisory Council, Daniel Meeter, helpfully provides a list of that council's makeup:
By COLLEEN LONG
May 5, 2007
NEW YORK -- Proponents of an Arabic-themed middle school see it as a reflection of internationalism and a recognition of the city's growing Arab population.
But school officials were restarting efforts Friday to find a space for the institution after plans to open it in a Brooklyn elementary school building foundered amid parental concerns and contention over its mission.
The Khalil Gibran International Academy was supposed to share space with Public School 282 in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. But parents of PS 282 pupils criticized the option, saying squeezing another school inside the building would hurt resources available to their children.
Some have noted that the school has generated ideological controversy and have questioned whether that could mean a security risk. And some say they don't want older students sharing a building with their young children.
City Department of Education officials said Friday the school would not be housed at PS 282, but they did not say whether the protests had anything to do with changing the location.
"After further consultation with the principal and school leadership team of PS 282, we determined that siting the Khalil Gibran International Academy at the school would be detrimental to its core academic programs," spokesman David Cantor said in a statement.
Other locations were being scouted, but Cantor would not say where.
Organizers say they still plan to open this September with a sixth grade and gradually expand into a full middle school and high school. About half the students are expected to be of Arab heritage, although the school will have open admission.
The school is named after the famed Lebanese-American Christian poet who promoted peace. It would be one of a few nationwide that focus on the Arabic language and Arab culture.
Education officials say the curriculum will be in line with basics required from public schools, while integrating elements of its theme. Debbie Almontaser, a longtime New York City educator and a Muslim of Yemeni background, is to lead the academy. She has done extensive interfaith and cultural work to fight stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims in the post-Sept. 11 world.
New York already has schools specializing in Asian culture and Chinese language, and is opening one that centers on Latin-American culture.
But when the education department revealed plans for the Arabic school earlier this year, the reaction from conservative groups was fierce.
Conservative Web sites have seethed against the idea, as have some members of the public. "Jihadi," "public madrassa," and "segregationist" are just a few of the labels that have been tossed at the plan.
MIM: The insanity of political correctness is evidenced by the disclaimer of the parents who were protesting the KGIA school being situated in their present building. The parents have made it a point to state that the school's Islamist activities and terrorism ties of it's administrators and affiliates are not an issue and that their primary safety concern is having older children in the same building as younger ones.The parents have stressed the fact that they are only protesting the school on practical grounds and the evidence showing the school's ideology will be the same as that of the 9/11 hijackers and the principal designate's statements that she does not consider those who carried out the attacks to be "Arabs or Muslims" and believes that United States foreign policy is to blame for the attacks is not an issue.
Meanwhile, the parents of P.S. 282 have labored to distance themselves from the school's other opponents. Linda Littlefield, a parent and PTA member, said the parents were "horrified" by the ideological opposition by columnists to an Arab language school. "We felt that was so damaging," she said, emphasizing that the Park Slope parents did not have a problem with the theme of the school, but did not want to share the school itself.
Plan for Arabic School in Brooklyn Spurs Protests
By JULIE BOSMAN The Khalil Gibran International Academy was conceived as a public embrace of New York City's growing Arab population and of internationalism, the first public school dedicated to the study of the Arabic language and culture and open to students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. But nearly three months after plans for the middle school were first announced, a beleaguered Department of Education is fending off attacks from two angry camps: parents from Public School 282, the elementary school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, that was assigned to share building space with the Khalil Gibran school, and a handful of columnists who have called the proposed academy a madrassa, which teaches the Koran. Now the chancellor of schools, Joel I. Klein, is considering other locations for the school, or even postponing the opening for a year, according to several people involved in the discussions, and the whole endeavor has been turned into a test of tolerance — and its limits — in post-9/11, multiethnic New York.
The principal, Debbie Almontaser, who came to America from Yemen at age 3 and who organized peace rallies and urged tolerance after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has been vilified on Web sites as having an "Islamist agenda." Ms. Almontaser said she was prepared for the reaction. "Quite frankly, I don't let it bother me," she said. "I don't lose sleep over it. My main objective is the opening of the school." Friends of the teacher, who is known as a moderate active in interfaith groups, call the accusation preposterous. "It's tragic that they should be targeting her," said the Rev. Dr. Daniel Meeter, pastor of Old First Reformed Church in Park Slope. Some call the controversy over the school heartbreaking. "Now is the critical time to teach young people Arabic," said Eileen F. Reilly, a director at Camba, a Brooklyn social services agency, and a friend of Ms. Almontaser's. "If a school like this can't happen in Brooklyn, where can it happen?" Others say that there is no room for such a school in New York.
Alicia Colon, a columnist for The New York Sun, wrote that Osama bin Laden must have been "delighted" to hear the news of the school. "New York City, the site of the worst terrorist attack in our history, is bowing down in homage to accommodate and perhaps groom future radicals," she said. "I say break out the torches and surround City Hall to stop this monstrosity." Khalil Gibran, named after the noted Lebanese-born poet and philosopher who wrote "The Prophet," is a partnership with New Visions for Public Schools, a nonprofit agency that has helped open dozens of schools, and the Arab-American Family Support Center, a social service agency in Brooklyn.
Plans for the school called for it to enroll 81 students for the 2007-8 school year, beginning with sixth graders only, and eventually expanding to Grades 6 through 12. It was envisioned like other dual-language schools in the city, like the Shuang Wen Academy, a top-performing elementary school on the Lower East Side that teaches classes both in English and in Mandarin. The first sign of discontent came from the parents of P.S. 282, where the school was supposed to share space. They staged protests and besieged Mr. Klein's office with e-mail messages this winter and spring. Their litany of complaints was long: They objected to sharing space with another school, particularly with middle and high school students who they said could put their elementary school children in danger. They predicted that class sizes at P.S. 282, now comfortably small, would increase close to capacity. And they were indignant when told that they would have to sacrifice space they used for activities like computer instruction and chess. "We all just want 282 to remain an elementary school with the same space and services that we have now," said Xiomara Fraser, the PTA president. "Their interest is getting a whole new school that has nothing to do with this school and that will encroach on our space and disrupt the flow of this school."
As the efforts by the parents of P.S. 282 stalled, another form of protest was just getting started. Ms. Almontaser had become a high-profile figure in Brooklyn after 9/11 and had spoken in interviews about her embrace of Muslim customs, including wearing a hijab, and how she was a part of the American melting pot. A Web site called Militant Islam Monitor recently posted side-by-side photographs of Ms. Almontaser wearing different types of headscarves, suggesting that she had changed her appearance to disguise her "Islamist agenda."
In The New York Sun, a column by Daniel Pipes, the director of the Middle East Forum, a conservative research center that says its goal is to promote American interests in the region, declared that "A Madrassa Grows in Brooklyn," contending that the school would generate problems and promote an "Islamic outlook." Mr. Pipes, who lives in Philadelphia, said in a telephone interview, "What you find is that the materials that are included in an Arabic curriculum have a natural tendency to promote Islam."
A Department of Education spokeswoman said the school would have a standard college preparatory curriculum, with separate Arabic language instruction. Ms. Almontaser said she planned a curriculum that was not religion-based, and that would include the history and contributions of the Arab people. Supporters of the school, many of them residents of heavily Muslim communities in Brooklyn, have come out in large numbers to defend Ms. Almontaser. "It's just outrageous," said Mohammad Razvi, the executive director of the Council of Peoples Organization. "It is not fair for anyone to make such negative remarks just because the school is going to be teaching Arabic as a language. She's a person who brings communities together and makes them understand and works on peace." Mr. Razvi said he intends to send his 11-year-old son, Akeel, to Khalil Gibran if it opens this fall. "People are very much excited, very much encouraged by the school," said Shamsi Ali, an imam at the Islamic Center on East 96th Street in Manhattan and a member of the advisory board of Khalil Gibran. "After Sept. 11, particularly, Arab communities felt misunderstood. Such a school, I think, will show our good intentions." If the school is postponed, it may be because of logistics as much as controversy. Since a location has not been confirmed yet, the Education Department has not been able to accept applications formally. At this point in the year, most fifth graders already know where they will be attending sixth grade in the fall. "The location right now is being worked on by the Department of Education, and I'm confident that they are working to find us a home that will be embracing and positive," Ms. Almontaser said. Meanwhile, the parents of P.S. 282 have labored to distance themselves from the school's other opponents. Linda Littlefield, a parent and PTA member, said the parents were "horrified" by the ideological opposition by columnists to an Arab language school. "We felt that was so damaging," she said, emphasizing that the Park Slope parents did not have a problem with the theme of the school, but did not want to share the school itself. "We don't talk to them," Ms. Fraser added of the columnists. "They do what they have to do to sell their papers."
MIM: Information on Shamsi Ali Imam of the 96th Street Mosque and member of the KGIA advisory board. Ali is tied to the Muslim Brotherhood via the Islamic Circle of North America and the Muslim American Society where he has been a speaker at their conferences and youth camps. For more on the ICNA/MAS/YM tie to Al Qaeda see:
MIM:Excerpt from "Muslim Panel: Many Distrust Legal System" . Almontaser and Muhammed Razvi's presentation to a group of judges perpetrated the Muslim as victim of non existent backlash myth. Of course teaching Muslims about "their rights" means how they can get funding from the infidel U.S. taxpayers while demanding that Americans accomodate the shari'a and accomodate all their needs -including an Arabic language school like KGIA . But Almontaser and Ravzi made it clear that Muslims should not be expected to give any help in return because they are just fearful to report, for example any type of terror activity in their community, but they need to be taught their "rights" to get free education, housing and health care on the taxpayer's dime and have no problem meeting with city officials when it comes to demanding support and funding.
MIM:Almontaser is working with Youth Bridges as a Diversity Consultant as is Mohammed Razvi. http://www.youthbridgeny.org/bod.htm Debbie Almontaser
MIM: Razvi serves on a Muslim-American Advisory Board to the FBI and ICE, part of a community outreach program maintained in several big American cities. For April 18 he has organized a town hall forum in Jackson Heights, where members of the community can speak to representatives of ICE and the FBI directly; Yet despite these assurances, the outcome of some cases makes Mohammed Razvi worry about the safety of his own advocacy work. For an example, he pulls the file of a taxi driver who was turned in last summer by a fare. She had asked him his opinion of Bush and he replied, "He's an asshole. If I had a gun, I'd shoot him." Soon, the Secret Service turned up at the cabbie's door. Terrified, unable to afford a lawyer, he went to Razvi. "I called up the Secret Service—I've never been that nervous," Razvi says. "They put me on speakerphone. I give them all my information and say, this guy is working, he has a medallion, he didn't mean it that way. They say, OK, tell him to come in Wednesday afternoon, we'll question him with an attorney present. I found him an attorney pro bono." The meeting never happened—instead, Wednesday morning, the taxi driver was picked up by immigration and subsequently deported.
Almontaser is on the board of the Muslim Consultative Network (MCN) which should be more aptly named the Mujahideen Combative Network. (please see below)
MCN Board members include Imam Shamsi Ali who is an advisory member of KGIA. In 2006 Ali was together with Mazen Mokhtar the Imam on the Islamic Center of New Brunswick as a speaker at an Islamic Circle of North America/Muslim American Society/Young Muslims Youth Camp Mokhtar was accused of helping Al Qaeda and the Taliban by running mirror websites to the Jihadist Azzam.com named after Abdullah Azzam Bin Laden's mentor. In July of 2000 ICNA held a Jihad Camp in Pennslyvania.
A search for Shamsi Ali on Militant Islam Monitor reveals a the original posting of the ICNA/MAS/YM announcement showing him as a speaker at a youth camp together together with Mazen Mokhtar.
Update: Mokhtar was arrested on March 25th 2007 and jailed for tax fraud : http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/2893
\What is also alarming is that Ali and the 96th Street mosque are doing da'wa aka interfaith
Mokhtar, was accused of helping British Al Qaeda operative Babar Ahmad to create backup copies of the jihadist Azzam.com website. Court papers stated that the administrators of the Azzam website aimed to "solicit funds for blocked organizations,namely the Taliban and the Chechen Mujahideen, in an effort to support their goals". The summer before the terrorist attacks of 9/11 ICNA held a Jihad Camp in Pennsylvania which one leader explained, "were intended to "help them (the youth) understand what the concept of jihad really is". At a 2000 ICNA event ICNA director Tayyab Yunus pleaded with the audience "The youth is very important…And we all want to see our youth succeed and become engineers, but how many of you can actually say you want to send your sons to Jihad-to Chechnya? [Takbir –Allua Akhbar] How many of you can actually say that you want to send your youth to fight in jihad…or to send them to these Islamic institutions to be educated? I'm sorry .Other then that , I honestly believe in my hear that this is the time, right now is the time . http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/2090The presence of Imam Shamsi Ali on the KGIA advisory board is further proof that the school's agenda will have more in common with "Islamic institutions" which ICNA director Tayyab Yunus urged Muslim parents to send their children to in preparation for jihad. Other MSN board members include Adem aka Adam Carroll of ICNA and Wissam Nasr the former president of CAIR New York who now heads the Islamic Institute for Human Rights. More information below. MSN works with both The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). ICNA is linked to Al Qaeda and ISNA is the largest Saudi funded da'wa group in North America. Almontaser's membership of on the MSN board means that this organisation will be connected to the KGIA as well. Adem Carroll of ICNA is an MCN board member and raised money for the families and legal defense of the two illegal immigrant sisters who were accused of plotting suicide bombings. For more on Carroll, Mazen Mokhtar, (linked to Shamsi Ali of the KGIA Advisory Board) ICNA and MAS see :
Muslim teen girls in NY accused of planning suicide bombings now being held as illegals:Family spokesman from Al Qaeda linked group Islamic Circle of North America runs Young Muslims groups - Imam who spoke at ICNA camp linked to Heathrow bomb plot According to Carroll: Adam Carroll, a community activist with the Islamic Circle of North America, told the Times one of the girls had been arrested after she stopped attending school in September. Immigration agents investigated her New York home and discovered an essay about suicide and Islam on her computer, Carroll said. The case seemed to be "an investigation that's gotten out of hand, like a lot of other so-called terror investigations," Carroll said. http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/534He was also part of a panel that included Lynn Stewart the lawyer of Omar Abdul Rahman who helped him smuggle a fatwa in jail which incited a terrorist attack resulting in the murder of tourists in Egypt. /26 SAT, 2 pm - Forum: "Disappeared in the USA: Faces of
Repression & Resistance." Forum on the state of repression in the
US w/the goal of orienting each other on organizations' actions &
linking up to build a massive movement to end the repression.
Panelists: Adem Carroll (ICNA), C Clark Kissinger (Refuse &
Resist!), Monami Maulik (DRUM), Avideh Moussavian (NYIC), atty
Lynne Stewart, reps from Families for Freedom, Center for
Constitutional Rights, Taxi Workers Alliance. At Community Church
of NY, Hall of Worship, 40 E 35th St (btw Park/Madison,
6/F/Q/N/R/B/D to Herald Sq). Free. Sponsors: Blue Triangle
Network; Not In Our Name; Students for Justice in Palestine;
Community Church of NY. Info: n...@notinourname.net MCN Activities
MCN for Post 9/11 Community Empowerment:
Planning and Participation, Dialogue and Direct ServicesAfter the disaster of the terror attack, thousands of NYC Muslims have been suffering from backlash as well as fear and financial crisis. Members of MCN have been significantly and consistently involved in post 9/11 response, providing counseling, emergency social services and financial assistance. Members have also served to improve community access to services. Thanks to the Red Cross Liberty Fund, The Council of Churches of New York has reimbursed MCN for some post 9/11 services to vulnerable individuals and communities.
The ripple effects of 9/11 continue to be worsened by the fear created by anti-Muslim backlash, hate crimes and national security policies. In addition, service providers and educators face the challenge of a fragmented and insular community with a stigma against discussing mental health in public. However, MCN board members are very active in developing civic engagement, empowering men and women and promoting a variety of self help strategies, and providing referrals directly when needed.
The Muslim Consultative Network includes among it's board members Almontaser, Adem Carroll of ICNA and Wisam Nasr of CAIR.http://www.mcnny.org/activities.html
During this period he also attended the Marshall Meyers Retreat organized by the Interfaith Center and helped planners obtain a speaker on mental health services in the Muslim community. To further promote interfaith dialogue and trust, he met with Jews for Social and Economic Justice; Dialogue Project; and the Jerusalem.
In April, MCN representatives discussed backlash mitigation models and culturally sensitive approaches to recovery with New York Disaster Interfaith Services and invited guests such as Dr. Siddhartha Shah. Members were able to research studies from Detroit, a longer-settled Muslim and Arab community, as possible models for preparedness and developing access to services.
Also in April, board members assisted in an FBI Town Hall meeting for 200 community members in Jackson Heights; this allowed diverse Muslims to offer feedback to officials about post 9/11 backlash and restrictive policies.
On April 19, three board members were featured speakers at a Queens event to encourage ACS and other social services to recognize the stress that Muslim families are under since 9/11, with an increase in family violence. Board Member Robina Niaz, founder of Turning Point for Women and Families, helped plan the event. The Borough President spoke and attended the event. MCN was a co-sponsor of the program.Also in Queens, Active MCN member Imam Shamsi Ali organized two workshops on X, Y, Z at the Jamaica Muslim Center.
On April 29, MCN Secretary Sarah Sayeed made a presentation to over 150 Muslims attending the American Muslim Health Professionals networking session, and signed up a number of volunteers to help plan a conference on post 9/11 recovery. Board Member Hasan Chugtai, who is affiliated with AMHP, helped plan this successful event.
Sarah Sayeed also presented to the youth sisters' group of ICNA Young Muslims in April, focusing on moral development and spiritual strengthening.
MCN Board Member Moushumi Khan also organized three dinners during this period for community members as well as for Muslim lawyers to network professionally, and hosted book club meetings, to promote a sense of identity and participation in the community.
Thanks to previous funding, MCN member organization Women in Islam, Inc. printed their brochure promoting women's access to mosques. (Note that Almontaser is a board member of WII)
MCN Treasurer, Nurah Amatullah and her organization Muslim Women's Institute for Women and Families, hosted a health fair in April. MCN distributed brochures and articles promoting health awareness and information about MCN. MCN co-sponsored the health fair. MCN members attended another two health fairs in April promoting self-help and stress release.
MCN is also in the process of finalizing a brochure that addresses stigmatized issues such as mental health, domestic violence and HIV/AIDS. It has been working to review a mental health curriculum to help individuals work on personal change in a number of areas. On May 10, Board Chair Adem Carroll visited Connecticut College for a series of presentations to students, including the Muslim Students Association, which was impacted by a recent lecture by Islamophobic writer and hate speech, as well as by no-fly light/US Visits program restrictions on travel for young Muslims. One student was regularly held 10 hours at a time when traveling internationally and feels deeply alienated and sad. The speaker offered support for individuals and for the small Muslim community as well as resources for further support.
Adem also assisted 25 post 9/11 detainee families during this period, primarily with legal referrals and regular emotional support. While MCN members at ICNA and CAIR continue to offer assistance to these families, Adem will continue to develop advocacy on behalf of MCN and long- term response to this crisis.
MIM: Radical Islamists have learned that if they promote their agenda under the guise of inter faith or "intra faith' they are unassailable and appear to be immune to charges that they are promoting fundamentalism or being anti semitic. The groups who participate in these activities are regarded as useful idiots by the Islamists who exploit them to bolster their facade of legitimacy.Interfaith activities such as a joint prayer service below epitomise how interfaith is being used for da'wa. Note that the event goes after the warm fuzzy title "getting to know our cousins" and that activities include a Muslim prayer service. It should be noted that the reference is made to a woman "rabbi" according to orthodox Jewish law only men can become and act as rabbis. This is the type of event which gives Almontaser the cover she needs to pursue her Islamist activities and receive the backing and support of groups like the Anti Defamation League whose pursuit of political correctness leads them to aid and abet legal Islamists infilitrate institutions such as public schools as Almontaser is attempting to do with the Khalil Gibran School.http://www.mcnny.org/
The ADL played right into radical Islamists hands and wrote a letter in support of Almontaser praising her interfaith and civil rights work ignoring her indoctrination of students by claiming she does not consider Arab and Muslims to have been behind 9/11 and blaming American policy vis a vis Israel for the attacks.
Rabbi Carter has longed for the opportunity for her synagogue to host their Muslim neighbors to break bread and learn about each other's religious traditions. In light of everything happening in the world today, it is essential to continue building bridges of understanding with our neighbors for
Date:Oct. 8, 2006
For those who arrive early there will be tours of the synagogue and a place to wash for prayer. The breaking of the fast will take place at 6:27 pm followed by Maghrib prayer. Dates and light refreshments will be available followed by dinner and a short program.
If you have any further questions, please call Debbie Almontaser
WHY MCN Matters....
"MCN is useful because it brings individuals, groups, and communities together to identify problems and work to find solutions."
"Why is MCN important? It is vital to build networks/community among the NY Muslim population".
"MCN provides connection to active New York Muslims and Muslimas and helps us envision a more peaceful and productive future. This network gives me hope!"
"It makes all participants feel like important stakeholders."