Almontaser's Resignation Leaves Khalil Gibran's "Intifada-Structure" Intact - Islamist supporters show radical nature of school
August 15, 2007
ACTION ALERT: A Zionist to head the first Arabic School in NY
August 17, 2007
This must be the one of the worst jokes I've heard, ever… [Hat tip: Akram Awad]
NY's 1st Arabic School Occupied by a Zionist Principal!
1 - Write to Joel Klein, the NYC Department of Education Chancellor, expressing your disgust at his department's decision
Use this link http://schools.nyc.gov/webforms/chancellormessage.aspx
(FYI, Klein is the same person who banned the director of Columbia University's Middle East Institute, Professor Rashid Khalidi, from participating in a NYC school teachers' training on the Middle East because of his criticism of Israel, and the one who approved a curriculum that grants graduate credit to NYC teachers who take a 30-hour course of study on Israel, written by the Israeli Consulate.
2- Call the NYC Department of Education and speak to the Chancellor about it
Tel No. (718) 935-2000
3- Most importantly, EMAIL & CALL DEBBIE ALMONTASER AND SHOW HER YOUR SUPPORT
Debbie contacts are:
:: Article nr. 35433 sent on 17-aug-2007 22:28 ECT
August 20, 2007
The Radius of Arab American Writers Inc. (RAWI) has just issued the following statement regarding the FORCED resignation of a Muslim school principal of New York City's first Islamic High School.... and replaced by a zionist.
Please read it and circulate it on your blogs.
RAWI Statement on Debbie Almontaser
Written by RAWI
RAWI Urges the City of New York to Reinstate Debbie Almontaser RAWI, the Radius of Arab American Writers, is concerned by the recent "resignation" of Debbie Almontaser from New York City's Khalil Gibran International Academy, a public school devoted to Arabic language and culture.
Almontaser generated public controversy when she was spotted by a reporter wearing a tee-shirt with the phrase "Intifada NYC" at an event sponsored by Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media. Both the event and the organization are unrelated to the Gibran Academy. As Almontaser attempted to explain repeatedly, the shirt is not in any way an endorsement of violence; "the word basically means 'shaking off,'" she noted.
Almontaser was subjected to vicious and factually unsubstantiated attacks by neoconservative media and commentators such as Daniel Pipes, who published sensationalistic articles entitled "A Madrassa Grows in Brooklyn" and "Stop the NYC Madrassa." ("Madrassa" merely means "school" in Arabic.) Rupert Murdoch's New York Post dubbed Almontaser "the Initifada Principal" and ran an editorial under the title "What's Arabic for Shut It Down?" Amid the brouhaha, Randi Weingarten, the president of Almontaser's union, The United Federation of Teachers, took a public stand in opposition to Almontaser.
Almontaser, an Arabic-speaking Yemeni immigrant, is the founding principal of the school and is a veteran public school teacher. Because of the intense pressure, she was advised to resign as principal of the Academy; Mayor Michael Bloomberg accepted her resignation and swiftly replaced her with Danielle Salzberg, a non-Arabic-speaking American Jew; according to The Post, Salzberg is "an ardent Zionist who considered moving to Israel."
RAWI views this intense pressure and Almontaser's subsequent resignation as symptoms of pervasive anti-Arab racism in the United States through which nonviolent, workaday Arabic terms have been stigmatized with sinister, albeit nonsensical, connotations. We correspondingly view New York City's move to replace Almontaser with a non-Arab Zionist as a profound insult to the Arab American community. The clear message to the Arab American community is that we cannot undertake any of our own affairs without continuous public scrutiny and external bureaucratic supervision.
We have also learned that in moments of crisis the fear and loathing of Arabs will supersede the commonsensical need to exercise basic civil responsibility.
As a community of writers, scholars, and artists, RAWI is concerned about the consequences of the Almontaser imbroglio to the freedom of intellectual and cultural expression. If the City of New York can be cowed into taking action against a decorated principal who had done nothing other than wear a tee-shirt emblazoned with a cultural slogan, then groups whose purpose is to restrict public freedom will be inexcusably empowered. The effect of such groups on the Arab American community has already been substantial and has the potential to become pernicious.
Almontaser was the victim of a sensationalistic and premeditated media attack. She was then the victim of cowardice by her union and employers. RAWI urges the City of New York to reinstate her forthwith as principal of the Gibran Academy, a position from which she had no legitimate reason to resign.
MIM:AWAAM the makers of the "INTIFADA NYC" T-shirts printed this letter from the Center for Immigrant Families which justified the intifada.
Letter Writing Anyone?
Letter CIF sent to UFT President Randi Weingarten
We are deeply disappointed and upset by your statements in opposition
to Debbie Almontaser. We believe your statements have played a role
in furthering the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism that pervades and infects
Aside from everything else that points to the racist nature of this
whole incident, do you not know that in most parts of the world, the
word intifada connotes resistance to an unethical and illegal and brutal
occupation? It is not the word intifada that promotes violence or that
should be denounced; rather, what should be denounced is an occupation
that promotes violence and that made the intifada necessary.
And do you also not know that if principals were forced to resign for
making a statement that someone thought was insensitive or
inappropriate or stupid (which this was not), we'd likely have almost
no principals left in NYC?
Finally, as you know, New York City has one of the most inequitable
and discriminatory school systems in the country--one that has grossly
under-served low income and families of color. It is our view that we
should be doing everything possible to support, not destroy efforts to
strengthen schools that promote critical thinking and a concern for
the world around us and that reflect, respect, and serve our many
You are certainly entitled to your personal views on this matter, but
you represent the teachers of this city and need to be held
accountable for your public statements and positions. For the sake of
the children of our city and for a commitment to fighting racism and
injustice, we urge you to make a public apology for your comments that
helped lead to the resignation of Debbie
Center for Immigrant Families
New York City
MIM: Adem Carroll a spokesman for ICNA (an Al Qaeda linked group which also funds Hamas) is head of the Muslim Consultative Network where Almontaser sits on the board. He threatens violence if Arab demands are not met.
To the editor,
It is truly deplorable that the Department of Education has forced out Debbie Almontaser from the Gibran Academy, a project she helped to initiate. Sadly, Debbie was smeared in the media and hounded from her job because she defined the meaning of "intifada" accurately as "throwing off oppression," while also clearly indicating that she opposes violence. Apparently that is not good enough for the powers that be here in New York City.
Almontaser's statement was hardly incorrect — defining the Arabic meaning of "intifada" is what educators do. Moreover, Debbie was clear in her condemnation of violence. The city has completely failed in objectivity in this matter. Instead, schools Chancellor Joel Klein blamed the victim, who is clearly Almontaser.
The extreme right has consistently attacked the Gibran Academy. By giving in to such negative forces, the city has taught a terrible lesson to the students and families.
As a colleague active with Debbie in interfaith dialogue, I know I am not alone in currently reassessing the merits of dialogue and civic engagement. Debbie is very well known for her interfaith work on the grassroots level in Brooklyn.
If New York is remain an open, tolerant and vital city, we cannot allow leaders to be harassed and hounded. You will find yourself with a deeply alienated generation of Arabs and Muslims, a dangerous situation not easily remedied.
Adem Carroll, The Bronx
The writer is head of the Muslim Consultative Network
MIM: In 2002 CAIR and Michael Feinberg a KGIA supporter participated a "peace" event which included Lynn Stewart the lawyer of Omar Abdul Rahman who had been indicted for smuggling out fatwas from the terror leader calling for the killing of Jews and to deadly attacks on non Muslim tourists in Egypt.
June 6, 2002
New York City ReportThe event was moved indoors because of the threat of rain - and did it pour, with thunder and lightning!!! Out in Washington Square Park (our original location), soaked but dedicated stilt walkers from Circus Amok and others on the ground waving globe flags got out the Not In Our Name message, talked to people and directed them to Judson Memorial Church nearby, a church with a long history of being at the center of progressive activity. The event was well publicized thanks to WBAI (the local Pacifica radio station) and a dedicated outreach crew, so when the doors opened at 5:30, people poured in. More then 400 people participated in the kick-off event. There was a great feeling of a growing community of resistance against this war, and people were moved and inspired by a powerful program. A beautiful 9-foot banner with a globe and the words "War on the World? Not In Our Name!" decorated the stage. The crowd was welcomed by Rev. Peter Laarman, Senior Minister, Judson Memorial Church. The program, MC'd by Not In Our Name organizers Reecha and Miles, was divided into two sections: vivid exposures about the war & repression, and a concluding section where the Pledge was recited by everyone followed by short statements from a diverse group of people about why they had taken the Pledge. Speakers included Tom Koutsoukos from the International Solidarity Movement, who was recently deported from Israel for attempting to bring food into the Church of the Nativity during the recent siege; Paul Rehm, a volunteer with Voices in the Wilderness, who talked about his trip to Iraq and the human cost of sanctions; Arshad Majid from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), NY spoke about how the Muslim community in America has been affected by 9/11; Robina Niaz, Not In Our Name organizer and a Pakistani Muslim, spoke about her fears regarding the threat of war between India and Pakistan and how " the U.S. government's war on terrorism has unleashed terror around the world." Jeremy Glick, editor of the book, Another World is Possible and whose father was killed in the 9/11 attacks, spoke out against the government's use of his father's memory to wage war on the world; women from South Asians Against Police Brutality and Racism did a powerful performance based on testimonies from people who are being detained; Syed Ali, a Pakistani man with a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice and a U.S. resident for 20 years, described his 105 days as a detainee at Riker's Island. Mary Lou Greenberg, a national organizer for Not In Our Name, talked about the history of the Not In Our Name project; Molly Klopot from Women's International League for Peace & Freedom and a Not In Our Name organizer, put the need to resist in a historical context and stressed "the patriotic duty to dissent." Leslie Cagen, interim head of Pacifica Network, expressed her confidence that "we can learn from our own history and we can learn from our sisters and brothers all around the world and actually we can stop this madness." Lynne Stewart, people's attorney, spoke out against her recent indictment by John Ashcroft. D'Lo, Brian Buño and Fawzia A. Khan also performed, and DJ Flood provided beats throughout the evening. A statement was read from Michael Ratner, Vice President of The Center for Constitutional Rights. The program culminated in a moving Pledge ceremony as representatives of organizations, religious figures, Lynne Stewart, Jeremy Glick, and others took the stage together. Kamal Taha, a 12-year-old Palestinian, introduced the need for the Pledge by speaking "for the children of the world" who also suffer from U.S. policies and about the hurt he feels being Arab in this country right now. He recited sections of the Pledge and told the crowd that he also feels that he can look to a different future, that another world is possible. Laura from the Kent State Anti-War Committee (and who came to NYC to help with national Not In Our Name coordination leading up to June 6) was fired up as she proclaimed: "All right! Is it all right? No it's not all right; people are dying and suffering around the world, but we're all here and this is a great start!" She led the auditorium in a recitation of the Pledge, which was followed by a chorus of voices each giving their personal reasons for having taken the Pledge. These voices included Rev. Earl Kooperkamp from St. Mary's Episcopal Church; Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director, Greater NY Labor-Religion Coalition; Juanita Young, whose son Malcolm Ferguson was killed by the NYPD; Arshad Majid from CAIR-NY, Lynne Stewart; representatives from Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), Direct Action Network (DAN), the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, Women in Islam, South Asians Against Police Brutality & Racism, and New Yorkers Say No to War. Joe Urgo, of Vietnam Veterans Against the War - Anti-Imperialist read a statement from Plowshares peace activist Phillip Berrigan. Hearing all the diverse reasons why people were compelled to take the Pledge was incredibly powerful and raised everyone's sights about the potential for "Not In Our Name" to spread far and wide and become a powerful force in society against the war and repression. Much later Thursday night, some Not In Our Name organizers led a reading of the pledge on the subway on the way home. Everyone on the train seemed receptive and as they were passing out the pledge flyer, an Arab man looked up from his paper briefly and said, "Thanks for doing this." We all know that there are a great many people in this country who feel as we do, and we are determined to reach out to them. Endorsers included: Philip Berrigan, Ploughshares activist; Rev. Elizabeth A. Braddon, Park Slope United Methodist Church (Brooklyn); Brooklyn Parents for Peace; Brooklyn Heights Peace Action; DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving); Ethical Action Committee of the Brooklyn Ethical Culture Society; CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) – New York; Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director, Greater NY Labor-Religion Coalition*; Rev. Dr. James Fitzgerald, Minister for Mission and Social Justice, the Riverside Church*; Mary Lou Greenberg, Revolutionary Communist Party, NY Branch; Islamic Center of Long Island (Domestic Harmony Committee); Rev. Dr. Earl Kooperkamp, Pastor, St. Mary's Episcopal Church, West Harlem*; Rev. Peter Laarman, Senior Minister, Judson Memorial Church*; Ray Laforest, Organizer DC 1707, AFSCME, Haitian community activist;MADRE; National Lawyers Guild (National Office; New York City Direct Action Network (DAN); New York Coalition for Peace and Justice; New York Fellowship of Reconciliation; New York Taxi Workers Alliance); New Yorkers Say No to War; Network in Solidarity with the People of the Philippines (NISPOP); Pax Christi Metro New York; Peace Action of New York State; Refuse & Resist!; SAKHI for South Asian Women; Monica Santana, Latino Worker Center, National Coalition for Dignity and Amnesty for the Undocumented*; South Asians Against Police Brutality and Racism; Starhawk; Rev. Ian B. Straker, Member NY Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church*; SALAAM (South Asians League of Artists in America); Starhawk; Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory; Vieques Support Campaign; David Wildman, Exec Secretary, Human Rights & Racial Justice, Mission Contexts & Relationships, Genrl Bd of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church*; Women in Islam; Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, NY Metropolitan Branch (*for identification only)
-----------------------------------For Immediate Release August 23, 2007
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) on Debbie Almontaser's Resignation and the targeting of the Kahlil Gibran International Academy
As parents, students, teachers, New Yorkers, and Jews, we are outraged by the series of events that have culminated in Debbie Almontaser's resignation as principal of the Kahlil Gibran International Academy. We are particularly disturbed that Mayor Bloomberg, Joel Klein, the Chancellor of the Department of Education, and Randi Weingarten, the President of the United Federation of Teachers, bowed to right-wing pressure and did not strenuously resist and condemn the unjustified attacks on Ms. Almontaser, which fed on and fostered anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice. We call for Debbie Almontaser to be reinstated to her position as principal if that is what she wishes, and for full support for the Kahlil Gibran International Academy.
After 9/11, Ms. Almontaser was a key partner with JFREJ on a series of community-building events to build greater understanding between Muslims and the broader community. She stood out to us in her fervent desire to learn about other communities and put forward a clear vision of a Muslim commitment to peace and justice for everyone.
In failing to strongly defend Ms. Almontaser, Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Klein, and Ms. Weingarten have helped to undermine the Kahlil Gibran International Academy?s mission before it even opens and have contributed to the very problems it seeks to address. These actions also contributed to an atmosphere of fear among educators that weakens their ability to serve the children of New York City.
The Kahlil Gibran International Academy was created to teach Arab culture, Arabic, and Middle Eastern history. Since the announcement of the school?s opening in March of 2007, it has been repeatedly targeted by right-wing media outlets for scrutiny and criticism. Ms. Almontaser's ostensible offense, in responding to a question about the phrase "Intifada NYC" on a T-shirt made by Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media (AWAAM), was to seek to educate. This was a trick question posed by the New York Post. Ms. Almontaser responded honestly and thoughtfully, trying to keep the focus on the school that she and many others hope will increase mutual understanding within our diverse city. She should not have felt compelled to resign.
The tactics used to attack Ms. Almontaser have been used against members of every minority and/or oppressed group, including Jews, in one context or another. They bring to mind the way that prominent African-Americans are periodically pressed to respond publicly to remarks and opinions of other Blacks in a way that white public figures are never pressed. The objective is to create a political loyalty test that members of minority or oppressed groups may be required to pass at any moment or be subject to savage attack.
Those who exploit Middle East tensions to create and exacerbate suspicion in our city are enemies of New Yorkers of all ethnicities, nationalities and religions. We reject the effort by The Sun, the New York Post, and their allies to whip up hysteria by attacking Ms. Almontaser and, through her, the Kahlil Gibran International Academy. We reject their attempts to demonize language and limit the political discourse in public life. We are disturbed that the Mayor, Chancellor, and UFT president capitulated to their pressure. When a similar situation of anti-Arab race-baiting arose in the NYC Human Rights Commission, the Mayor stood by Commissioner Omar Mohammedi. We are disappointed that Mayor Bloomberg did not do the same in this situation.
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) urges Chancellor Klein to re-appoint Ms. Almontaser to her position as principal, if she wishes to be reinstated. We call on Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Klein, and Ms. Weingarten to fully support the Kahlil Gibran International Academy and to work with Muslim and Arab communities and all communities in New York that to break down fear and ignorance, and to build bridges, in the manner that Debbie Almontaser and her colleagues are seeking to do.
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice engages Jews to pursue and win racial and economic justice in partnership with Jewish and allied people of color, low-income and immigrant communities in New York City. JFREJ's letter to Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Klein, and UFT President Weingarten is posted at www.jfrej.org.
Immediate Action Requested
1. SIGN Communities in Support of the Khalil Gibran Academy statement by visiting http://www.awaam.org/
Communities in Support of KGIA Statement in full:
As New Yorkers and others in support of quality public education for all of our communities, we stand in solidarity with the Khalil Gibran International Academy, which has sustained hateful and false attacks by anti-Arab media and extremists. In the post-9/11 world, a school educating our children about Arab history, culture, and language is not only crucial for the next generation to become informed leaders for positive change in our communities; it is also an extraordinary place of hope for peace, understanding, and justice for our embattled world. We regret that Debbie Almontaser was unfairly pressured to resign from her position as principal due to the attacks, and we applaud her work to establish this school and promote intercultural exchange in this diverse global city.
Those who seek to equate the study of Arabic language, culture, and history with religious fanaticism and violence are irresponsibly aggravating a present moment of hysteria against Arab and Muslim communities, and are using this moment to promote hatred in a time of war. We urge our public officials to reject these racist and inaccurate attacks, and continue to work towards building a lasting educational institution that promises to bring our communities together, rather than divide and pit them against each other. We call on all communities who want to see peace on our streets and in our world to stand with us in support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy.
2. PARTICIPATE in a Peaceful Demonstration in support of KGIA.
What: Peaceful Demonstration in Support of KGIA
When: Monday, August 20, 2007 at 6 p.m.
Where: NYC Department of Education, Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers Street
Between Broadway & Centre St. in Manhattan
Subways: 4, 5, 6, N, R, W, M, J, 2, 3, A
Sponsors: Arab Resource and Organizing Center, San Francisco, CA; AWAAM: Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media; Brown Memorial Baptist Church Center for Immigrant Families; Council on American-Islamic Relations–NY; Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition; Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ); Muslim Consultative Network; WFD Program Steering Committee at First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn
Organizational Endorsers: Adalah-NY: Coalition for Justice in the Middle East; The African American Islamic Institute (AAII); Brecht Forum; Brooklyn For Peace (formerly Brooklyn Parents for Peace); Ethical Action Committee of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture; Independent Commission on Public Education; Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives, Brooklyn; Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Oakland Chapter; Peoples MEDIA Center; Sunset Park Alliance of Neighbors; WESPAC Foundation
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 33 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR-NY Civil Rights Coordinator Aliya Latif, Tel: 212-870-2002 or 732-429-4268