Khalil Gibran Jihad School to be housed in Brooklyn High School of the Arts - Principal denies Muslims behind 9/11
May 9, 2007
MIM:One example of Almontaser's perifidiousness can be seen in her response to non Muslim public school children who asked why Muslims and Arabs perpetrated the attacks. In reponse Almontaser ,an experienced pedagoge/propagandist exploited the children's naivete and inability to comprehend nuance by telling them that was not really Arabs and Muslims who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks because she as the authority figure and expert has determined that they could not have been.
"I don't recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims," ...Those people who did it have stolen my identity as an Arab and have stolen my religion."
May 9, 2007, 11:47 AM
See: A Madrasa Grows in Brooklyn: www.danielpipes.org
NEW YORK -- City education officials have selected a new site for a controversial public school focusing on Arab language and culture after opposition from parents stifled an earlier placement plan.
The Khalil Gibran International Academy, set to open in September, will be located at 345 Dean St., in the same building as the Brooklyn High School of the Arts and the Math & Science Exploratory School, said David Cantor, spokesman for the city Department of Education. The school will stay in that building at least two years.
"This is not a tentative decision," Cantor said. "The school will open at this site in September."
The academy, painted by some conservative commentators as a potential incubator for radicalism, was to share space in a building that currently houses Public School 282, an elementary school in Brooklyn. Parents had protested that plan on grounds that adding a school to the facility might diminish resources available to their children.
Named after the famed Lebanese Christian poet, the academy would be one of numerous small, themed public high schools in the nation's largest school system. While offering the basic curriculum required by the city education department, it also would teach Arabic and integrate history and other aspects of Arab culture.
Ever since plans for the school were announced, some critics, through Web sites, letters to the editor, newspaper commentaries and other forums, have claimed it could become a hotbed of militant Islam and promote segregation. School leader Debbie Almontaser, a Yemeni-born Muslim who came to the U.S. when she was 3, also has faced withering criticism.
MIM: Parents of students at PS 282 make it clear that they would rather help radical Islamists find a school location then be seen as racists by objecting to their radical agenda.
Will Share Space with
DOE spokesperson Melody Meyers issued a statement saying: "We are pleased to have found a suitable temporary site for two years for the Khalil Gibran International Academy in K655, located at 345 Dean St. in Brooklyn, which currently houses Brooklyn High School of the Arts, a high school, and the Math and Science Exploratory School, a middle school."
As reported in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the DOE originally planned to site the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA) at a Park Slope elementary school, P.S. 282. The move faced vociferous objections from parents who objected to overcrowding and mixing their young children with older students. After reconsidering the space needs of P.S. 282, the DOE changed course.
Parents at P.S. 282 said their objection to the Khalil Gibran school had nothing to do with anti-Arabic sentiment. Xiomara Fraser, PTA co-president at P.S. 282, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle last Friday, "We want them to open where ever they have to open. But 282 is not the right place. We wish them all the best – if we could help them we would."
Once Home to Sarah J. Hale
Both programs presently occupying the building are highly regarded in Brooklyn. The Math and Science Exploratory School is one of the most sought-after middle schools in District 15, while the Brooklyn High School of the Arts attracts talented students from all over the borough.
In Monday's statement, Meyers said KGIA would begin with a 6th grade of up to 60 students in September. The school will use three rooms — two for instruction and one for offices — and will share common spaces, such as the cafeteria, with the other two schools.
"We are confident that the three schools can share space effectively and that Brooklyn High School for the Arts and the Math and Science Exploratory School will be able to maintain their current programs during the two years that KGIA is housed in the building. We met with the principals and parent leadership at both schools yesterday and will continue to work with both school communities to plan the best use of the space in the building to ensure the success of all three schools," she said.
The Math and Science Exploratory School is likely to outgrow the arrangement in the two-year time frame. The increasingly popular middle school admitted six incoming 6th grade classes in 2006-07, two more than it had in 2005.
The shared space between the two existing schools is said to be a bit awkward. According to insideschools.org, the third floor houses not only the middle school, but also the building's cafeteria and science labs. Because the middle school uses the labs frequently, Brooklyn High School of the Arts makes do with traveling science labs.
One Math and Science parent expressed dissatisfaction with the news. "Two middle schools, one high school – it's not a duplex movie theater," she said.
A Better Arrangement
"I think it's a perfect place," said John Abi-Habib, head of the space committee for KGIA. Abi-Habib praised the culture of the two existing schools and envisioned a sharing of the arts and sciences between the three schools. "I am delighted and happy," he commented.
He also said that both of the existing schools were satisfied with the arrangement. "The three principals met and hit it off. They're all happy."
Almontaser, a veteran New York City educator who has been very active in interfaith efforts, has insisted that the school will promote tolerance and cultural bridge-building. She also has insisted the school will not focus on religion, and noted that a multicultural group was involved in planning for it. But critics, including conservative commentator Daniel Pipes, have said it would be difficult to separate Islam from Arab culture.
The plan is to launch the school with a sixth grade and gradually expand it through 12th grade, with one goal being to eventually teach half the classes in Arabic. Students of all backgrounds are welcome to apply.
Although P.S. 282 parent leaders insisted their concerns were space-related, questions arose about whether the ideological controversy surrounding the school could mean a security risk. Some parents also were unhappy with the idea of having older students in the same building as an elementary school.
MIM: In his zeal to condemn what he calls "zealots" Zimmerman has missed the point completely. No one has objected to Khalil Gibran because they teach Arabic -on the contrary, Dr. Daniel Pipes has said it was a great idea. He also explained that Arabic being the language of Islam brought with it a religious dimension which made it's study by non Muslims synonymous with conversion. Zimmerman also gets his facts wrong and writes:
MIM:The issue is not whether she would use the school to propagandise for her views - the facts are that she does use the schools to propagandise her views and will continue to do so at KGIA. Two days after 9/11 Almontaser wrote that the attacks were "a teachable moment":
MIM: In 2005 she told a group of six graders in a public school:
"I don't recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims," ...Those people who did it have stolen my identity as an Arab and have stolen my religion."
MIM: Response to Zimmerman's piece by the director of MIM which was sent to the Daily News editors:
To the Editor:
In his letter "Arabic School critics are the true zealots" [5/9/7] Robert Zimmerman mistakenly claims that the "critics" of the Khalil Gibran school are objecting because of the "Arabic instruction". .http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2007/05/09/2007-05-09_arabic_schools_critics_are_the_true_zeal.html On the contrary, Dr.Daniel Pipes, who objects to the school, wrote that " in principle it is a great idea" while cautioning that " in practice Arabic instruction is heavy with Islamist and Arabist overtones and demands" and that " Muslims commonly assume that a non-Muslim who learns Arabic is en route to conversion to Islam". www.danielpipes.org/blog/731
Zimmerman wrote that "the issue is whether she would use the school to propagandise her views" … adding that "if you think Almontaser is more likely to do that than any other educator, well, then, you're simply prejudiced against Muslim and Arabic-speaking people". In his zeal to deride the school's critics, Zimmerman ignores the facts. Dhabah (Debbie) Almontaser has used her teaching role to manipulate her students at PS 261 into denying Muslim and Arab culpability in the attacks and even wrote about how she exploited 9/11 as "a teachable moment": That afternoon my students and many others had already come to the conclusion that it was "those dumb Arabs" who had attacked... It had been the sort of "teachable moment" no teacher can let pass by.... One student said, "Can we say, ‘We have reason to believe that those who are involved in the attacks are terrorists who may be of Arab descent?'" "What do you all think?" I asked. Their response was, "When you say it that way, you are not blaming all Arabs or saying that this is a proven fact." http://www.forusa.org/fellowship/sep-oct_02/bridgebuilder.html
In 2002 She told a group of sixth graders at Middle School 51 in Park Slope: "I don't recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims," ...Those people who did it have stolen my identity as an Arab and have stolen my religion."http://www.jrn.columbia.edu/studentwork/cns/2002-06-10/584.asp Almontaser's own words prove that her aim is to indoctrinate not educate.
The problem with the Khalil Gibran School is not the "Arabic instruction", but its Islamist agenda.
Arabic school's critics are the true zealots
By JONATHAN ZIMMERMAN
Posted Wednesday, May 9th 2007, 4:00 AM
Hey, stop teaching the language of the enemy! Don't you know there's a war going on?
A few months ago, the city Education Department announced plans for its first public school dedicated to the study of Arabic language and culture. Named after Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese-born poet and philosopher, the new academy was slated to share space with Public School 282, an elementary school in Brooklyn.
But last Friday, Education Department officials announced they would seek a different site for the school. They cited complaints from PS 282 parents, who feared that the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a middle and high school, would overcrowd the building.
No matter where the school is ultimately located, though, it will face attacks from Americans who simply don't think we should have a public school dedicated to Arabic instruction.
"Arabic-language instruction is inevitably laden with Pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage," the scholar Daniel Pipes has written. Others have labeled the Gibran academy "jihadi," "segregationist" and a "public madrassa."
Trouble is, these are precisely the kinds of arguments critics of German-language instruction made after the United States entered World War I in 1917. According to the California State Board of Education, German was "a language that disseminates the ideals of autocracy, brutality and hatred."
"What this nation needs is a hundred million hard hearts toward Germany," one Ohio schools superintendent wrote. "German instruction in the schools tends to soften them." By September 1918, 14 states had passed measures barring or limiting German instruction. In Lewistown, Mont., a crowd stormed the local high school, seized German books and burned them; in Chicago, pupils ripped out pages from their texts.
Of course, we're nowhere close to the book-burning stage today. And it's true - weshould scrutinize any new Arabic program to make sure it's teaching in an evenhanded fashion. There is a war going on, and there arepeople who want to kill us. Enemies of America should not gain a voice in our public school curriculum.
But there's no reason to think that the Gibran academy would turn patriotic Americans into Al Qaeda sympathizers. In fact, to win the war on terrorism, we're going to need many more people who know Arabic, get the difference between Sunnis and Shiites and understand the complex culture of the Middle East.
Critics of the school have charged that its principal-designate, Debbie Almontaser, once said that American foreign policy in the Middle East helped trigger the 9/11 attacks.
So what? The question is not whether you agree with everything Almontaser has said; I certainly don't. The issue is whether she would use the school to propagandize for her views.
And if you think Almontaser is more likely to do that than any other educator, well, then, you're simply prejudiced against Muslim and Arabic-speaking people.
In 1915, almost 25% of American high school students took German; by 1922, less than 1% did. That was a huge loss for American education. Shame on the critics of Arabic instruction for making the same mistake twice.
MIM: Almontaser and KGIA advisory board member Khalid Abdul -Rashid get defensive about lack of Arab and Muslim response to 9/11/. Almontaser's quote is particularly disingenuous since it is obvious she does not see see this [9/11] as "important or compelling" because she denies that Arabs and Muslims were behind 9/11.
MIM: For his part KGIA advisory board member Talib Abdur Rashid aka Imam Al Hajj makes the false claim that Muslims "are being attacked in the streets".
THE thought about the Muslims in the US approaching the commemoration of Sept 11 attacks evokes a dichotomy of feelings. On the one hand, they will be grieving the loss of lives in the attacks and on the other they will express resentment at being profiled as a religious group which is victim of discrimination and subject to incarceration.
As the hijackers who plugged the aeroplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were all Muslims, the backlash — boxing everyone from the Islamic faith as being a suspect — has left on them the onus of proving that they are good Americans.
"The events were probably more traumatizing to us as a faith community than any other single faith community," Talib Abdur Rashid, imam of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, told a newspaper. "On the one hand, we were victimized just like other people," because, he said, "there were a lot of Muslims killed, and on the other hand we are being blamed and vilified in the media and attacked in the streets."
At the same time, he said: "The non-Muslim public in America still wants to know ‘What is Islam?' ‘Who are Muslims?' and ‘What do you all feel about Sept. 11?' These events coming up are going to be yet another opportunity for us to just tell our non-Muslim neighbours how we feel and how we have been affected," added the imam who plans to take part in an interfaith service on Sept 10 at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Imam Abdur Rashid acknowledged that many Muslim leaders were less than forceful in condemning the attacks. "We haven't had a lot to say about it," he said. "Now we see we do have a lot to say about it."
Indeed in the weeks before the anniversary of the attacks the atmosphere has been complicated by statements and actions that many Muslims find offensive. Among them are the North Carolina Legislature's efforts to block the use of public funds for the assigned reading of excerpts from the holy Quran at the University of North Carolina unless other religions receive equal time; and comments about Islam by Franklin Graham, the evangelist and son of Billy Graham, who said the Muslims had not apologized for the attacks sufficiently, that terrorism is part of mainstream Islam, and that the Quran "preaches violence."
"I'm getting the sense more and more; every day we almost have to apologize for our religion," said a lawyer who has many Muslim clients. "It bothers me a great deal. I've lived in this country my entire life, and I consider myself an American," she said. "I don't want to have to prove I am a good Muslim. I care about people. There is no ‘but' to what happened," she said. "But why am I put in this position of justifying myself?"
Other Muslims are concerned that their genuine wish for remembrance will be overlooked.
"My fear is playing into those stereotypes, that Muslims and Arabs are not seeing this as something very important or compelling," Debbie Almontaser, a public school teacher told a newspaper.
But the debate on understanding Islam at the University of North Carolina's Chapel Hill school attended by some 4,000 people, freshmen and the media evoked immense controversy in what is called the bible belt of America. After the US Federal Court cleared the challenge mounted by fundamentalist Christian and Jewish groups who sought to bar the discussion, hundreds of students and faculty members wore typical Muslim dresses to prove their tolerance toward Islam. Students flooded courses on Islam and the Middle East, and the university set about hiring an Islamic studies specialist.
When the Islamic study course was assigned in the early spring, the book, Approaching the Quran: The Early Revelations, by Michael A. Sells, a professor of religion at Haverford College, caused little outrage. The book is a translation of 35 early suras (chapters), of the Quran, accompanied by commentary and a glossary of Islamic terms.
In a report the New York Times said that of 20 freshmen in one discussion group, only five had ever met a Muslim. All said they considered themselves Christian or Jewish, and except for one all were from North Carolina. For this group, the biggest debate seemed to be about whether the book provided a complete picture of Islam. In particular, as critics had noted, it does not touch on the Islamic notion of holy war. "From what I knew from the news, I would have perceived them to be a violent people," said Mary Allison Lee, "so I see one thing on TV, and another in the book." She added, "I'm not sure what to think."
Whether or not the Chapel Hill debate managed to correct the incorrect perceptions about Islam but the effort on the part of the university was commendable and even if it changed opinions of a few, it served its goal.
PRIVATE EYES: One would never know that when you walk on the streets of New York, you are being watched and monitored at every corner. Some of the security cameras are mounted by the New York City police department, some are placed at vantage points by the department stores.
"I'm just an average person who is trying to figure out what is going on in the city I was born in and love," said one native of the city's Brooklyn borough. "I don't think I'm paranoid — I think the people who are paranoid fill the streets with cameras."
J. Brown, a part performance artist, part privacy advocate, a freelance copy editor, who has been giving free walking tours of Manhattan's focussed on such areas as Times Square, Chelsea, the United Nations, Washington Square Park and the Fifth Avenue.
Brown told his tour groups there are roughly 5,000 cameras watching the streets of Manhattan. And those are just the ones he can see. Standing on 16th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues, he points out 16 cameras — some that swivel, some cone-shaped, some encased in a box. Most are easy to spot.
"This block is a kind of an open-air museum of different cameras," he said.