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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Dhabah Almontaser resigns as head of Khalil Gibran jihad public school after intifada remarks cause outrage

Dhabah Almontaser resigns as head of Khalil Gibran jihad public school after intifada remarks cause outrage

August 10, 2007

MIM: The discovery of T-shirts bearing the slogan -"Intifada NYC" which were on sale at the Arab American Heritage festival were defended by Almontaser as meaning "girls should rise up against oppression". The ensuing calls for her resignation resulted in her doing just that today. Opposition to the opening of the school which will partner with the Arab American Family Support Center who share her agenda will continue.

Arab School Principal Dhabah Almontaser Resigns Under Pressure

By William Mayer and Beila Rabinowitz

BREAKING - August 10, 2007 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - New York City Mayor Bloomberg this morning announced that Dhabah Almontaser, the principal designate for Brooklyn's embattled Arab school, the Khalil Gibran International Academy will resign.

The stunning development was made public by the Mayor on his NYC radio program.

Dhabah Almontaser has been the subject of increasing criticism over the last week because of her association with the selling of "Intifada NYC" tee shirts at a recent Arab street fair. Though she initially denied the terrorist implications of the word "Intifada" she later relented and offered a luke-warm apology.

The Khalil Gibran International Academy has also been roundly criticized as representing an encroachment of shari'a into New York City's public school system.

PipeLineNews.org is awaiting the formal statement of Ms. Almontaser's resignation by the Mayor's Office and NYC Chancellor Joel Klein, though it has independently confirmed the basic facts behind this development.




Friday, August 10, 2007

'Intifada' Principal Resigns

Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser, principal of the soon-to-be-opened Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn, has resigned.

Almontaser was hanging on to her job despite critics' assertions that the Arabic school would be a "jihadi academy," insisting that the school would not be a hotbed of terrorist sympathizers. Then, a few days ago, Almontaser defended a T-shirt, reading "Intifada NYC" on its front, created by an organization to which she has close ties. Intifada, she said, meant "shaking off." While that may be technically correct, the word is universally associated with the Yasser Arafat led campaign of warfare against Israel that began in 2000.

The next day she apologized, but the damage was done. Yesterday Randi Weingarten, head of the teachers' union, ripped Almontaser for her defense of the word. Today. she's out of a job.

Not soon enough for City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (pictured), a leading critic of the school. "We do not yet know the full extent of Ms. Almontaser's involvement in this scandal, but I believe this is the right decision," said Vallone. "No principal in our schools should even give the impression to our impressionable youth that they support violence."


MIM: Details of Almontaser's resignation


August 10, 2007, 2:08 pm

Under Fire, Arabic-Themed School Principal Resigns

By Julie Bosman

principalDebbie Almontaser in April. (Diane Bondareff/Associated Press)

Updated, 3:50 p.m. | The principal of a new Arabic-themed public school in Brooklyn resigned under pressure today, days after she was quoted defending the use of the word "intifada" as a T-shirt slogan.

Debbie Almontaser, a veteran public school teacher, was hired to lead the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a middle school that was scheduled to open this fall. An immediate replacement was not announced, and Ms. Almontaser's abrupt exit left the future of the school in question.

Her remarks were in response to questions from The New York Post over the phrase "Intifada NYC," which was printed on T-shirts sold by Arab Women Active in Art and Media, a Brooklyn-based organization that the Anti-Defamation League asserts is linked to Hamas. The Post reported that Ms. Almontaser is a board member of the Saba Association of American Yemenis, which shares office space with the women's group. Here is The Post's account of Ms. Almontaser's comments:

"The word [intifada] basically means 'shaking off.' That is the root word if you look it up in Arabic," she said.

"I understand it is developing a negative connotation due to the uprising in the Palestinian-Israeli areas. I don't believe the intention is to have any of that kind of [violence] in New York City.

"I think it's pretty much an opportunity for girls to express that they are part of New York City society … and shaking off oppression."

Ms. Almontaser issued an apology the next day, saying that she regretted her remarks. "By minimizing the word's historical associations, I implied that I condone violence and threats of violence," she said in a statement.

But the apology was followed by criticism from Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers. Ms. Weingarten stopped short of calling for Ms. Almontaser's resignation, but called the word intifada "something that ought to be denounced, not explained away."

(Meanwhile, The Post excoriated Ms. Almontaser in editorials on Tuesday and today. The Post also reported today that only six Arabic-speaking students have signed up to attend the school, which is to open next month. The school, which was expected to have about 60 students, was to share space with the Brooklyn High School of the Arts and the Math and Science Exploratory School in Boerum Hill.)

This morning, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said he continued to support the Arabic-themed school, but welcomed Ms. Almontaser's departure. He said in his weekly radio call-in program on WABC-AM:

I know the woman. She's worked for the city in a variety of capacities. She's very smart. She's certainly not a terrorist. She really does care. And she said something a couple days ago -– she got a question, she's not all that media-savvy maybe, and she tried to explain a word rather than just condemn. But I think she felt that she had become the focus of — rather than having the school the focus, so today she submitted her resignation, which is nice of her to do. I appreciate all her service and I think she's right to do so. But now, let's look to the future.

The mayor added: "Having an Arabic dual language school is a really important thing down the road. We need Arabic speakers in this city."

At 2:41 p.m. today, Ms. Weingarten released this statement:

We respect Ms. Almontaser's decision to resign to allow the Khalil Gibran International Academy to go forward with its educational mission. Getting a new school up and running is challenging under the best of circumstances, and the controversy surrounding her was a distraction that kept concerned parents and educators from focusing on the benefits and potential of this dual-language school. Ms. Almontaser has a reputation for being a caring and dedicated educator, and we hope she will continue to work for the benefit of children.

At 3:10 p.m., the Education Department released this statement from Ms. Almontaser:

This morning I tendered my resignation to Chancellor Klein, which he accepted. I became convinced yesterday that this week's headlines were endangering the viability of Khalil Gibran International Academy, even though I apologized. I have spent the last two years of my nearly 15 years with the Department working to create the unique educational opportunities that the school will offer. I will not allow the recent outcry to undermine these possibilities for the children of our city.

Michael M. Grynbaum contributed reporting.


MIM: Dr. Daniel Pipes has posted the pdf and an excerpts from Almontaser's resignation letter to Klein and the DOE:

Aug. 10, 2007 update: Dhabah Almontaser has resigned as principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy. Here are various documents, some of them assembled by Julie Bosman of the New York Times:

Almontaser sent a pugnacious letter of resignation to Klein:

Unfortunately, a small group of highly misguided individuals has launched a relentless attack on me because of my religion. They have used my religion as the pretext to undermine the Academy and have taken my words out of context to distort my record and portray me as something that I am not. They have not succeeded, of course. The Academy will open as scheduled. They confused me for the larger movement in support of equity in education for all New Yorkers and they underestimated the Mayor's commitment.

With your unwavering support in the face of these unprecedented attacks, and the love of my family, they did not bother me. However, their intolerant and hateful tone has come to frighten some of the parents and incoming students. I have grown increasingly concerned that these few outsiders will disrupt the community of learning when the Academy opens its doors on September 4th.

Therefore, I have decided to step aside to give the Academy and its dedicated staff the full opportunity to flourish without these unwarranted attacks.

The small group of fear mongers who used hate and prejudice to try to derail the Academy are on the wrong side of history. New York is bigger than that; America is fairer than that.

Almontaser also released a milder public statement, under Education Department auspices:

This morning I tendered my resignation to Chancellor Klein, which he accepted. I became convinced yesterday that this week's headlines were endangering the viability of Khalil Gibran International Academy, even though I apologized. I have spent the last two years of my nearly 15 years with the Department working to create the unique educational opportunities that the school will offer. I will not allow the recent outcry to undermine these possibilities for the children of our city.




New York vreest djihad-les op Arabisch-talige school

'Multicultureel onderwijs leidt tot 'Theo van Gogh" Frank Kools, New York

Rechtse burgers in New York ageren tegen de vestiging van een Arabisch-Engelse openbare school, uit vrees voor islamitisch extremisme.

Het gemeentebestuur van New York was zich ervan bewust dat bijna zes jaar na de aanslagen van 9/11 de oprichting van de eerste openbare middenschool die in het Arabisch en Engels les geeft, gevoelig kon liggen. Het vernoemde de school naar een christelijke Libanese dichter, om te onderstrepen dat er geen band met de islam was en al helemaal niet met extremisme.

Om de diversiteit verder te benadrukken kreeg de Khalil Gabril-school drie imams, drie rabbijnen en drie dominees in zijn adviesraad. Het gemeentebestuur wees daarnaast de in Jemen geboren Debbie Almontaser als schoolhoofd aan. Die had na '9/11' met joodse groepen een tolerantieproject geleid.

De gemeente dacht ook een goede vestigingplaats gevonden te hebben: de Arabische buurt rond Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn met de beroemde delicatessenzaak Sahadi's, bakkerij Damascus, zijn soennitische en sjiitische moskee, Libanees-katholieke kathedraal en Syrisch-orthodoxe kerk.

Maar Pamela Hall gelooft niet dat de school godsdienstvrij wordt. „De ware krachten achter de school zijn radicale islamorganisaties, die op indoctrinatie uit zijn", zegt ze. Zo gebeurt dat ook in sommige madrassa's, islamitische scholen, in Pakistan. Daarom heeft ze haar actiegroep 'Stop de Madrassa' gedoopt. „De gemeente probeert heel politiek correct te zijn. Die doet niets, uit angst om voor racistisch uitgemaakt te worden."

Ze zegt niet tegen Arabisch taalonderwijs te zijn, maar „de meeste plaatsen waar het onderwezen wordt, voeren hun leerlingen in de praktijk in de richting van de extreme islam, zij het erg subtiel." De bekende neoconservatieve publicist Daniel Pipes, een van haar medestanders, schreef in de pers dat Arabische les „onherroepelijk een pan-Arabische en islamistische lading krijgt".

De verdenkingen van Hall en Pipes over de motieven van de moslimorganisaties, die de school steunen, sloegen niet aan. Toen kwam het momet dat schoolhoofd Almontaser in een interview de tekst 'Intifada NYC' op T-shirts niet veroordeelde. Die T-shirts werden verkocht door een vrouwenorganisatie waarmee zij naar eigen zeggen geen banden had. Intifada betekent in de kern 'zich ontworstelen aan'. Die vrouwen willen zich bevrijden, zei ze.

Voor Hall bevestigde dit dat Khalil Gabril de Intifada, de opstand van de Palestijnen tegen Israël, en aanslagen zoals van elf september, zal goedpraten. Ze is ervan overtuigd dat de school een kweekvijver voor djihad wordt. Na woeste commentaren in de rechtse media stapte Almontaser op. De gemeente benoemde daarop een joods hoofd en beloofde nogmaals de school religievrij te houden – toezeggingen die Hall wegwuift.

Opmerkelijk genoeg springt de Arabische gemeenschap aan Atlantic Avenue niet openlijk in de bres voor de school. Winkeleigenaars hullen zich in stilte, en slechts weinig Arabische ouders hebben hun kinderen opgegeven. „De kinderen mogen daar niet eens bidden", legt een moeder uit.

Het broertje van Sara Said Aikhulaidi gaat op 3 september wel naar de nieuwe middenschool. „Hij is daar als Arabische Amerikaan veilig", zegt Sara Said Aikhulaidi. „Ik werd op mijn school uigescholden en bespuugd." Verreweg de meeste leerlingen zijn kinderen van zwarte bekeerde moslims.

„Veel van de Arabische kinderen leren de taal thuis al. Verder heeft de hetze tegen de school een klimaat van angst binnen de gemeenschap geschapen", verklaart grafisch kunstenaar Jennifer Camper, zelf half Libanees, de geringe interesse.

Op een steunbetoging voor Khalil Ghabril begin deze week waren niet Arabische groepen, maar linkse joodse organisaties sterk vertegenwoordigd.

Verder sprak daar een zwarte baptistendominee. De man werd omringd door zeven bodyguards uit zijn kerk. „Het is weer de angst voor het onbekende en voor de ander", zo typeerde hij het verzet. New York kent al jaren openbare Russische, Japanse, Creoolse en Franse openbare scholen.

Voor Pamela Hall, die verder een organisatie leidt die de Irak-oorlog steunt, bewijst het feit dat er zo weinig Arabisch-sprekenden op de manifestatie waren „dat de gemeenschap niets met de school te maken wil hebben. Zij weten dat de radicalen daar de overhand hebben."

Theo van Gogh en Geert Wilders

Ook de namen van Tweede-Kamerlid Geert Wilders en Theo van Gogh zijn gevallen in de strijd rondom de Arabische openbare school in New York. „Heeft burgemeester Bloomberg dan niets van Nederland geleerd over hoe gevaarlijk het wel niet is om toe te geven aan het multiculturalisme", vraagt columniste Alicia Colon van de rechtse krant The New York Sun zich af. „Hun regering heeft islamitische scholen gecreëerd." Met als direct gevolg, zo schrijft Colon, dat Van Gogh vermoord werd en dat Wilders permanent bewaakt moet worden.

Ze noemt de plannen 'volslagen gekkenwerk'. „Vijf jaar na elf september doen wij onze uiterst best om aardig te zijn voor mensen die sympathie hebben voor individuen die ons proberen te vernietigen."

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