Stop the Madrassa by Frank Gaffney - How the Khalil Gibran School will promote radicalism
September 4, 2007
Article published Aug 14, 2007
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. - The story of the public school in Brooklyn that is poised to become a taxpayer-underwritten, Islamist recruitment and indoctrination center took a dramatic turn last week. The principal-designate of the so-called Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA), Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser, was forced to resign after she defended a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Intifada NYC" — making clear her radical ideology and proclivity for dissembling.
The question is no longer whether Ms. Almontaser was, as her critics in a group of parents, teachers and concerned citizens called the Stop the Madrassa Community Coalition have insisted, determined to use the KGIA to advance her theo-political agenda. Her claim that "intifada" actually meant nothing more than a "shaking off" and that its use in connection with New York City was unobjectionable was so preposterous — not to say alarming — that her supporters, notably Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Public Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, found it impossible to ignore the outcry.
Even before Ms. Almontaser was obliged to resign, however, she ran into problems with respect to another part of her agenda: Last week, the city's Department of Education felt constrained to reject her effort to make the school's kitchen "halal," the Muslim equivalent of kosher.
Unfortunately, at this writing, it appears that the rest of Dhabah Almontaser's plan for the Khalil Gibran International Academy remains intact. If the school opens as scheduled in September, it will, as a practical matter, have to operate on the basis of her curriculum, with the teachers she has hired and utilizing her selections of Arabic-language textbooks.
Presumably, the same would be true of her plan reported in the New York Post last week to have "retired Arabic-speaking community members converse with the students during lunch periods" — although we are being assured that such interlocutors will be subjected to "background checks" before being given access to KGIA's students.
The inadvisability of allowing the Almontaser influence to persist after her departure is made clear in an executive summary of her program, the only document about KGIA provided to date in response to a Freedom of Information Law request submitted by a member of the Stop the Madrassa Coalition, John Matthies of the Middle East Forum's Islamist Watch. A scathing critique of this summary is provided by two other coalition members, William Mayer and Beila Rabinowitz, who note on their blog, PipeLineNews.com (http://www.pipelinenews.org/index.cfm?page=kgiaexec8607%2Ehtm): "[It] is actually a manual for creating an Islamist vocational school, one in which every activity is planned around creating social activists with an Arab supremacist mindset, in the mold of KGIA's activist/principal Dhabah Almontaser."
Mr. Mayer and Ms. Rabinowitz observe that "nearly every party and organization involved with KGIA does not just represent Arab Muslims, but hard core Islamists with a definite agenda." For example, according to Ms. Almontaser's executive summary, an organization known as the Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) "will have a constant presence on site" providing a "site coordinator" as well as staff members who will: serve as "student advisers and Arabic language teachers," offer "social services," and develop the "extended-day Arabic language and cultural arts programs."
If that were not enough, the AAFSC's director, Lena Al Husseini, also continues to serve on the KGIA planning committee. Ms. Al Husseini and her organization are closely tied to other Islamist groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and the Muslim Students Association (MSA). CAIR and ISNA were recently designated as unindicted co-conspirators in a terrorism-financing case.
Like its sister organizations, the AAFSC promotes the image of Arab-Americans and Muslims as victims. In the words of Ms. Al Husseini's predecessor at AAFSC, Emira Habiby Browne: "There's a sense of being targeted, profiled and harassed. There's fear that no matter what you do, you are suspected as a potential terrorist. No one feels secure — even in their own homes." Should taxpayers be asked to underwrite the exposure of public school students to a pedagogy rooted in this sort of separatism, victimization and grievance?
The good news is that Ms. Almontaser's "Intifada NYC" meltdown has prompted influential figures in the New York educational community to reassess their support for the Khalil Gibran International Academy. For instance, long-time City University of New York's Board of Trustees member Jeffrey Weisenfeld said in an interview with PipeLineNews last week: "I think we have to get really serious about demanding that people say what they mean and mean what they say ... especially in this era, this kind of duplicity has gone on for too long. ... [Ms. Almontaser] is very smooth ... there are a lot of these smoothies, they are all very good at this ... we are just being sold a bill of goods." He concluded, "I will fight [KGIA] in every way that I can ... the concept is bad, it's dangerous. ... It's a national security concern." Mr. Weisenfeld knows whereof he speaks; he served for four years in the FBI's foreign counterintelligence division.
In light of such concerns about the departed principal's agenda, about those who will be responsible for pursuing it in her absence and about the national precedent being created, it is only reasonable to insist that the opening of this school be deferred. To do otherwise would be to defile, not burnish, the memory of Khalil Gibran — a Lebanese Christian who practiced the traditions of peace and tolerance as well as writing evocatively about them.
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy, which is a member of the Stop the Madrassa Community Coalition. http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20070814/COMMENTARY03/108140002/1012/COMMENTARY
MIM: CAIR and the KGIA's Islamist supporters:
CAIR-NY Urges Support for Arabic Language School(NEW YORK, NY, 8/19/07) – The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) today called upon Muslim New Yorkers and other people of conscience to participate in a peaceful demonstration in support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA), an Arabic language school scheduled to open this fall in Brooklyn.
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
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