Ignorance wins. Whoo-hoo. We need a better word to describe the phenomenon where ignorant folks get their way at the expense of people who are trying to dispel ignorance.
The Khalil Gibran Academy was supposed to teach sixth through 12th grades and offer classes such as math and science in both Arabic and English. There are already more than 60 existing dual-language city schools that teach in languages including Russian, Spanish and Chinese.
Nevertheless, anti-Arab ignoramuses have protested the school since before it opened. You’d think they’d figure out that America needs people who understand Arabic, because it’s not going away. Around 200 million people speak it right now.
The principle, Debbie Almontaser, found herself in a world of hurt for what is the usual reason, nowadays. Apparently someone with no connection to Ms Almontaser or the school wore a tee shirt, somewhere, that said “Intifadah NYC.” For no obvious reason, Ms Almontaser was asked to explain what the words on the shirt meant. Here’s what she said:
“The word basically means ‘shaking off,’ ” Almontaser was quoted as saying in the Aug. 6 article. “That is the root word if you look it up in Arabic.”
“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.”
If you want to know more about the group behind the Intifada NYC tee shirts, go here: http://awaam.org/index.php (Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media). Here’s their mission statement:
AWAAM provides comprehensive leadership opportunities in community organizing, art and media skills to young women and girls. Our goal is to empower a generation of young women with the community organizing and media skills necessary to act as leaders within their communities, which have endured increasing hardship in recent years. As Arab and Muslim women, we endeavor to position ourselves as producers rather than objects, of the mass media. Our leadership/media programs are the seedbed from which our membership grows to take leadership, developing campaigns and programs in AWAAM and in the community at large.
I suppose it’s possible they’re really terrorists bent on bloody urban warfare, but their web site has me fooled. By the way, don’t search on “Intifada NYC,” because it will take you to a spoof site that will waste your time.
The next day Ms Almontaser had more to say.
The next day, Almontaser issued a statement through the press office: “The word ‘Intifada’ is completely inappropriate as a T-shirt slogan.”
“By minimizing the word’s historical associations, I implied that I condone violence and threats of violence. That view is anathema to me and the very opposite of my life’s work,” the statement continued.
Seems reasonable to me. But unreasonable people demanded her head and Ms Almontaser stepped down.
City officials commended Almontaser’s educational record while suggesting that her comments made her an inappropriate principal. “She’s very smart,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “She’s certainly not a terrorist.” But it was “nice of her” to step down, he said.
I blogged about this school in April, when I first heard about it. The article I referenced had a quote from Daniel Pipes:
Daniel Pipes, a conservative commentator who frequently rails against militant Islam, wrote on his blog: “In principle it is a great idea – the United States needs more Arabic-speakers. In practice, however, Arabic instruction is heavy with Islamist and Arabist overtones and demands.”
This current article has a slightly different quote, and I wonder if it is the same one, just misquoted:
Daniel Pipes, a pro-Israel conservative who created Campus Watch, a Web site dedicated to exposing alleged bias in university Middle East-studies programs, wrote in the New York Sun that the school would cause problems because “learning Arabic in [and] of itself promotes an Islamic outlook.”
This seriously chaps my hide. Let me poke fun at Mr Pipes and his absurb assertion by asking, “Does learning English promotes a Christian outlook?” “No,” says my friend the Metapenguin:
Actually, English turns you into a Wiccan. But when I feel that Beowulfian paganism coming on, I have merely to read some nice phrases like “etcetera” or “ipso facto” and instantly I am again Catholic.