New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/29/education/29education.html
It’s good to see there are nearly sixty sets of parents in New York who are happy to send their kids to Khalil Gibran academy to learn Arabic. We certainly need more Arabic speakers.
Apparently there’s more to the story of why former principal Debbie Almontaser stepped down: she was hounded by ignorant bigots from the day the intention to create the academy was announced.
If you read the NYTimes article, you’ll find some really amazingly nasty things idiots had to say, but I don’t want to post them here.
For anyone who bothered to look for it, Ms. Almontaser left a clear, public record of interfaith activism and outreach across the boundaries of race, ethnicity and religion. Her efforts, especially after the Sept. 11 attacks, earned her honors, grants and fellowships. She has collaborated so often with Jewish organizations that an Arab-American newspaper, Aramica, castigated her earlier this summer for being too close to a “Zionist organization,” meaning the Anti-Defamation League.
Ms. Almontaser has twice been profiled on Voice of America as an accomplished Muslim American. Her son, Yousif, spent several months on rescue efforts at ground zero as a member of the Army National Guard. Four of her nephews and cousins have served in the United States military in Iraq.
None of these details were exactly hidden under a rock. But her critics ignored them. In syndicated columns by Daniel Pipes, in articles and editorials in The New York Post and The New York Sun, on such Web sites as PipeLineNews and Militant Islam Monitor, both concerned with radical Islam, the Gibran school was repeatedly characterized as a “madrassa,” an Arabic term plainly meant to evoke images of indoctrination into terrorism and holy war.
There’s that word madrassa. I don’t know where the extra ‘s’ came from, but people keep wanting to add it in there. Probably from the same instinct that makes people pronounce Ahmad a-MODD.
Madrasa is the Arabic word for school. Elementary school, junior high school, high school, vocational school, private school, boarding school–the word madrasa is always in there. It does not mean special freaky school for teaching people to be religious extremists.
Here are some kind words about Debbie Almontaser from people who actually know her (also from the NYTimes article):
“There’s zero correspondence between the caricature and the actual person,” said Rabbi Andy Bachman of Beth Elohim, a Reform Jewish congregation in Park Slope, who was on the Gibran school’s advisory board. “The words that were used to describe her, the fears that were evoked, are absolutely unrelated to her and her life’s work. Not in any way, shape or form.”
Another rabbi who has worked with Ms. Almontaser on interfaith efforts, Michael Feinberg of the Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition, said: “It’s all about insinuation and innuendo and this formula of Arab equals Muslim equals terrorist. The viciousness and the vileness of this case surpass anything I’ve seen before.”