Critics Cost Muslim Educator Her Dream School

We’ve had a couple threads on this topic, but this is the most comprehensive article I have seen.

Debbie Almontaser dreamed of starting a public school like no other in New York City. Children of Arab descent would join students of other ethnicities, learning Arabic together. By graduation, they would be fluent in the language and groomed for the country’s elite colleges. They would be ready, in Ms. Almontaser’s words, to become “ambassadors of peace and hope.”

Things have not gone according to plan. Only one-fifth of the 60 students at the Khalil Gibran International Academy are Arab-American. Since the school opened in Brooklyn last fall, children have been suspended for carrying weapons, repeatedly gotten into fights and taunted an Arabic teacher by calling her a “terrorist,” staff members and students said in interviews.

The academy’s troubles reach well beyond its cramped corridors in Boerum Hill. The school’s creation provoked a controversy so incendiary that Ms. Almontaser stepped down as the founding principal just weeks before classes began last September. Ms. Almontaser, a teacher by training and an activist who had carefully built ties with Christians and Jews, said she was forced to resign by the mayor’s office following a campaign that pitted her against a chorus of critics who claimed she had a militant Islamic agenda.

I am saddened by the divisiveness of our country.

I’m not sure there are any heros OR victims here.

What we have going on here is the perfect storm of the inherent conflicts of the multicultural worldview magnified by the suspicion of terrorism with a little paranoia thrown in on all FOUR sides (secular multis, muslims, American christians and American Jews).

Multiculturalism has historically boiled down to “all cultures are good and should be learned about except Western European culture. That one alone needs to be stripped of any positive religious content before being discussed in schools.” The more progressive multiculturals are now being consistent enough to admit that you can’t ban christianity from schools unless you ban other religions too.

The minimal support for her among the muslim community is interesting. Why did they back out? Were they frustrated that she blocked their desires for religious influence? Does their attitude reveal anything about THEIR intentions for involvement at the school?

In a way, she got a raw deal. In another, she is reaping the fruit of the inherently self-contradictory values of multiculturalism. She just failed to foresee that you CAN’T treat a religiously based culture as an academic subject only. Language you can teach in a school. But a culture based on a religion isn’t separable from the religion. Welcome to OUR world, muslim friends. Join us and vote for vouchers!

I’m curious about the Spanish focused school discussed at the end. Any priests or bishops on the advisory board? Any talk of special food on catholic fast days? Will they be off on catholic holy days? Doubt it. Just the language, not the culture at large.

I heard an interview with this woman on the radio this morning and I agree that this is a really sad thing. Here she was, doing her best to spread understanding on a very divisive and much-villified subject and she is attached out of hand as being pro-terrorist. Since the school year has started (she resigned before it began) there have been some ugly incidents at the school and I wonder if they are a result of the public attacks on this woman. The idea that every Muslim is a terrorist is a real witch hunt that I fear may turn into a truly evil pogrom. :frowning:

I am not sad to see this go. There were a lot of warning flags going up for a long time, which I see as the main reason for her resignation.

First and foremost, there were rumors and stories that the coursework (textbooks, etc.) was to have been provided by the Saudi Government. That would have meant that the texts would have all been religiously oriented; and if they were the same as used in Saudi schools would have included facts such as “Jews are descended from pigs and baboons.”

Well, when such a charge is made, the simplest solution is to prove it wrong by providing a list of the texts being used in the curricula. Perfect! Except for weeks, every attempt to get a list of the texts being used by the school was stonewalled. The last report I read on this was a week before the school was scheduled to open, and there was STILL no comment on what texts were going to be used by the school.

This stonewalling was a consistent theme in this whole enterprise. It made it very difficult to trust that this WASN’T a scheme by Islamic Radicals to use the school to push their views.


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