Pamela Hall of Stop the Madrassa Community Coalition on Glenn Beck tonight, Tuesday July 31 – at 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm ET on Headline Prime, CNN
Pamela Hall of Stop the Madrassa Community Coalition on Glenn Beck tonight, Tuesday July 31 – at 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm ET on Headline Prime, CNN
Yes, those t-shirts for young girls say “Intifada NYC.” These were sold at the Arab Fair in Prospect Park on July 8 .
[Correction: The t-shirts were photographed by Pamela Hall at the second Arab Fair in Bay Ridge on July 15. That they were on display and appeared to be for sale is obvious from the photographs.]
Is this the kind of “middle eastern cultural enrichment” that Dhabah Almontaser, principal for Khalil Gibran International Academy, will bring to her students and teachers? Since Chancellor Klein’s office has approved her curricula, we assume he and Mr. Harries endorse these t-shirts. Mayor Bloomberg can purchase some for his next campaign.
The t-shirts read: “Intifada NYC – awaam.org.” Let’s consider what those words mean.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, an intifada is:
Arabic for uprising. Starting in 1987, Palestinians have engaged in an intermittent intifada against Israel on the West Bank and Gaza Strip in their pursuit of a Palestinian state.
So “Intifada NYC” means…what? An uprising in New York City – against whom? or an uprising against Israel, but in New York City? Your guess as good as ours. Here’s what we know – this slogan and logo are this summer’s big publicity campaign for that website that is also listed on the t-shirt: awaam.org .
That awaam.org website can be found here – http://www.awaam.org – for the Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media.
The AWAAM is sponsored by (and apparently housed by) the Yemeni American Association: the AWAAM contact information:
AWAAM: Arab women Active in the Arts and Media
C/o Yemeni American Association
464 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215
Tel: (917) 703-0488
Who is the founder and a board member of the Yemeni American Association? Dhabah Almontaser, principal for KGIA.
Their office is indeed at 464 Third Avenue & 9th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215, where the AWAAM is receiving postal mail.
So here are the dots, connected. On Dhabah Almontaser’s watch, the Yemeni American Association’s Awaam organization created and is still selling t-shirts for young girls that say “Intifada NYC,” in the city that suffered the 9-11 attacks from Islamist terrorists. It makes sense, because she opposes the war on terror – these t-shirts make that all too plain, as did her interview with Amnesty International in January 2002:
“But I have experienced that when you talk to people and explain what is going on, then they are as strongly against the ‘war against terror’ as I. That gives me hope for the future. “
And we may assume that these t-shirts also give Almontaser hope that the war on terror will be blocked, so she can see a future of “Intifada NYC.”
This is the woman Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Klein and Garth Harries consider a model principal, for others to emulate. These are the views they espouse as multicultural enrichment of the curricula.
“Intifada NYC” – not just a slogan, an educational initiative from the Department of Education.
If she approved these t-shirts, she is not just an Islamist in her views, she is advocating an Intifada in New York City. Your choice what that actually means. She should be fired, and Chancellor Klein should shut down the KGIA project.
If these t-shirts were designed, approved, manufactured, received, stored, brought to the Arab Fair and sold by an organization associated with the Yemeni American Association, and she knew nothing of the matter (or did not disavow it if she did), then she is negligent in the extreme and should be fired, and Chancellor Klein should shut down the KGIA project.
No third choice exists .
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle covered the response to Stop The Madrassa’s demands for curricula that came from Chancellor Klein’s office yesterday. Klein’s spokesperson blatantly evaded all the key questions about the curricula that are at the heart of the concerns about this school. We’ll analyze why below, but first an excerpt or two from the Eagle article:
Community Group Opposing Arabic-Themed School Files for Information
by Mary Frost (email@example.com), published online 07-30-2007
Khalil Gibran International Academy
In Brooklyn Still Proves Controversial
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BOERUM HILL – Brooklyn’s planned Khalil Gibran International Academy, named for the peace-loving Lebanese-American poet and philosopher, is designed to build bridges between cultures and promote greater understanding. But the very idea of a school with an Arab theme has triggered questions and even hostility both online and in print, as detailed in past issues of the Brooklyn Eagle.
Now, a group calling itself the Stop the Madrassa Community Coalition has sent a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request letter to Governor Eliot Spitzer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York State Board of Regents, Chancellor Joel Klein and other city and state officials.
The article quotes spokesperson Melody Meyer on the City’s response:
Melody Meyer, spokesperson for the New York City Department of Education, addressed some of the issues brought up by the group yesterday.
“The school has chosen from curricula that has been approved and designated for New York City public schools,” she told the Eagle. “For math, they’ve ordered Impact Math; for science, they’ve chosen Option C, published by Harcourt. In humanities, they’re using the Social Studies Module approved for the 6th grade. They’re also using the Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Workshops, and they’ve ordered the Arabic Language Library from Scholastic, which translates English children’s books into Arabic.”
In a nutshell, “They’re using the same curriculum packages as other New York City public schools,” Meyer said.
As to the teacher certification question, Meyer said that Principal Debbie Almontaser has been “hiring teachers through the summer. She’s hired two Arab-Americans, plus Irish, Greek, Jewish and West Indian teachers – certainly a diverse group.”
All of the teachers are certified, Meyer said. While New York State “doesn’t offer certificates in Arab-language instruction, all of the teachers are certified including the Arab-language teachers – one in math, the other in humanities.”
As to the questions raised for months about the City’s choice of a religious advisory board for a public school, complete with three imams (apparently there were no secular Muslims available…) and no educators or specialists in teaching Arabic, Ms. Meyer rapidly changed the subject, rather than answering the question or taking responsibility for her office’s complete violation of principles of separation of church (mosque) and state:
DOE’s Meyer responded to this by saying, “The advisory board, in this case, is not affecting the curriculum or instruction. Now that she knows where the school will be sited, the principal has reached out to political and other kinds of community leaders,” such as the local councilman. Principal Almontaser chose many religious leaders for the school’s advisory board initially “because she has experience in building cross-cultural bridges through religious leaders,” said Meyer. “They can speak to their community members and explain how the school benefits the community.”
Let’s analyze just what Ms. Meyer tries to explain, step by step, evasion by evasion. We’ll leave the curriculum for last, because it is the most blatant evasion and act of disinformation to the public.
1. Ms. Meyer explains about the advisory board: “The advisory board, in this case, is not affecting the curriculum or instruction.” So we assume that in other cases – that is, any school other than KGIA – a school advisory board would affect the curriculum or instruction, but not “in this case.” Why is this case unique? Because this advisory board is both 1) religious (violating the principle of separation of church/mosque and state) and 2) its members are Islamist in their political ideologies (extremist in their politics and conviction of the superiority of Islamic sharia law over other religions, legal systems and political systems). Don’t just take it on our assertion – review the evidence of the statements of the members of the board and their religious professions. So why should the Department of Education suddenly decide – yesterday – that after all these months, this advisory board “is not affecting the curriculum or instruction”? Because Chancellor Klein has publicly stated:
“If any school became a religious school, as some people say Khalil Gibran would be, or it became a national school, in the sense that it really wasn’t an American public school, I would shut it down.”
Well, given that advisory board, Klein should keep his word and shut it down. Rather than keep his word, he sent out Ms. Meyer to make his excuses that this advisory board – “in this case” – won’t affect curriculum.
2. Ms. Meyer explains about political leaders: About principal Almontaser, she reassures us that “Now that she knows where the school will be sited, the principal has reached out to political and other kinds of community leaders.” Well, she won’t have to reach out very far, because the political and community leaders in the new site (345 Dean Street) are the same as those for the old site (180 6th Avenue) – exactly 9/10 of a mile apart, in the same zip code in Brooklyn (11217). Ms. Meyer seems to think that it was impossible to reach out to political and community leaders before, hence the packing of that advisory board with religious figures. Except that kind of community outreach to political and community leaders is exactly what principal Almontaser’s publicity features as her specialty, and she successfully involved them in the planning committee for the school way back in March 2007:
The committee that designed the school included the principal, Debbie Almontaser, a former teacher, and several nonprofit groups, including Lutheran Medical Center, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Salaam Club of New York, and the Arab American Family Support Center, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that will act as the main support organization. The organization’s top funders include the U.S. government, the American Jewish World Service, and the Christian Children’s Fund.
So no, Ms. Meyer, the religious, imam-packed advisory board was not a result of Almontaser’s not knowing the final site of the school, since she was quite capable of finding political and community leaders months before.
3. Ms. Meyer explains the benefits: We sense a certain exhaustion in Ms. Meyer’s statement: “Principal Almontaser chose many religious leaders for the school’s advisory board initially “because she has experience in building cross-cultural bridges through religious leaders,” said Meyer. “They can speak to their community members and explain how the school benefits the community.” Clearly Ms. Meyer is having problems explaining how the school benefits the community, and hopes that someone somewhere will do that now embarrassing and truly impossible job (and yes, see that we support the benefits of teaching Arabic far more widely than this single school). Why can only religious leaders explain the benefits of this public school to Brooklyn? Is Brooklyn suddenly overcome with such a fear of advice from secular experts, teachers or journalists – all of whom have published extensively on their concerns – that Brooklyn must harken only to the wise words of an imam from Harlem (Imam Talib Abdul-Rashid), an imam from New York University (Imam Khalid Latif) and an imam from Queens (Imam Shamsi Ali)? We think Brooklyn is pretty smart and can figure out the benefits of learning Arabic, and the costs of having Islamists establish a front in the public school system, and the differences between the two.
4. Ms. Meyer explains the curriculum: The curriculum package outlined above is indeed the “same curriculum packages as other New York City public schools.” But school officials – particularly Mr. Klein, principal Almontaser and Office of New Schools Chief Executive Garth Harries – have all made a special effort to describe how the Khalil Gibran International Academy goes way beyond that curriculum package. As Mr. Harries states in a May 7, 2007 letter:
“The program integrates intensive Arabic language instruction and the study of Middle Eastern history and historical figures to enliven learning across all subject areas…KGIA may apply its theme by, for example, studying the ancient Arab approach to astronomy in science classes or studying the history of Arab instruments or tapestries in music and art classes…”
We have two examples of curricula, associated with KGIA sponsors, to tell us exactly how the program will “enliven” learning with Middle Eastern history and historical figures.
KGIA “Enlivened” Curricula Example #1: The primary sponsor of KGIA is the Arab American Family Support Center. In fact, ever since the KGIA website (http://www.kgiany.org) was taken down , the AAFSC acts as information central for KGIA. The single curricula link at AAFSC’s website is to the radical Council on Islamic Education (CIE). CIE teachers’ guides refer to Muhammed as a Prophet and the Quran as revelation. In an interview with The Message Magazine in May 2004, CIE stated:
“There are more full-time Muslim schools being established all the time. This is a positive development, especially if Muslims recognize that to be an “Islamic” school it takes more than adding some deeniyat and Qur’an studies to the curriculum. The ‘Islamic nature’ of the institution should become evident in all areas of study, but not simply through a naive effort to simply ‘Islamize’ the curriculum.”
In a typical passage from a lesson on the Crusades, CIE describes Muslim leader Salah Al Din:
“The qualities for which he is praised revolve around Muslim ideals of justice, piety and good conduct rather than military courage or prowess alone. This contrasts with the greater emphasis placed upon military prowess by the Crusaders with regard to their rulers.”
This isn’t history, it is Islamist propaganda.
KGIA “Enlivened” Curricula Example #2:
Principal Dhabah (or “Debbie”) Almontaser was part of the curriculum design team that created “(Re)Embracing Diversity in NYC Public Schools – Educational Outreach for Muslim Sensitivity.” On February 14, 2002, Columbia University’s Muslim Communities in New York City Project conducted training for over one hundred New York City high school teachers to use “(Re)Embracing etc.” to address “the problem of intolerance towards Arab-, South Asian- and Muslim-Americans in the wake of the tragic events of 9/11.” Components of this curriculum – still available for all public schools for download – included:
Handout 3 (from the Council on Islamic Education – listed at the bottom of the page): the pillars of Islam
Handout 5 (from the Council on Islamic Education): “At their worst, such incorrect adjectival constructions produce oxymorons such as ‘Islamic terrorists’ and ‘Islamic militants’ and ‘radical Islam’ or ‘Islamic Extremist groups’ frequently used uncritically…”
Handout 6 (from the Council on Islamic Education): on Divine Scriptures
Handout 9 (from the Council on Islamic Education): “What is Jihad?” “Systematic, forced conversion to Islam is a historical myth. Muslims defeated hostile forces (Byzantines and Persians for example) and gained control of new lands where Islamic rule was established, yet non-Muslim inhabitants were not forced to become Muslims….For various reasons, and in the course of time, many non-Muslims did find the message of Islam appealing, and converted to Islam, resulting ultimately in the transformation of society at all levels.”
Handout 14 (from the Islamic Affairs Department, Embassy of Saudi Arabia): “Islam – A Global Civilization” –
The Farewell Address of Muhammed (Handout 15)
So, let’s review. We have the word of the Chief Executive of New Schools Garth Harries that the KGIA curriculum will include “the study of Middle Eastern history and historical figures,” and we know that the KGIA sponsoring organization has a single link to the Council on Islamic Education, and we know that the KGIA principal Almontaser created a public school curriculum that borrowed extensively from Council on Islamic Education materials, as well as materials from the Saudi Embassy, in which public school teachers were trained.
As Ms. Meyer stated yesterday:
“The school has chosen from curricula that has been approved and designated for New York City public schools.” Given Mr. Harries statements and the curricula that are linked or created by KGIA sponsoring groups or the principal herself, Ms. Meyer’s “approved curricula” seem to be provided by the Council on Islamic Education, the Saudi Embassy, and others.
Chancellor Klein, this disinformation has been extended not only to the parents, children and citizens of the community but to the press and DOE city officials themselves.
Keep your promise. Shut down the Khalil Gibran school.
PipelineNews new video series on KGIA – here’s the first installment.
A public school charter school for teaching Hebrew and regular subjects will start in September in Florida. Let’s compare the Ben Gamla school in Broward county, Florida with the Khalil Gibran International Academy. But first, a couple words on teaching language.
Some people argue that any language associated with a single religion (Latin, Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, Russian, Sanskrit etc.) should not be taught in public school under any circumstances because it is hard to separate the language from the underlying religious tradition. Given world history, this would eliminate a lot of language courses, and freshmen in college would be much happier.
But we don’t agree. As parents and teachers, we want more language training in strategic languages especially, taught without propaganda or proselytizing. Let’s not let language training be hijacked by radical groups who make no secret of their Islamist and anti-American agenda, even if they are keeping secret the curricula of the Khalil Gibran International Academy.
Now, let’s see how a county does this better, namely Broward County in Florida. New York City and Board of Education authorities, take notes – it will be on the final.
The Ben Gamla Charter School in Broward County is a Charter School within the Florida public school system, so it is roughly comparable to Khalil Gibran International Academy. Reasonable people can disagree with having a school dedicated primarily to teaching Hebrew – or Arabic – using public monies, but the management of the introduction of this school has been far more responsive to public concerns and public scrutiny. Here are some lessons for New York from the Florida example:
Let the people know what you’re going to teach – no, not in evasive generalities. In specifics: Ben Gamla submitted a complete curricula for approval months ago – the NETA curriculum. It’s public, it was reviewed and the Board staff decided the language was associated with religious symbolism. No problem. They came back with another curriculum, the Hayesod curriculum. It had already been approved by the state and was being used Hollywood Hills High School. Everyone knows what they’ll be teaching at Ben Gamla next year.
Not in New York: One month is left before school starts and the NYC authorities still are stonewalling on revealing any curricula information to the public.
Don’t just hope that the school won’t teach religion or hardcore Islamist propaganda, check and see – no, not once a year at the open house. Make a real plan to do some serious monitoring. In Florida, they not only have a monitoring plan, according to Susan Onori, the coordinator for charter schools, they already have assembled the monitoring team.
Not in New York: Khalil Gibran and the NYC authorities, one month before opening, have as yet to discuss monitoring. Plan? Team? Keep moving, nothing to see here…
Listen to the community organizations demanding separation of church and state, not the ones with representatives who are on boards of Sharia law and running their own private urban madrassas. In Florida, Eric Stillman, President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Broward County, urged the Board to carefully monitor the school for church and state violations.
Not in New York: In the Khalil Gibran school, local Islamist organizations – like the Muslim Consultative Network, which includes the Majlis Ash Shura, the largest network of local imams and Shariah Law, and KGIA principal Almontaser – are pressuring the school board to just keep stonewalling public FOIL requests for information.
New York authorities, it’s almost August. Time for a Florida vacation to Broward County for an educational field trip.
Or did you have something to hide?
We’ll be profiling the members of the KGIA Advisory board this week, so come back daily.
You can read about the three Imams on the Advisory board here (Klein and Bloomberg couldn’t find any secular Muslims in New York City apparently for the board, so it was all Imams, all the time for the KGIA advisors).
Today’s KGIA Advisory Board Profile: Reverend Khader El-Yateem.
Yateem is the only Christian Arab on the advisory Board, a Palestinian born in the West Bank, and a reverend with the Salam Arabic Church. He is on the Honorary board of the Arab American Justice project, where his biography states:
Reverend Khader El-Yateem was born in the West Bank town of Beit Jala in 1968. With a Diploma in Theology from the Bethlehem Bible College, he studied at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt, and then worked for a year at the Bethlehem Bible College and the Reformation Lutheran Church in Beit Jala. Reverend Khader was later invited to the United States by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to work as a Mission Developer in the Arab community. He obtained his Master of Divinity from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and was asked by the Division for Outreach to start the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, New York, the first Arabic Lutheran Church in North America. Reverend El-Yateem serves on many Boards in the US and aboard, including the Board of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Shortly after 9/11 he was featured in a PBS documentary, Caught in the Cross Fire. Arab Americans in War Time. Reverend El-Yateem also works tirelessly for justice and peace on behalf of the Palestinian people.
His personal narrative, as publicized by that PBS documentary, is a one-sided presentation of Middle East history, and it provokes the question of whether this will be the way the “Arabic culture” of KGIA curricula will be taught in history lessons:
When he was 20 years old, Israeli soldiers surrounded the house where he lived with his parents and took him to prison despite the fact that he was never accused nor charged with any crimes. He was detained, interrogated and tortured several times that year. In 1989, after being held captive for 55 days, Khader spent months recuperating from his wounds.
In 1992, Khader met Grace, an Arab American woman, at the beach of the Dead Sea. He left Israel for the United States that year and they married in December 1992. A year later, his daughter Rowan was born.
Khader finished his theological studies in 1996, earning his Master’s degree in Divinity and was ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. His second daughter, Janette, was born several months later. In 1998, the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church was founded. His son Naim was born in 1999. Since 9/11, Khader’s church has become a haven for Brooklyn Arabs, Christian and Muslim alike. They turn to him for help after losing relatives at the World Trade Center, after being harassed, after losing their jobs … And all the while, the minister is carrying his own burden. Each day he phones to Palestine and turns on the TV to talk to his family as he watches Israeli forces bombard their-that is, his- village. To complicate matters, his parents, who have been visiting, want to return home to Beit Jala, which is occupied by Israel. Khader thinks it’s unsafe for them to go back, and realizes that the financial burden will be greater on him if they return home.
“My sister, her house was destroyed during the Israeli shelling. She lives in their house. If they go home she has to move out and go find somewhere she can live. I’m worrying about my four sisters and my brother and my grandmother and those of the extended family. So if they go there I have to worry about them and that means I have to send more money to support everybody to live.”
At least we know the kind of “Arabic” point of view the Reverend Yateem will be advising for curricula at KGIA. Since no actual curricula has been revealed in spite of three FOIL requests, the power of the advisory board to influence the school curricula is important in assessing the real agenda behind this school.
We ask once again: why is the public school KGIA advisory board, created by Klein, Bloomberg and Almontaser, made up of all religious clerics, no professional educators, and no certified teachers of Arabic?
Tomorrow’s Profile (and it’s highly revealing…) – Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, Abyssinian Baptist Church
The Advisory Council of Khalil Gibran International Academy
Rev. Dr. Daniel Meeter, Old First Reformed Church
Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, Abyssinian Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Charles H. Straut Jr., The Riverside Church
Rev. Khader N. El-Yateem, Salem Arabic Lutheran Church
Rabbi Andy Backman, Congregation Beth Elohim
Rabbi Melissa Weintraub, Rabbis for Human Rights
Rabbi Micah Kelber, The Bay Ridge Jewish Center
Lisel Burns, Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture
Imam Talib Abdul-Rashid, Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, Harlem
Imam Shamsi Ali, 96th St. Mosque, Manhattan
Imam Khalid Latif, Chaplain, NYPD
UPDATE: July 27: Listen to the recorded audio interview with Sara from Stop the Madrassa, Colmes and Ibish – h/t dkshideler
Sara will be on Alan Colmes’ radio show around 10-10:30 tonight -EST– just Sara, Colmes and Ibish from last night. You can hear it online at http://www.foxnews.com/radio/alancolmes/index.html
The Call-in number: 1-877-367-2526.This school opens in September!
These are only some of the legitimate questions and concerns that NYC parents and taxpayers haveregarding KGIA. Why has the New York City Department of Education not offered Arabic as a language block throughout the NY Public School system? Our coalition acknowledges the need for more Arabic speakers, but why create a whole school to teach one language? Why encourage the isolation and nonassimilation of Arabic speaking students by creating a school within a school, with a focus on an Arabic viewpoint for teaching world history? Principal Dhabah Almontaser has been quoted as saying the Arabic classes will not even be offered during school hours and will be taught from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m, so the Islamic culture and history components will be the daily emphasis.
The Stop the Madrassa Community Coalition remains at the center of this fight for integrity in our public schools.