Almontaser: Ties to dubious groups
WHO NEEDS VIGILANCE?
THE NY TIMES & ‘INTIFADA HIGH’
By ADAM BRODSKY
May 2, 2008 — SOMEONE should tell The New York Times what happened on 9/11 – it ap parently has no clue. If it did, it never would’ve run that 4,500-word, front-page tearjerker Monday on Brooklyn’s Khalil Gibran International Academy and its ex-principal, Debbie Almontaser.
What happened back then (as everyone but, it seems, the Times knows) is that Arab Islamists, disguised as harmless civilians, murdered 3,000 people and leveled the World Trade Center. In so doing, they awoke America to their war, which relies heavily on deception and targets unsuspecting, open-minded, tolerant Westerners. Gullible fools, that is.
Since then, Americans got wise. One response to the sneak attack: vigilance. If you see something, say something. Be careful whom you trust.
The Times sees no need for vigilance, as if 9/11 never happened. But caution underlies resistance to the city’s first Arab-themed public school.
No, no one feared the school would train kid bombers. But would kids come away less committed to US values and traditions than their peers? How would the school present 9/11, Islam, Israel, the Mideast – America?
Surely, if Americans had flattened the Riyadh Tower (Saudi Arabia’s tallest building), the idea of opening a public school in the Kingdom to promote US-Arab understanding would occur to no one. No wonder jaws dropped over plans for a taxpayer-funded, Arabic-themed school in the city, in response to attacks here by Arab terrorists.
Yes, in theory, such a school can be useful. More Americans need to speak Arabic – not just to bridge cultural gaps, but to spy on the enemy and expose his plots. We need to know how Islamists think and act – not to understand their “grievances,” but to help predict and foil their next attack.
When the consequences are great, as when creating a school, officials must act with an over-abundance of prudence. They must have unassailable faith in school leaders.
Once a school opens, it’s hard to reverse decisions. Almontaser’s lawsuit against Mayor Mike and the city – she cites her First Amendment rights in claiming she was wrongly forced to quit – shows that.
Folks can debate if Almontaser, a Yemeni-American, is a well-meaning Muslim moderate railroaded out of her dream to create “ambassadors of peace and hope” – as she, and the Times, insist.
They can weigh the paper’s suggestion that she was fired in large part because of a Post story, which a judge said “misleadingly” reported her comments on the term “intifada.”
Or they may decide that anti-Islamist experts like Daniel Pipes, who labeled her an “extremist,” had her pegged better. And that the Gibran school really is “the kind of radicalizing effort it was said to be,” as Stephen Schwartz put it.
That debate might answer questions like: Why did Almontaser feel compelled to defend teen girls whose group sported t-shirts with the incendiary words “Intifada NYC”? What’s with her ties to groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land terror-funding case with links to Hamas?
Certainly, there was enough to raise real concerns, in an era of necessarily heightened distrust. And that should have been sufficient to disqualify her, if not to kill the school entirely – however qualified and well-meaning she may be.
As they respond to terror with vigilance, Americans will no doubt sometimes go overboard. But you can be sure mistakes will be fewer here than they’d be anywhere else.
Meanwhile, too much caution is surely better than too little.