Acceding to a movement led by members of its Arabic and Muslim communities, New York City's educational establishment has proposed that the Khalil Gibran International Academy be established to address the perceived special needs of Arab and Muslim students.
Though the institution is not slated to open until September, its controversial nature has already produced a strong and negative public reaction.
Upon examination we believe that the effect of establishing an institution designed to serve the narrow interests of a particularly vocal group of activists would have distinctly the opposite effect from that intended.
One of America's founding themes is expressed by the phrase "E pluribus unum" which translates as - out of many, one. It was meant to describe a single nation coming together from the thirteen original colonies merging into a single cultural entity. .
Institutions like the KGIA however run counter to such ideas because they tend to instill a sense of separateness.
They fracture society rather than bring it together.
New York schools have recently started using an instruction guide, Educational Outreach for Muslim Sensitivity prepared by Columbia University's Middle East Institute, headed by Rashid Khalidi.
Module one, lesson one of this manual is titled "E pluribus unum, from many, one" invoking our above noted reference. This is done however with an apparently unperceived sense of the absurd, setting forth the argument that an institution designed to increase inter-cultural divisions will somehow heal societal rifts.
The guide's preamble speaks for itself:
"The national tragedy of September 11th produced unimaginable levels of grief and suffering. No one has been spared, for the disaster also unleashed a widespread backlash against Muslims and people of Arab or South Asian descent in the United States. Although press coverage of this problem has diminished since the onset of the War on Terrorism, indiscriminate acts of hate against members of these groups continue to surface, including harassment, threats of violence, physical attacks against persons and property, and at least five deaths under investigation as hate crimes. If it's happening in the streets, then what about public schools?"
The Khalil Gibran International Academy's designated principal, Dhabah Almontaser had a prominent role in designing this curriculum and has been a featured "In Service Day Trainer" to effect the program's implementation.
The guide is designed to deal with what its authors contend is a systemic pattern of racial/ethnic/religious discrimination being carried out against Muslims and Arabs, particularly in the wake of 9/11.
The protagonists of this political ideology are one and the same with those who are lobbying for KGIA. They are members of an entrenched Arabist and pro-Islamist front who have constructed a business model based upon addressing the exaggerated claims of discrimination against Arab/Muslim Americans.
Columbia University has been a hotbed of this brand of Islamist ferment, brought to public view by the presence of the late Professor Edward Said. Said, was an anti-Israel, pro-radical Palestinian polemicist who felt that the United States was a destructive imperial power.
The current director of Columbia's Middle East Institute [and Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies] is Rashid Khalidi [Khalidi is also a trustee of the pro-Hamas Al-Quds University]. His views largely mirror those of Said. Professor Khalidi is the author of such works as "Resurrecting Empire" which argues that Western "tyranny" is responsible for the truncated development of Arabic democracies. Yet he rails against Israel, claiming that "Palestine has been under occupation since 1948," thus denying the legitimacy of the Middle East's only truly functional democracy.
In 2005 Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York Department of Education barred Professor Rashid Khalidi from working on the city's teacher development workshops, "Considering his past statements, Rashid Khalidi should not have been included in a program that provided professional development for [Department of Education] teachers and he won't be participating in the future."
As the New York Sun stated at the time, Khalidi's "professorship is named in memory of Edward Said, a divisive scholar, and is paid for in part with a donation from the United Arab Emirates," the article also claimed that Khalidi described Israel as a "racist" state which operated an "apartheid system."
Khalidi and Almontaser's brand of radical anti-Western politics are at the root of the KGIA proposal.
Almontaser has conducted da'wa based Muslim outreach in New York schools for many years and her statements reflect a Muslim-centric viewpoint of victimization and resentment which will likely become the core ethic of the Khalil Gibran school.
Almontaser is a 9/11 denier, speaking to a group of sixth graders in Brooklyn's PS 51 Almontaser stated, "I don't recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims."
In an interview with National Public Radio on July 13, 2006 she likened the American response to 9/11 to that of totalitarian excess:
"right here in this community...we stated to see people literally disappearing....the police came and took them in the middle of the night and we were like what is going on..."
Almontaser has even decried the prosecution and conviction of Shahawar Matin Siraj in a plot to bomb the 34th Street Subway station in New York as reeking of "FBI tactics."
Only in a twisted, insular world would preventing a crime that could have killed hundreds be viewed as "polarizing."
At a 2003 event billed as a "Grand Display of Muslim Unity" held at Madison Square Garden and sponsored by the Islamic Internet University, KGIA's principal designee, Dhabah Almontaser was honored. She was one of the 75 attendees who were allotted a place on the stage which she shared with a "who's who" of radical Islamists.
"Sr. Ayesha Mustafa along with Sr. Ayesha Al-Adawiyah, President of Women in Islam, and Sr. Debbie Almontaser, a cultural diversity trainer and consultant for the NY Department of Education, were among those invited to sit onstage. Both agreed that the success of this event was in that broke down the barriers of nationalism and egotism while focusing on education as a tool to further the prominence of the Muslim community. [source http://www.studyislam.com/isp/jsp/IIUEvents/April13_2003.jsp, note: Almontaser is board member of "Women in Islam"]
The list included Siraj Wahhaj [an unindicted co conspirator in the 1993 WTC bombings] Ibrahim Dremali [former head of the troubled Islamic Center of Boca Raton, now head of the Islamic Center of Des Moines and a supporter of suicide bombing] and Ashrafuzzman Khan, the former head of the Jamaica New York branch of the Islamic Circle of North America.
Khan has some serious baggage, it has been alleged that he led a death squad that was active in the Bangladesh war.
On 24th September 1997, a criminal complaint [case no. 115/1997 Ramana Thana] was filed against Asrafuzzaman Khan, as a result of war crimes allegedly committed by him during the Bangladesh Liberation War. It is alleged that Khan personally murdered at least 7 intellectuals during that war, that he was a member of the much feared Al-Badr terror squads.
Professor Giasuddin Ahmed was killed as a result of the death squad activity. His sister, Mrs. Farida Banu, filed the case in Bangladesh. In the complaint Mrs. Banu claims that Khan, along with others, kidnapped Ahmed. His body was found later at the Rayar Baazar killing fields, a disposal site used by the Al Badr death squads.
"Asrafuzzaman Khan, was one of the chief Al-Badr executioners. It has been clearly proved that he himself shot to death 7 teachers of the Dhaka University in the killing fields at Mirpur. A certain Mofizzuddin, who drove the vehicle, which took these helpless victims of Asrafuzzaman to Mirpur, has clearly identified Asrafuzzaman as the "chief executer" of the intellectuals. After Liberation, Ashrafuzzaman's personal diary was recovered from 350 Nakhal Para where he resided. On two pages of the diary, the names of 19 teachers of the University have been entered, as well as their addresses in the University quarters." - From the Weekly Thikana, a Bengali print journal published from New York December 15, 2000]
That background of the people involved in this event reveals the true nature of the radical Islamist mileu in which Almontaser moves, the da'wa agenda she is bringing to the KGIA and her goal of "focusing on education as a tool to further the prominence of the Muslim community."
The organizations which have joined behind Almontaser and the professional Islamists at Columbia's Middle East Institute have similar views.
Key player, Brooklyn's Arab American Family Support Center operates from the bellicose perspective that Muslims were victimized by the "backlash" created by 9/11.
The group's website claims that, "Arab-American immigrant community has been one of the most severely impacted by the 9/11 backlash...evidenced by the campaign of sweeps, raids, detentions, deportations, interrogations and investigations conducted by government authorities."
It is for this reason that Board of Education spokesman, David Castor's claim that the "Khalil Gibran International Academy...will not be a vehicle for political ideology" rings hollow.
Those responsible for the design of the school curriculum, those associated with promoting the school as a concept and the person charged with heading the institution demonstrate that KGIA will become a hotbed of Islamist activism, a breeding ground for angry Muslim and Arab youth.
This is a dangerous policy because it creates a self-fulfilling myth that American Muslims are constantly under siege, that they are threatened and harassed on a daily basis because of their ethnicity and religion.
Look at the credentials of those in the Arab/Muslim community who are pushing this ruse, they are by almost all outward appearances stunning examples of the professional achievement available to members of their ethnic and religious groups in "racist" America. Their success bespeaks the lie that fuels programs such as KGIA - that discrimination against Muslims is endemic.
Separatist institutions such as KGIA have no place in American public education. For that reason this program must not be allowed to go forward.