August 21, 2007 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - Brooklyn's Muslim community is up in arms over last week's resignation of Dhabah Almontaser the principal designate of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, and has vowed to retaliate against the individuals and institutions it sees as being responsible. Toward that end, on the evening of August 13 a community meeting was held at the Islamic Center of Bay Ridge, in Brooklyn by supporters of the besieged Arabic school.
PipeLineNews.org has managed to obtain an exclusive recording of the "off-the-record" meeting documenting the Islamist action plan going forward, which might well include a Ramadan boycott of the New York Post and the New York Sun - which have been editorially critical of the school - demands to Mayor Bloomberg and education Chancellor Klein to reinstate Almontaser, as well as the creation of a media watch group.
Examples of paranoia and conspiratorial thinking were continually on display as the evening progressed, with one speaker claiming that Almontaser had been the victim of a massive "right-wing" conspiracy led by the Stop the Madrassa Coalition.
"The other important point I think, is to go back, as was mentioned, to this Stop the Madrassa Coalition, and see whose behind that. It's not just a few bigoted individuals, it's some right, extreme right-wing organizations, who have a national agenda...They include groups like New York ICE [a reference to New York Immigration and Control, a grassroots group dealing with immigration issues ] which is a violently anti-immigrant organization. It's no coincidence that these same groups are part of this coalition. So that has to be exposed fully. There not just community members who are nervous about the school. They are extremely organized right-wing organizations, with a political agenda" [source, transcript, produced in its entirety below].
Those most directly involved with the school - whose pronouncements and actions have only further damaged KGIA's already tattered reputation - are lying low because any additional public airing of their radicalism and agenda might end the school once and for all.
"We're at a point right now, where we feel we have to take action. People who are involved in this school are not here today, because they don't want to jeopardize the school, but that doesn't mean they don't support us" [source, transcript].
To those who continue to insist that KGIA will be a school merely devoted to Arabic language instruction along with some elements of Arabic culture and not a madrassah - an Islamist indoctrination facility catering to Muslims only - the atmosphere of recrimination and accusations of bigotry which dominated the event, the setting in which it was held and those who participated, all should be of great concern.
The fact that this strategy session was held at a mosque rather than a secular location is only the most obvious red-flag regarding the event and it is a clear indication of the undeniable co-linking of Islam and KGIA.
It's important to note that the Bay Ridge Islamic Center is not just any mosque; it has a long history serving as a hotbed of jihadist activity; a key indicator of the radical forces which will control the KGIA if it is allowed to open in September.
Several of Bay Ridge's imams have expressed support for suicide bombings and in 1994 a Lebanese born congregant, Rashid Baz listened to a sermon by then imam Moufaq which incited hatred against Jews. Apparently inspired to action by that sermon, Baz then went on a murder rampage, using two 9mm pistol to open fire on a van carrying 15 Jewish students, killing 16 year old Ari Halberstam and seriously wounding 3 others.
Hamas, the terrorist Palestinian group, lauded the murder and hailed Baz as a hero and martyr. Additionally, the Islamic Thinkers, a group associated with Al Muhajiroun - a now defunct British terrorist group - are said to attend the mosque. In 2004 ISBR congregant Martin Shalawar Siraj was charged and later convicted of planning to blow up the Herald Square subway dressed as a Hasidic Jew.
Thus it is clear that KGIA is essentially captive to a Muslim constituency which brands legitimate critics of the school as enemies - labeling them as racists and Islamophobes - because even criticism of its pedagogy is equated with targeting Muslims.
"Also, we have to do, to discuss different things about the media, the media bias about the media outfits that target the Muslims, specifically target the Muslims and the Arabs. And wide open criticism and character assassination, and targeting everything that is Islamic." [source, transcript].
Betraying this acute sense of victimization, there was near unanimity among the speakers at the meeting that there is a conspiracy, involving certain elements of the media to scuttle KGIA. Such attitudes potentiate what is an already existing "us versus them" mindset [including the pervasive belief within Bay Ridge that 9/11 was an "inside job"] which will assume critical mass within KGIA where it will become institutionalized.
Of note, acting principal Danielle Salzberg's Jewishness became her sole defining attribute at the meeting, with her being identified as "a Jewish principal, for an Arabic school" with the speaker observing, "which is ironic."
What is ironic is that the speaker seemed not to acknowledge that there are Arabs who are not Muslim, that there are Arab Christians and Jews as well as other non-Muslims within this ethnic group.
A representative of "Aramica" [a bi-weekly newspaper published in Bay Ridge by Antoine Faisal] stated as much, noting how Muslim interests have trumped all others when it comes to KGIA.
"Forgive me, it's not an attack against anyone but this is a meeting place of a mosque, the second floor of a mosque, but there are other parts of the community that have not been involved" [source, transcript].
The resentment expressed by the participants at the Bay Ridge Mosque planning session serve to add substantial evidence that the Khalil Gibran International Academy was designed by its former principal Dhabah Almontaser to function as a publicly funded madrassah, serving the interests of radical Muslim activists and not the greater Arab community, important constituencies of which have been shunted aside.
Not only will KGIA function as a tool of indoctrination, but the groups which constitute the school's main supportive structure but which for PR reasons must operate out of public view and behind the scene [for example, the Council on American Islamic Relations, CAIR a Saudi funded Hamas front group, which was recently named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation Hamas funding prosecution] will use KGIA as a cultural jihad center, coordinating what is euphemistically referred to in the KGIA Executive Summary as "social activism" into another weapon in the Islamist arsenal.
"Female Voice: My name is [unclear]. I'm representing CAIR-NY. This is going back to what Adem was saying, and I know at our office too we've been talking about this all day...We actually have a collaborative effort in our office [to place fraudulent "op ed" pieces in the print media] and a few weeks ago the New York Sun printed an op-ed...but basically we were thinking, that while we're here right now, I saw a lot of people raise their hand, and I recognize a lot of people. Maybe we can sit down once a month, meet up and say, what did you have for this week? It can be just an online group, a Yahoo group, and start slowly. I think that what we have, is one side of the issue always being displayed, and our responses kind of fall on deaf ears, because we talk amongst each other, and never get anything done. So that's our suggestion." [source, transcript]
This stampede by Islamist groups such as CAIR to gain operational control over KGIA is matched by more subtle but still significant changes made to the school's key partner the Arab American Family Support Center, AAFSC.
According to sources developed by PipeLineNews.org, we have learned that the AAFSC's former head, Emira Habiby-Browne was forced out because she was not a Muslim and replaced by self proclaimed "Palestinian" Lena Alhusseini, thus Islamizing what was once at least an arguably secular institution, one which will have a daily presence directly inside the building which will house KGIA.
We have also recently developed evidence which proves that KGIA advisory board member Talib Abdur-Rashid [the resident Imam of the Mosque of the Islamic Brotherhood] is a disciple of jihad and adheres to the oath of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian based terrorist group which created Hamas.
Allah is our goal
The Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah is our leader
The Qu'ran is our constitution
Jihad is our way
And death in the way of Allah is our promised end
For these and many other reasons we ask that New York Dept. of Education Chancellor Klein end this charade and immediately shut the Khalil Gibran International Academy down, such an institution has no place in public education anywhere in America.
Transcript - Community Meeting on Khalil Gibran International Academy at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, August 13, 2007
Windows media audio file available here - audio file
Female Voice: Can we have everyone's attention please?
Male Voice: Salaam Alaykum everyone, thank you for coming here today. In the name of Arab Muslim American Federation and the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge will come to order. This is a meeting [garbled]... the issues that have taken place a couple of days ago, specifically, the Khalil Gibran Academy and the resignation of Mrs. Dhabah Almontaser as its principal. And as today, as we heard today, that a new principal has already been hired, who is a Jewish principal, for an Arabic-oriented school. It's ironic to have that happen, and in such a speed, it's a cause to question, that.
Also, we have to do, to discuss different things about the media, the media bias about the media outfits that target the Muslims, specifically target the Muslims and the Arabs. And wide open criticism and character assassination, and targeting everything that is Islamic, as if it is... to be anti-Islamic is wrong. And this is what we are going to talk about tonight.
We'd like to welcome your participation in the discussions when the discussions are open. There will be different introductions by different people here tonight. And there will be a segment for discussion. And when that happens, we want, running that segment, to give everyone wants to talk, the opportunity to talk, and express their points of view. Everyone to raise their hands if they want to talk, and the selection will be done, just, whoever. Okay, so please. And, we ask everyone not to jump in, to cut off anyone who was talking. They're finished, than raise your hand, and then you can talk. Please follow the instructions.
Female Voice: I gave these out as guidelines. I want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable. They've got some at the back. To feel comfortable to speak, so basically these are things fundamental principles, respecting each other's opinions, perspectives, we're not here to agree to disagree. We're not here to argue anyone's perspectives or opinion. Time limits, we don't want anyone to overpower the meeting, we want everyone to have equal opportunity to speak. Confidentiality, this is also very important for media as well. At one point, after the history, all media has to cut off, no cameras, no recorders, everything will be off the record, because we want everyone to feel comfortable, to speak their mind, and speak anything they want. Another thing that helps also, is people putting their cell phones on silent or vibrate, because it just kinda gets annoying after awhile, cause you know, these people's cell phones are ringing, especially when you have a large group. Please take that into consideration. (sounds of crowd members murmuring)
Male Voice: I'd like to introduce first of all Mona to give a history of this group.. Female Voice: Okay. Um.. Hi everyone I'm Mona Zaki I'm with AWAAM, Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media.
Male Voice: Can you hear in the back?
Female Voice: Okay, I'll try to speak louder. I can't give much of a history of the school, but there are other people here who can. Basically, what I can say, is that the school is an Arabic language public school. That is slated to open in Brooklyn in September. The school's been having trouble from the start, there have been opponents to the school, namely, the Coalition to Stop the Madrassa, and Daniel Pipes, who's a website owner and hatemonger. These people are, you know, racists, and organized to stop initiatives like this.
So, one of the first problems that the school had, was it found a location, and it wasn't able to work there, because the community objected, you know, with the help of these people. The organization I work with, became involved, was that, the school was linked with to work that my organization has done. Okay? We were at an Arab Heritage Park festival here in [Bay Ridge] about three weeks ago. And we were selling T-shirts, well not selling, we were displaying T-shirts with the slogan "Intifada NYC." Okay? And of course, this slogan, among us, we're a women's organization, and a young women's organization. It's about empowerment, it's about shaking off, you know the silencing that we feel from all around. It's about using our voices as a media organization.
Of course, the media took this and used it to mean that we are calling for terrorism in NYC. So the question is, you know, how does this relate to the school at all. We are not connected to the school. However, the Association of Yemeni Americans donates their space to us for one of our programs. Now,Iin addition the Association of Yemeni Americans is not connected to the school. However, the principal of the school, who recently resigned, Debbie Almontaser, serves on the board of that association. So you can see how, you know, how, what the connection is, and basically that there is no connection, number 1.
And number 2, if you've been reading the media, you can see what the slant is, particularly the New York Post, and Fox have been really, basically, taking up the side of the Coalition to Stop the Madrassa, and all of these people who basically just don't want Arabic spoken, are threatened by it. The idea of an Arabic language school, and Arabs actually having an institution like this in this community. So, one of the things, one of the things we could talk about, is how do we hold them accountable?
If you go on the New York Post website, uh, and you do a search for this issue, you'll find articles, and, and we we're looking at them the other night, and we were saying that's strange, what happened to all the racists remarks they made in the Post? The fact is if you look at the print, it's different. If you look at the print, you'll see that the Post as called the AWAAM an extremist Muslim organization, has said a lot of untrue things about the principal of the school, about Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media, and about a lot of the parties who are involved. Basically slandering us, as so-called Muslim extremists, as people who support terrorism and violence. So it's obvious that there is some sort of a cover up from the New York Post.
So all of this media hype led up to an event that caused a lot of problems for the school. Randi Weingarten the president of the United Federation of Teachers, a few days ago, made a statement denouncing Debbie, basically did everything, said everything short of asking for her resignation. That put the school in a position, in a tough position, because they knew they might be, they might have to move forward without the support of the United Federation of Teachers. That's pretty much an impossible choice. If you don't have the United Federation of Teachers on your side, how are you going to hire teachers? That's where, that's where Debbie's resignation comes in.
Debbie found herself in a very difficult situation, and as of course you know, she's one of the founders of the school. And because she cares for the school more than anything, she said, I'm gonna step down. Because I don't want to jeopardize this situation. At the same time, many of us in the Arab community, and the Muslim community, and other communities involved, had been pressured not to speak out. Because, you know, you might even make it worse for the school. You know, they might then associate you even further with the school, you might increase media hype. We're being held back (garbled).
We're at a point right now, where we feel we have to take action. People who are involved in this school are not here today, because they don't want to jeopardize the school, but that doesn't mean they don't support us. That's pretty much the history of the situation, if anyone has any additions, uh, they're welcome, like I've said, what I've presented is just the history of the situation from the perspective of my organization, AWAAM.
Female Voice: Media, that's it, over.
Male Voice: Can you just turn that off for me please? Just flip the switch.
Female Voice: Are there other journalists in the...
Female Voice: No. Everything that side of the room, after this, is off the record. [Garbled Voices]
Female Voice: Turn it off!
Female Voice: Sir Please? So everything's off the record.
Male Voice: Okay, Now yesterday night there was a meeting that was held at the Arab American Association of New York and Erica will give us an update on what took place yesterday. So, where's Erica?
Erica: That's me. Hi, uh..
Male Voice: [Garbled]
Erica: Hi, so my name is Erica [Rachel?], I am a board member of AWAAM, and I've been a board member for two years, a very active?and giving you an update on the meeting we had last night, looking forward to this meeting. Last night we discussed a couple of things, much like we did here we discussed the history of what has been going on, to make sure everyone was on the same page. We also had a projector, so we we're able to look at the actual websites which have been fighting this school, because they've been working on this for a long time... we looked at their websites, what they have. So we reviewed all of that.
Afterwards we talked about what some of our demands might be, what do we want? What actions do we want taken? As, you know, recompense, for what has happened. So some of the ideas we've talked about, and we will discuss these further. We talked about the idea of bringing Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Education to task, because, first of all, they should be, because basically they shouldn't be condoning this misinformation that was put out. They should be supporting Linda, uh.. sorry not Linda,
Oh my goodness, it's been quite a week okay, supporting Debbie. So that's one idea we had.
The other idea we had was that is bringing also Randi Weingarten to task because, you know, by her publicly not giving Debbie support that really was damaging. And the other idea we talked about was possibly coordinating some kind of action to hit the Post in their pocket for something, you know, that really was damaging, for the misinformation they put out, and just as an example of that, if you guys saw the Saturday's Post coverage the paragraph that they had on AWAAM they said that members of Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media refused to comment [and] when we visited their office, there were a dozen young girls watching a video of Debbie, which is completely untrue. Like that, I don't know where they got that from. Those are the three main ideas that we came up, and our goal for tonight was, number 1, discuss and strategize these actions, these demands, and also we also talked a lot about press and media strategy. For the media that are here, I talked to most of you, I'm the advance media contact person, we are looking to do a press conference, so... that's a thing... I don't know how it's going to work out into a meeting, but we are looking to do a press conference on Wednesday of this week. And, and, to get more press around this. So we definitely will be looking to get volunteers for different pieces of this work. Anything else that I missed on the meeting?
Male Voice: Thank you very much for that introduction... And introduction to proposal, ideas, action plan, which is an open discussion.. I will now present... Female Voice : She already presented the ideas that we had yesterday, so now open it up to everyone.
Male Voice: All right. I'm going to open the floor for everyone, anyone who wants to make a comment, who has a point of view to discuss, and please those of you who are interested raise your hands...
Female Voice: Can I have a follow up to what I just said? Is that okay? Maybe you want to say? Cause actually I was pretty general in talking about the actions we were talking about, but they were kind of specific. We can summarize it...
Male Voice: [Garbled]
Female Voice: Yes, we can summarize it. Yes, specifically.
Male Voice: Well, one idea that, there is something going wrong with the school, led to the resignation of Almontaser, who was the most qualified person for that school from the start. So we said, something is wrong with [garbled] personally, and something is wrong with the school specifically. The personal attacks she has been subjected to, how could we, as a community defend her in that, without, with an end goal of keep a school open and running. Now it's not Debbie, personally we are defending, it's the school. So one action is to have supporters call forcefully, this could often be supported, and be also subjected, for us, [garbled] of the community. In other words, we let them get away with Debbie's resignation, she is not the principal anymore, we cannot bring her back. Final, finished. Than who is going to be that principal, and what is our input in that?
We have nothing, they bypass all the community, and they come up with a new principal, who is now, her name is Danielle Salzberg, we don't know anything about it. So the [garbled] organization, declined to say, hey, she resigned, she resigned you can't do anything about it. We can't [garbled] the mayor, Joel Klein to not accept her resignation. It's already been done. So now how do we limit the damage, for her personally, and keep us all organized? That's what the meeting is today about. Now what [garbled] was to do, what we thought this conference, what we discussed, was to send a letter the people who are on the board, the mayor's office, the board of education and the uh... teacher's federation. That teacher's federation was involved in her comments, before that.
And number 3, maybe a special meeting with the leaders of the community, with the Department of Education, to insure, that the school is going to run, the way it's supposed to run, with the input from the community. It's not just, we are out of the picture, because something happened against us because of the media, that their information was leading to, such an event. Because, if we do not, do that, we say, okay forget it, the organization has made their decision, they have a new principal, it's going to open with the new principal. It's already done. It's going to open. But we aren't sure that's going to happen. Because those people who attacked the principal, Debbie Almontaser, they are going to, they are going to find something else wrong with the teachers, they will go [garbled] and maybe they have some information which we are feeding the school, is not right. And they are all going to keep digging and digging into the school until they bring it down. If we don't show a unified effort that we are behind the school, as a community, and we are supposed to be involved in the participation and New Vision, the New Vision office, the new principal also in putting the curriculum and the information for the whole system.
So, our input now, today, is for this, information, for the whole system. If we aren't involved, it will be some other vision, it won't be ours. So our input now, today, is for this idea, [garbled].
Female Voice: Again, Just for the record, we're off the record. Erica actually didn't read these points because she thought someone was taking notes, on a Blackberry. Please don't take notes, even on a Blackberry, put it away.
Female Voice: I'm just taking notes so I'm informed, when I go to the press conference, or, you know I don't think there is anything wrong with taking notes, I don't have a memory where, you know, it's really no different, It's actually just getting the facts straight.
Male Voice: [Garbled]
Female Voice: I know what off the record means.
Male Voice: Maybe what you say, but, whatever comes out of here, that you commit to memory, is personal, it is not the leadership. So, if you want to talk to the media as person, but we will decide after the meeting, whose going to decide after the meeting who going to be given that function. Other than that, there is no [garbled]. Male Voice: Other than that, demand that Chancellor Klein and Mayor Bloomberg... I think this one is... because, we thought we could reinstate Debbie Almontaser's resignation, but...
Female Voice: Well actually the news, that I hear, is that the new principal is a standing principal and not a permanent principal
Male Voice: Yeah, but I don't know, I just wanted to, we discussed it and the issue is reinstating Debbie Almontaser, as the principal, how fair reaching this out, might be difficult, but we thought that it might be open for discussion. And whatever position President Randi Weingarten might take, involved in the condemnation, of Debbie, instead of using this apology, could you [garbled] the complexity of the Arabic language, to jump on the bandwagon of terrorism, and take an extremely ignorant stance on that matter? The last one discussed was to boycott the NY Post, as we did a few years, to let them know...
Male Voice: The point that we discussed, is, I think, what actually is the most important issue. Anybody else?
Adem Carroll: My name is Adem Carroll of the Muslim Consultative Network, and Debbie is on our board, and we are very pleased to have her and hope she remains with us as long as she likes. This has been a tragedy, cause we all know how hard she works for the community, what a moderate and hard working person she is, and for this to happen to her...
Male Voice: Could you please raise your voice, so everyone can...
Adem Carroll: I.. We, our board has been discussing how to support this, and we are certainly interested in coordination with this campaign, if there is a coalition that arises, to play our goal as well, if its supporting a letter, having some input, or in a boycott. There was a boycott a few years ago, and certainly a lot of the people who sell the newspapers, and not just the Post, but I would certainly point out the NY Sun who is equally culpable in this case, that these two papers, are sold by, stores, run by Muslims, and in Ramadan it certainly could be a very appropriate campaign for us to launch, in partnership with the Arab community in solidarity.
So, again, a lot of us are very interested in what happens and we are here to do our best. I hope that Debbie can be reinstated. I think that we don't know what will happen in the long run. And one thing that would be important to our effectiveness, and we need to be very careful not to be provoked into statements that could be perceived as anti-Jewish, because of the whole dynamic that's about using intifada. So we need to be very careful, and hopefully, also, very strong.
Male Voice: Okay, thank you. Could you please, when I pick someone, please just stand up and introduced yourself, and what organization you came from, or if you didn't come from an organization, say just an individual. Okay? Anybody?
Fatima: Okay, Salam Alaykum, my name is Fatima, I'm just here to learn what's going on, because it's been really crazy in the media, and I know Sister Debbie. I used to be a board member of [Women in Islam?] so that's where I know Sister Debbie from. I think before we make any action, we have to be really knowledgeable about this entire thing. Okay? So, I think a couple of things we should look into, Number 1, is perhaps past principals who have made something like some statements or something, but were still kept in office. I've only been in New York for 2 years, so I really don't know the history around the D.O.E works, I mean I know a little bit, but not a lot. Okay? So looking at other things that happened in the past, and did not have this kind of consequence. Right? That's number 1. And number 2, is this interim, is this interim for hire, or are they higher rank, and she's just acting.
Female Voice: It wasn't made clear.
Fatima: It wasn't made clear...So if that's the case, than we need to know more about her than she's just Jewish, right, like we can't put all on that alone, we need to know if perhaps she's an advocate, or maybe she was put into place because it makes some kind of political sense to do that. I don't know, but I'm just saying we need to do our backwork, our history work our leg work, so we're very educated, so that if people throw questions at us we're not like...
Male Voice: You have to remember one thing, I mean, people who... [phone rings]
Male Voice: you have to look at the bigger, the outside picture, they aren't going to question what she stands for or not. Remember, that this is an Arabic school, and a new principal is hired to take that place, who is not Arab. Okay? You're going to have people looking at that. Not the question the [garbled] or what he stands for, the [garbled]. As people may judge it when they hear about it. Just imagine, what, people who want to send their children to this school. What kind of connotation this will give? Yes ma'am?
Maysim Koreish: I'm Maysim Koreish...I'm here for a lot of reasons, but one of them is I work for the New York Immigration Coalition, we are one of the biggest advocates for dual language schools in the state. And I don't work specifically on education, but my colleagues do, and they told me, we met today, and they've been invited to do an op-ed in support of this school. And we are in support of this school. So they're asking me some questions, that, if you could help me with, or if you could help me with, talking points, for the op-ed, that would be great.
One is they are asking me about enrollment in the school, and like what is the general community support of the school. They say that with these dual education school, like for middle and high school, they have to partner with a community-based organization, by law, like, by the structure of the school. So really, that's kind of our strongest suit, in terms of advocating for anything for the school, which is that, the implementation of the school has to happen by definition, in collaboration with a community-based organization. So that was one. So I need information on enrollment.
And two, they were asking me for any other examples of public education in Arabic and English, even in the country, like in general, that can kind of be used as an example, as a success story. And, really, if anyone else has like any talking points around all of the sensitive issues that have come up like you know, all the issue around security in school, and [blah blah blah], you know that have come up. Would be great. I mean I don't know that they'll address all of the issues, but I think that they'll mostly focus on the structure of dual language schools.
Male Voice: Maybe those questions should be posed towards the people who are directly involved with the school. Rather than by, [cough] as such, because everyone is involved from the outside, rather than the inside. We don't know the details, of the school. We were involved in the beginning, with the concept of the school. We attended many meetings. But after that the Arab American Family Support Center were the ones who were the one principle organization who was involved in that.
Male Voice: The school is a New Vision organization, supported by this foundation, to have a new system, a public school system funded privately, through cooperation with faith-based or community-based organizations. There's Chinese, there's [garbled], there's science, there's history, there's [garbled], in the five boroughs of New York City, supported by New Vision. However, there are no Arabs. So their organization said, what do you think about this? So I said, yes we will, and the committee gathered all together. And we had elections, and the Family Support Center won the endorsement to be the leading organization in the new school. So, they are part of the whole curriculum, looking for the teachers, for the principal, they are the representatives. We're supportive, of that organization, including all the people we are seeing now.
Male Voice: Linda?
Linda [Sarsour?]: Just for more people that we're coming in, because we're not sure whose media, and whose not, and things like that, off the record, everything being said here and we said that before to other media, so make sure that everyone understands that.
What I want to say, we also have to play on people's interest here, why we're in the room. If people's interests are to support the school, it's about the school, or its about Debbie's resignation, that's one thing. My objective for being here, as an individual, as myself, is the way we've been defamed, for the past six years, by the New York Post, by the New York Sun. This is not about the school, this started way before the school ever started, so let's not forget that, this is not just about right now, it's not about when, it's not about me.
So if look at many of the community members, if you just google our names, our organizations, we've been defamed from the get go. We also don't want to do anything that's going to subject us to any more, you know, discrimination, or yellow journalism that we're already getting, but I'm here to play out a more city wide, on a more general of how we as a community can stand up to yellow journalism and the media. So we're not presenting this, what I'm feeling, I'm being presented something that I don't necessarily have to be a part of, but we can choose where we need to be. So for me personally, my interest here is, yes, I'm interested in threatening, or boycotting the New York Post, for example, for coming out with a statement against, or bringing together, you know some people will give their own ideas about what our plan is to do that, also making sure, that we're playing on people's issues here because maybe because people are like, we don't want to touch the school, we don't want to be part of that, or maybe we do want to be part of that. So just making people feel comfortable to say, that I'm comfortable with this, but I'm not comfortable with this. Male Voice: A couple of things. I don't think it should just be letters sent to Bloomberg or the Department of Education, I think a meeting should be requested as soon as possible, with community leaders. Not just with Arab community leaders, not just from the Arab community, but from a diversity of communities, before any more time goes by because I think the point has to be made again and again, this school is not for anyone particular community, it's for all of New York, and we all stand to benefit from what it brings. So this should not be reduced to one community's fight, we really have to build as many allies in this. On that point, I would caution against turning it into an ethnic issue, about who the principal, the new principal is. To me that's not the issue at all. And I think to go that road looses a lot of support.
The other important point I think, is to go back, as was mentioned, to this Stop the Madrassa Coalition, and see whose behind that. It's not just a few bigoted individuals, it's some right, extreme right-wing organizations, who have a national agenda. And one of the key things on the agenda, is fighting, what they call the Islamization of America. I think we should highlight who those organizations, and go after them, systematically. They include groups like New York ICE [a reference to New York Immigration and Control, a grassroots group dealing with immigration issues ] which is a violently anti-immigrant organization. It's no coincidence that these same groups are part of this coalition. So that has to be exposed fully. There not just community members who are nervous about the school. They are extremely organized right-wing organizations, with a political agenda.
Male Voice: Thank you for your comment. The school is, it has been established to take, students from everywhere, not only Arabs, and not only Muslims. It is open for everyone to join, and attend that school. So, we are all supportive of that. That was the whole idea. It's for other people, from all other ethnic backgrounds to join at school, if they want to be a student of that school. Yes, yes sir?
Male Voice: How you doing, my name is [unclear]. And we're very interested in helping out with this event, helping out with actions coming out of this meeting. I want to talk a little bit about the context of these attacks. As was said earlier, this has been going on well before the last few days, even before September 11th. Well, a lot of it, the media, [ruling class?] demonized the Arab population, to make people scared of them, to make them feel scared themselves, and it's really just a way to justify the attacks on the Arab populations around the world most of which are directly [garbled], not really [garbled] but like the shaking off of the empowerment of women today, and I think like the empowerment of the Arab community, generally, is going to be really [hated?]
Male Voice: Thank you. Any others? Yes sir.
Male Voice: Yes. My name's [Andy unclear] and I'm with the Coalition for Justice in the Middle East. I agree with what Linda was saying, I think there are a couple of different levels on which we can address this. On the level of supporting the school, and the ex-principal, and hopefully the re-hired principal. The community can and must be mobilized. And other communities which have been through similar battles with the department of education, black and Latino communities, that have had to defend black or Latin teachers, or even black- or Latino-based schools, can be engaged around that.
On the other level, the more,... the fight against the racism which has been spread can be launched. For instance, [Abdullah?] has been holding weekly pickets against the blockade and starvation of Gaza. And I would suspect that we would want to put out something saying, Bloomberg, Weingarten, etc., have you said anything about this genocidal blockade of Gaza. Why are you so worried about the word intifada, which is not a [unclear], it's a courageous word. Why are you supporting US taxpayer dollars to starve the people of Gaza.
Finally, and this could be on either level, or both, we should approach members of UFT, and the parent body the American Federation of Teachers more generally, to see what kind of statement they would sign. Even 5 people on a joint letter would be great. There has been headway made within the UFT and AFT about the war on Iraq, and some of those same people could be approached about this.
Male Voice: Thank you very much. Anybody else? Yes.
Female Voice: My name is [unclear]. I'm representing CAIR-NY. This is going back to what Adem was saying, and I know at our office too we've been talking about this all day, a boycott of either the New York Post or Sun. We actually here in New York had an initiative a few years ago, where we were, did, were in the planning stages of a boycott. And we kind of pulled out of it. And one of the reasons, one of which was that it didn't seem to match up with what we were hoping for, so what we decided, from our office, we would find out the [unclear]... have a media watch group.
And I know that we've been talking about that, with some other groups, it seems like a lot, but none of us in terms of [unclear] have organized to make this a collaborative effort. So we were suggesting, and again, we were hoping to team up with [unclear] is to develop a group which is constantly responding to the articles which are defaming, because basically, we can say, to some of the Muslim vendors not to sell the Post and Sun, but we can't prevent the people from reading it online. And that's going, that's just going to be a whole other situation. So we were thinking of, what we were thinking to do, is respond to it, I guess in form of an op-ed, or a letter to the editor. Just, I mean, I'm gonna do a little survey here, how many people have ever written a letter to the editor ever?
[pause, movement of crowd]
Okay. More than I thought. [laughter]. I know myself, in college, we were all yeah yeah yeah, we're gonna do this. We're all talk and less action. I'm gonna be honest I've never written a letter to the editor. I've never actually written an op-ed on my own. We actually have a collaborative effort in our office, and a few weeks ago the New York Sun printed an op-ed, with regards to a separate issue, but basically we were thinking, that while we're here right now, I saw a lot of people raise their hand, and I recognize a lot of people. Maybe we can sit down once a month, meet up and say, what did you have for this week? It can be just an online group, a Yahoo group, and start slowly. I think that what we have, is one side of the issue always being displayed, and our responses kind of fall on deaf ears, because we talk amongst each other, and never get anything done. So that's our suggestion.
Male Voice: Thank you. You may speak afterwards with each other, approach each other, and coordinate. Anyone else who would like? Yes Sir.
Ken: My name is Ken, and I'm not with any group or anything, I'm just here out of personal interest. Some friends of mine and I have seen some things on the news about the school, and we basically just wanted to learn more about it. They couldn't be here tonight, so I'm here by myself. I think one of the concerns we had, as parents, one of my friends was curious, as to the school's curriculum, and teaching materials, and things like that. And actually tried to get some information from the Department of Ed, and he didn't get very much.
I think that if people know more about the school, and they know more about, you know, what the curriculum is, and what the materials being used are, there won't be as much, I don't know, apprehension, or fear or whatever, about the school, you know, because the school year is starting in three weeks, and this one friend of mine called the Department of Ed, and was not told very much. And he thought that was strange. You know, trying to get information from the Department of Ed, and he didn't get very much. There didn't seem to be a curriculum, unless he was misinformed, and school starts in three weeks, and if you could, you know, shed any light on that, you know, without being in the inner organizing committee, or whatever, I know it said that on the website.
Male Voice: Sir?
Male Voice: Oh, Sorry.
Male Voice: Anyone have any more information regarding the school?
Female Voice: I just want to say that I'm just very reluctant to speak on this now, because some people might associate me with the school. I was actually part of a planning committee, but I'm not anymore, affiliated with the school right now, because it's confirmed that it's going to be, you know, accepted, by the Department of Education. I was basically just be inputing, as a student, as a recent high school graduate, and as a college student pursing her education. I didn't have that much influence into it, and there was somebody else.
I won't go into specifics, the reason you can't get any information with the Department of Education is obviously because of privacy and everything, but I can tell you that, our school went through a lot of vigorous testing, basically, well not really testing, but [garbled]. Our curriculum has been very legitimate. Obviously, all these things, about being something that would teach students about anything that, you know, is kind of incites hate or anything like that, or Islamic religion, it's not. Obviously it's not. All it is, is it's a bilingual Arabic school which is gonna follow the curriculum of the Department of Education as all the other schools, all it is, is its going to teach some of its courses in Arabic.
Because there are other bilingual schools, actually one of the other board members was, had, some kind of affiliation with some other, had some other kind of experience with other bilingual schools, like Chinese bilingual schools, [garbled] schools, it's the same concept. Another thing is its really going to focus on the culture of Arabs. That's it, that's all there is to it. So like for example, music class. Music class is going to be Middle Eastern music, as opposed, you know jazz, or like Anything else, that people would be more interested hearing in America. Maybe culinary class would be more focused on Middle Eastern dishes, Arab dishes. That's really what it is. Otherwise it's going to follow the Department of Education requirements in terms of everything.
And regarding the question somebody asked about enrollment, enrollment is actually going to be general enrollment to everybody. Actually the goal was to have fifty-fifty, and unfortunately it didn't happen, but the goal was to at least eventually have a population of people of Arab descent, and the other fifty percent anything else. Because the Arab community really wants, especially people who were born and raised here, they want to have the opportunity to send their kids to a public school where they can learn their own language, because it's really hard for the Arab students to get that. For a lot of Arabs, to kind of welcome them to our culture. Because obviously there is always this kind of thing, where for the Arab people, they kind of say, they want to put our children there to use our culture against us or something. Or, what it is supposed to be, is to welcome other students, introduce them to our culture, in a very professional academic [garbled] environment. And that's really what the reason for the school was. And I just wanted to say, and I trust this is off the press and everything, off the record...
Female Voice: Actually can just suggest that [garbled], off the record, because it's about the school, can we not discuss it here?
Female Voice: well, I just wanted to say, that this really upsets me. Because I've seen Debbie work very very hard for this school. And to see she has to be replaced by somebody that, I don't know who it is, they don't have the passion that Debbie has for this school. Now think about the parents of the students that are sending their kids to this school, probably feel as if they are sending their kids to a school, where, it's a principal, whose a temp principal. Who knows if they're going to be replaced, anything like that. Look into the perspective of the parents, knowing you put your kid into a school that was jeopardized, that was defamed by the media, and now they put in a principal that really does not care for the school, as the original principal did. So I just want you to take that into consideration.
Male Voice: Yes?
Female Voice: I'm sorry what's your name?
Male Voice: Ken.
Female Voice: Ken. You're referring... I mean, part of the issue with the messages and the media around this, is that, you know, there's been so much criticizing of this school, which is an Arab language school, yet how many other dual language schools are there?
What languages, a Chinese, and two Spanish speaking? I'd be curious, I mean, I'd suggest you talk to your friend, and ask your friend, did your friend put up such a fight with the other schools, and ask so many questions [Cross talk] about those other schools, and what is it? And you know, we have to challenge the stereotypes, and beliefs. This whole thing. I don't know what the deal is with the DOE, why they can't get the information out, or what have you, but I would recommend you to push your friend to question his or herself, and his or her intentions about it, because its people like that, embodied by Pamela Hall, from Stop the Madrassa, who are just jumping on the bandwagon, against this Arabic language school.
And its only standing much water with the general public because its building on this fear that people have, and misinformation, and so, at no point are people even, with big media entities, like the Post and whatever, perpetuating the misinformation, there is no chance for people to think critically, and think, ?Oh why is it this school, that people are putting up such a fight." We have Arabic, and Chinese, we have French, whatever. Male Voice: Thank you. We have to focus on the action plan, what are we going to do, what are we gonna get out of this [city?], rather than just go exchanging ideas about the school itself...
Female Voice: And again, just because, she's taking minutes, and maybe, just about, sum up some of the issues, [Cross talk] Female Voice: So again, boycotting the New York Post was mentioned several times, what [unclear name] said, about creating a committee where we do constant, um, [crowd noise], finding out what certain media outlets, I believe you said, like the Post, having not just the Arab, community, but other diverse communities and we kind of [attack?] the media, on behalf of those community. We discussed a letter writing campaign, and um, sorry, actually discussing, [cross talk] reinstatement of Debbie, if that's possible, and mobilizing the community. [Garbled]
Male Voice: Any other ideas?
Male Voice: I just wanted to correct, [crowd noise] another great idea that was put out was.. Sorry, my name is [unclear name]. What i wanted to point out was that... [high pitched whining sound, cross talk]
There was another great idea, that I wanted to point out, that the gentlemen over here, in the orange shirt, pointed out, he mentioned about a [unity coalition?] with different community leaders, and meeting with top officials who are involved in this [crowd movement] including diversifying it with other non-Muslim, non-Arabic, organizations, and other non-profit organizations. I think that is a great idea which should be taken serious in terms of the next two weeks before time expires.
Voice: Thank you very much. Yes Sir?
Male Voice: I think a strategy, assuming the students have been affected by what happens in the schools, there should be some kind of survey seeing how this has affected them, perhaps translated into Arabic. The reason why I say that is [unclear ... throat clearing]. Female Voice: How many students are in the school? [Cross talk]
Female Voice: There are 44 right now. Six Arab-Americans. The rest non-Arabic.
Female Voice: Where is that from?
Female Voice: It was published. In the news. Actually I got this off the newspaper.
Female Voice: I wonder as we strategize, I mean the school's at Boerum Hill, which obviously is close to a large Arab American community and I'm wondering as we strategize how to encourage more Arab children of actual Arab background to be involved in the school, since it is actually located in a?
Male Voice: I think we are going into too much detail on the [school involvement] and issues of the school itself rather than talking about the big issues surrounding that, what took place [surrounding] the principal's resignation. We should [talk about] that rather than go into detail about what the school or the curriculum is. Because that will be talked about at a later stage of [our?] meeting, and should address only the [unclear]. Yes, sir?
Male Voice: My name is [unclear] of the Aramica newspaper. If this meeting is about exchanging ideas, I would like to know and define what the problem is. Because to me there's more than one problem. The problem why we are here in this situation right now. The role of Debbie, and the mistakes that Debbie [committed?]. The mistakes that ... this is my personal opinion ... that the Arab American Family Support Center, the umbrella for the whole project, committed. [unclear] objected to, recently. The last six years. And three, finally a strategy that all can find a solution and a common action plan . A common action plan involves the whole community and not a part of the community.
Forgive me, it's not an attack against anyone but this is a meeting place of a mosque, the second floor of a mosque, but there are other parts of the community that have not been involved. And my fear is that it would open the door to [unclear] explanations that [unclear] not wanted to have.
Now, when it comes to Debbie I think Debbie is a great person, very qualified. She's a hard worker. Debbie's problem is that she cared too much for others, and not for her own community. She listened, she kept trying to get the Zionist groups or whoever was attacking her to calm down. And when we asked her, Debbie, ?Do you have a relationship with the ADL or you don't?" She didn't even care to answer this question. If she had [unclear], she would have spoken up since May 18 when the article [hit?] the New York Times. If she didn't have, she should have spoke up and said I don't have, because the community is eager to support her, to support someone that we have in a leadership position. She has not even answered that question. And now, because of a comment she made, about a T-shirt, she was put under so much pressure to the point that she had to resign.
Our language is being hijacked. The word madrasa, which means a school, now means a school for terrorists. Intifada, which has a clear definition in the dictionary, is now associated with terrorism as well. So it's one word after the other, and there is a point where we have to stand up. [2 sentences unclear]. And I am with the community and my own dignity [against everybody else?] to have the school the way it should be, or to not have the school. I do not want condition of school where I have to [consult] with everyone to have the school. I will not accept it [unclear].
Whether my dignity comes as an Arab American who refuses to be hyphenated or treated as a second class person, or I don't want the school. It is very important to have the Gibran school. I will defend it in any way I can, as person, and as a newspaper in this community. But I will not accept to keep lowering my [head? hand? half? unclear] to people who I know are waiting to wipe me out, to get me out of the [cause? course? ], waiting for the other person to take him out as well. [When you are forced] there is a way to deal with them. And yes, it starts with the [unclear ... sounds like ?whole again"?].
Actually we have been working the [whole?] on a plan, and a series of ads, that we are planning to run in the newspapers, on a series of T-shirts, on a whole communications plan, that has [unclear], my aspiration, my [unclear, 2 phrases ... I will try, what am I going to lose] my dignity, I don't want to lose it. The problem is not with the school. The problem is with the way ... it really was with the school, until we arrived at the [possibly shirt?] and now we are [unclear] and the solution should not be [unclear, perhaps tentative?] and should not be partial and we should stand up in a studied plan and [unclear] the community and again I'm not ... I have respect for everybody here but it's not about one part of the community acting on behalf of the others.
Male Voice: Thank you very much. Appreciate that comment.
Male Voice: It's my dream for the whole community to be together. The whole Arab community regardless, and the whole Muslim community together, to have Muslims as well. It's to be united so to have an effort and to have an effect on what's going on. The reason why we don't have an effect on what's going on is because we are disunited. We are not united in anything. Everyone is [unclear] is [unclear] separately. We cannot [unclear] together. My dream is as well for that to happen. And to be united facing what we are facing now [unclear].
Male Voice: I think some of us fail to understand that the school is not a community school. It is a public school. So for us to be [behind] the school and be like it is for the Arab community ... is wrong.
Male voice: That things has to be clear. We're not here to fight because it's the community's school, or because it's our school. We're there to support the school, not our issues with Debbie. I think we should focus on what we have to do right now, to support the school and Debbie, not just to go back to ground zero to see what she did or the differences we have with her, and to come back and apologize to the community because she had a relationship with someone or just because ... I think that's a wrong thing to do. Because she's not employed by the city. She's someone that has to work with all the people, regardless of their differences, religious groups, I mean backgrounds, and ethnicities.
Male voice: Thank you very much.
Male voice: We have less than 15 minutes to go until the prayer time comes. We have to take few more questions, few more comments, and then (noise). Yes, sir.
Male voice: Good Evening. In order for us to be effective we have to define an [issue?].
We have to define what is the school, where it is located [?], what is the objective of the school. The whole issue. And then after that we will form task force. And then after that (noise) we need to define committees to define how effective we will be in getting our message out to the media, TV stations and other political officials.
Male voice: Thank you.
Male voice: [introduction hard to discern, he's with some college?] Some things come to mind as we're talking this. I'm here in solidarity as an Arab-Puerto Rican, I'm also here to give support in any which way, I'm interested in doing some action - we can canvass, interested in canvassing the community, we can canvass the community around, but also holding informational pickets, whether it's in the front of the school, whether it's in front of city hall, or Bloomberg's office, maybe a press conference. And I'm willing to help with this. Also finding out what other politicians that are in the area that can support, because we do need - [unclear] to have a press conference at City Hall that would allow us to do that. These are some things that we can do to garner more support. Because the right of self-determination is the right of the Arab community and the Muslim community to decide what they want. And that's all I wanted to say.
Male voice: Thank you very much.
Maria: My name is Maria. And I come to you here as a resident of [something] Park, and also as a member the [something] Park [something] Alliance. Development that is pushing people out?But, as a parent of a child in public schools here in New York, I kept looking for voices of parents in this whole issue. I didn't see this voice, maybe I just missed it and I think that's a huge voice right now because this is a public school, first and foremost, it is our tax dollars that are paying for this school, it's parents dollars that are paying every week or every other week, as well as our dollars, so I agree with gentleman who left, Steve, whatever his name, the clarity and transparency on everything ... that is not there from the other side.
But we can't just say Department of Education doesn't do that, because of privacy or this.
It is a public entity. We're paying for that curriculum. We paid for those buildings. We paid for those teachers. And therefore the parents' voice is very important because they're all telling everybody ?Where are the parents? The problem with the school is that the parents are not active." We those of you [unclear] get back to those parents. You have lots of work to do with those parents. to make sure those parents are front and center and whatever language they speak their voices are heard, And I just want to be here as a [unclear] because this is indigenous leadership. This is what is missing in these communities [unclear] not only Muslim communities. I haven't heard anything from the non-Muslim Arab community. I haven't heard of a letter of support, I haven't read one, I haven't heard anything And that is a community that is very large in this city. And they need to be into here, because it's not just about Muslims. Because they will see the larger Arab community.
Male voice: [rabbi Feinberg] Surprised as I was, I was in shock, especially with how repulsive and disgusting the New York Post and other media are in the city, but having said that, I'm really repulsed by the [Puertoricano?], how this message of Khalil Gibran and what he stood for and represents could be so perverted and so ostracized and so ... no words to describe what it could do beyond words to describe [unclear] somebody as great as a poet and an intellectual as Khalil Gibran and what he represents, he must be turning in his grave. And we owe it to him as human beings on the planet to right that wrong. So I stand here as a [leader?], and as member of several organizations and also as a person who's got some skills whether they be with media and as a [unclear ... contributing?] organizer to do whatever we can to right this wrong as soon as possible and to restore Debbie hopefully and [unclear].
Male voice: Thank you very much
Female voice: [unclear ...student, non-Arab looking, into media coverage ...something about no apologies from schools in the U.S. but too soft to transcribe. A couple people applauded when she was done.]
Male Voice: One last comment for the night.
Male voice: [unclear] Glad to be here, few quick thoughts, thanks for bringing us together, for a good discussion, got a good start, as a community, as a broad based effort, to [prevent?] media bigotry, and to insure a united effort as we move forward supporting the school as one.
Just a couple of quick things, people have said most of the stuff that needs to be said tonight. One, about the boycott, I think it is a very intriguing idea, we have a lot of leverage within our community, I'm sure that we can execute successfully a boycott, any sort of media outlet, because we do own a lot of the means of distribution in this city, through our bodegas, our grocery stores, [unclear], our Arab community, our Muslim community, or even our like-minded brothers and sisters from the African-American community, Korean-American community, Latino community, and so on and so on.
But the key is, four years ago we were involved in a similar boycott, key is to study what went right and what went wrong with that boycott, to be sure that we don't repeat the same mistakes that we did before. There's an economic issue when it comes to a boycott that we have to address before we actually jump into it. So one, anything we get out of this meeting that we need to further strategize a little bit more and address the issue. [unclear] four years ago, We need specific goals that are finite, and this is not a boycott that will last for years and years and years. We need to identify what those goals are, and then make sure that we can move forward and achieve those goals.
The second thing, on DOE and Bloomberg and Salzberg, I'd like the information to report back to my organization as to what the communication is between the DOE, New Visions, and the school itself. Those who are engaged in the school directly right now ... the Arab American Family Support Center, the school board, I think it's important for us in any [connection?] regarding Bloomberg and any city institution to engage the Arab American Family Support Center and any other institution that are involved with this do have the open channels of dialogue so we can further understand what's really happening. In one way it's not necessarily transparent, but it would be nice for us to organize together to show this a broader effort and that we can speak for these other organizations [unclear].
Male voice: Thank you very much.
Female voice: I just want to give the phone number of the Arab American Family Support Center. Totally call there and ask any questions you want (gives number).
Female voice: For media inquiries, talk to Erica [unclear] in the dress, outside. Male voice: Thanks, everyone for being here tonight, I think we had a rich discussion, there is much work to be done, there are many many organizations that we have to reach out to, and we must get together as one, otherwise we're not going to be effective at all. Those who are not here tonight, we have to reach out to them [unclear] and make sure that they participate. And we have to make sure that [unclear] their voices and their opinions. [Unclear ... Arabs? Others?] In this community and in this city who are affected have been working hard . We are about 600,000 people in New York, and we are [ineffective?] [unclear]. And if we are going to stay this way we are never going to be effective. We have to get together, we have to unite, We have to reach out to each other and learn how to work with each other with all our diversity.
Female voice: We need next steps. From our discussion, what are next steps.
Female voice: We talked about having a working meeting, setting goals, dividing into smaller groups, work on [unclear].
Female voice: So is there an assignment sheet that has been passed around? If you're interested in being involved, please put your name and email address on it. And what we'll do, we'll send out a general email to everyone involved, say what [something about media, boycott, strategize, what was wrong and what was right but not totally clear]
Male voice: ]Really hard to hear - best effort ... he's making a motion]: I propose? in support of the school as an institution, supporting this principal [2 phrases unclear] and asking the Board of Education to more [forward?] in information and answering back to the New York Post what they are doing [with?] misinformation. [unclear ... he calls for a committee to decide on the wording].
Female voice: I suggest that we wait until after the school opens just because it's so tenuous now everything and it could pose a danger. That's all. I'm not saying anything else. That's just my feeling. We wait just two more weeks till the school opens. I mean ?
Male voice: It will die by then. [crowd cross talk- mostly agreement to what he says].
Male voice [same one who offered the proposal before]: [Repeats the proposal, asks for a show of hands for and against.] Who's for the press release? Who's against a press release? And who is abstinent? (general laughter).
Female voice: I'd like to clarify who is voting for, yes or no?[confused exchange all talking at once].
Male voice : On all groups joining in on press release, saying 17 organizations involved ... then someone says something holding off on that number [number?] ... but supporting the school ...
Many voices: [Some discussion about supporting school as a dual school, Board of Education moving forward in supervising the school, supporting Almontaser.] Female voice: The problem with Almontaser was not about the school. First of all the word intifada, it was being used against us. It was taken, distorted for us. I want to do a press conference, an AWAAM press conference on the girls saying there's fear and pressure here in the United States of America, [we can make any T-shirt we want to?], we can express ourselves if we want to.
Male voice: This [name?] is not an issue for ... it was mishandled in the way the media ?(several voices talking at once).
Female voice: We are all agreeing that we do not want to be defamed by the media and sit down and be silent about it. The school's opening whether you like it and whether we're involved or not. Get that straight. The school's September 4. They have an interim principal. If you have any recommendations for a principal, please give it to the Family Support Center. That's what I want you guys to understand. This is very important.
As a community, the point of the school that we are talking about is that the school has been defamed. And as part of the community we've all been dragged into it, I've been dragged into it, [unclear] have been dragged into it. For six years we've been defamed and now we're going to base it on one little incident with the school. This is not what it's about [unclear], that's what I've been trying to say to you. We get much wider support, from the Latino community, from the African-American community from other communities [unclear] on things that are more general. Don't ... the school is a school and it's going to open. It's got its forty children, Mayor Bloomberg, the Department of Education is supporting it. That's it. Why are we going to go ... what are we emphasizing. What are we ...
Female voice: We came here because we were excited about the three proposals that were raised in yesterday's meeting. And we came here prepared to base a campaign based on those three proposals. I think this [community] process here is difficult because some of us are representing organizations and some of us are individuals. So I would suggest that a vote on this right here might not be effective. I can also say that we would be willing if a number of organizations would sign on and it could be in our name or in the name of a coalition, for example a coalition to protect our education or something, whatever we come up with, you would be willing to put out a press release with the three points we came up with yesterday. And that was a pretty arduous process of coming up with those three points.
Number one, we demand that Chancellor Klein and Bloomberg invite Debbie to resume her position as principal. Why? Because they are our leaders. They should be rejecting the racism that put her in this position as a [unclear, someone keeps clearing their throat] rather than affirm it.
Number two, we demand that Randi Weingarten of the United Teachers Federation, revoke her condemnation of Debbie and support the school. Ok? That will make it possible for the school to survive [with Debbie? Unclear last two words]. Those are two points.
I think the Post is a tactic. The Post we were talking about using it maybe as a tactic to achieve those two gains. So I don't know, organizations, I think it should be a coalition effort of organizations as opposed to individuals if organizations are interested in endorsing that or in discussing it and actually doing this as an organization coalition effort, I think that's what we should do and I think that we should do it by phone and by email. So we can have a list here for people who are interested. That's my proposal. Can we ask for yeas and nays on that proposal? Male voice, general talk ... unclear ...
Female voice: Obviously there's two agendas, one about defamation and the misuse of the Arab language, like madrassa just means school, it doesn't mean terrorist camp. There's people that want to support that. And then there's people that want to [support Debbie as a person?] and then there's [unclear] want to support the school. So for people who want to support the school, and want to get back at the New York Post and these places that are totally defaming the [community?] but don't necessarily agree with the other parts of the agenda, maybe ? (interrupted by male voice) Male voice: [unclear] A school will be open whether we like it or not. The whole thing has been set, it's ready to open. So what's the use of talking about what that school is all about, it's ready to open and we have no [input?]
Male voice: You're talking about two parallel tracks.
Female voice: You can support the school, but you don't necessarily support ... like a person ... [unclear lots of cross-talk] ... like a person should represent the school. Male voice: It feels very wrong to abruptly end the meeting. Is it possible to keep this room and let those who wish to pray go pray and come back? Because it feels very disorganized, and if there isn't proper decision-making process so we can come up to a conclusion.
Male voice: [cross-talk] There has to be an end to the meeting?
Male voice: Who wants to stay for further discussion? Raise your hand. So we'll take [fifteen?] minutes for prayer and then come back.
Male voice: Could you take charge the discussion?
Female voice: Me?
[Crowd cross-talk as people leave for break.]