The district director of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found cause to believe that the Department of Education discriminated in forcing out the founding principal of a high school built around Arabic language and culture.
Spencer Lewis was simply wrong in finding that Debbie Almontaser was the victim of a tidal wave of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim bias. And he went far beyond the bounds, particularly for an official of his position, in citing as evidence the religious affiliation and devotional practices of Almontaser's successor.
He wrote: "A non-Muslim American-born woman (and a Sabbath-observing Jew) was appointed temporary principal, the clamor died down ... and the school opened on schedule."
Lewis' clear - and offensive - implication is that, in the end, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein placated a hate-filled rabble by bringing in a woman who had credibility with the mob because she was a member of the right religion, and observant as well.
This is the kind of odious conclusion you arrive at when you believe, as Almontaser seems to, that powerful forces lie in wait to deny Muslims rightful places in American society. Lewis buys the fable lock, stock and barrel.
The facts are different. Almontaser was a driving force behind what was to be the city's first Arabic-themed school, encompassing grades 6 through 12. The concept was endorsed up to the chancellor's office and beyond. So much for being anti-anything.
It became clear then that Almontaser was not contemplating a traditional public school that had an added emphasis on the bilingual study of Arabic. She was formulating an institution where students would be deeply immersed in Arabic language and culture, with necessary consideration of Islam, in a public school.
Such an arrangement could be controversial whatever the ethnic heritage and religion happened to be. And Almontaser's plans stood to be cosmically more so in the post-9/11 era.
She needed to be able to talk straight with the public about the school's cultural identity, as well as about how Islam would be woven into the curriculum. She failed miserably, most sensationally after she became embroiled in an uproar over T-shirts worn by teenage girls and bearing the words "Intifada NYC."
She said the term meant "shaking off" rather than "bloody violent uprising," as it is understood because of the murderous campaign of that name by Palestinians against Israel. Almontaser said: "I think it's pretty much an opportunity for girls to express that they are part of New York City society ... and shaking off oppression."
Then and there she lost public confidence, a commodity that every school leader must have. And she proved to lack the ability to regain it by vigorously and persuasively defending her stance.
That is why she was pushed out. Not because of what she said, as a federal court rightly ruled in September in denying her First Amendment claim. Not because the school system wielded, as Lewis atrociously put it, "a Sabbath-observing Jew" to get her. She was just miscast and incapable of executing her fuzzy, ill-conceived plan.