Opponents of the mosque in Sheepshead Bay are playing the same game as right-wing fear-mongerers who have targeted the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, according to one of New York's most-famous victims of Islamophobia.
Debbie Almontaser, an Arab-American educator who was wrongly ousted by the city as principal of an Arabic culture school amid anti-Islamic attacks, said that the vitriol against the Sheepshead Bay mosque follows the same pattern of hate.
"These people [who opposed her school] were all given legitimacy by the Bloomberg administration in 2007," when she was ousted, Almontaser said on Friday night, after a screening of a documentary on the rise and fall of her Khalil Gibran Academy. "They're all connected and related — it's not a disconnected situation. Look at [their] whole propaganda, it's very similar to the opposition to [other] mosques."
The educator noted that at least one national organization had a presence at a rally that she attended in favor of the Sheepshead Bay mosque last September.
"Stop the Islamization of America distributed fliers at the rally!" she said, referencing the organization founded by the conservative blogger Pamela Geller, who was also instrumental in publicizing the controversy surrounding Khalil Gibran.
Opponents claim that they object to the mosque solely because it would add traffic to their quiet corner of Sheepshead Bay. But signs at rallies and interviews conducted with opponents reveal that anti-Islamic sentiment is at the core of many opponents' position.
And that makes Almontaser sad.
"It's sad because no one is looking at the impact this all has on the children from the community — both Muslims' and opponents' children!" she said.
The educator made the remarks following a screening in Park Slope of a documentary called "Intifada NYC," which chronicles her meteoric rise from unknown educator to Public Enemy Number 1 as a suspected terrorist sympathizer founding a public school that would supposedly indoctrinate students into radical Islamic ideology.
She was eventually fired by the city, but a federal agency determined that she had been wrongly sacked.