A tale of two schools
by Alex Kane on June 26, 2010 · 41 comments
When plans were announced in February 2007 to open the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA), New York City's first dual-language Arabic public school, ugly anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia reared its head.
Yesterday, the New York Times profiled a Brooklyn-based Hebrew language charter school. There has been barely a peep about this school--a stark reminder of the privilege Jewish-Americans hold in our society and how racism against Arabs is an accepted part of our national discourse.
Here's an excerpt from a great New York Times profile by Andrea Elliott of KGIA's founding principal Debbie Almontaser about the concocted controversy:
In newspaper articles and Internet postings, on television and talk radio, Ms. Almontaser was branded a "radical," a "jihadist" and a "9/11 denier." She stood accused of harboring unpatriotic leanings and of secretly planning to proselytize her students. Despite Ms. Almontaser's longstanding reputation as a Muslim moderate, her critics quickly succeeded in recasting her image.
The conflict tapped into a well of post-9/11 anxieties. But Ms. Almontaser's downfall was not merely the result of a spontaneous outcry by concerned parents and neighborhood activists. It was also the work of a growing and organized movement to stop Muslim citizens who are seeking an expanded role in American public life. The fight against the school, participants in the effort say, was only an early skirmish in a broader, national struggle.
One of the more pernicious, and completely false, charges against KGIA was that the school had a political agenda to indoctrinate students to believe in "radical Islam."
The Hebrew-language charter school, on the other hand, does have politics, namely Zionism, infused into it:
There are reminders of Israel everywhere — blue-and-white flags adorn the walls of one classroom, and another class often watches an Israeli children's show. The students celebrated Israeli Independence Day this year. (In the parlance of 5- and 6-year-olds, the day was known as the country's "62nd birthday," and prompted a project of construction-paper birthday cards.)
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