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The Ignorance and Stupidity of a Manhattan Mom

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Here we go again, folks. The hate mongers are out there front and center, making sure no American child learns anything about the rest of the world. Moms are rallying to the barricades in this earnest stand against kids educations (even if it's not their kids).
"Intifada is a war. Isn't that what Arafat had?" said Pamela Hall, a Manhattan mom opposed to the academy on the grounds that it violates separation of church and state.
The academy in question is the Khalil Gibran International Academy, New York City's new Arabic-language public school. Arabic language school, Pamela. Language, although it may come as a shock to you, is not associated with religion. As an example, English is also a language, just as Arabic is and those who speak English are—amazingly—not all Englishmen submissive to the Church of England.

“Isn’t that what Arafat had?” sounds as if intifada might be a head-cold. But I can understand your concern, there’s just so much pressure to momming in Manhattan these days. It’s not always enough to select an appropriate school for your own children, the defeat of educational options for other people’s kids are important too. That’s what modern momming is all about.

Kalil Gibran, by the way, for whom the school is named, was raised in a Christian community in Lebanon over 100 years ago and his grandfather was a Catholic priest. A pacifist, if you will. A man whose life, writings and art might serve a mentoring role for those interested in the Arabic languages and (dare I say it?) history. It’s possible, Pamela, that you may have read—or at least heard of—his popular book of poetic essays, The Prophet. Big player in the evil sixties.

It’s difficult to learn language in an historic vacuum, but one need not be a terrorist to study Arabic or a communist to enjoy the knowledge of Russian.
The down side of activist Manhattan momming is the damage that intellectual incuriosity always does to those who have been mommed. This from Bradley Burston, senior editor of the newspaper, Haaretz-Israel;
Debbie Almontaser was to have been principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, New York City's new Arabic-language public school when it opened its doors in Brooklyn next month. But a series of articles in the New York Post earlier this month drew a tenuous link between Almontaser and an organization which was, in the Post's words, "hawking T- shirts that glorify Palestinian terror"

"The inflammatory tees boldly declare "Intifada NYC" - apparently a call for a Gaza-style uprising in the Big Apple."

Almontaser's response was measured. "The word [intifada] basically means 'shaking off.' That is the root word if you look it up in Arabic," she said, in remarks quoted by the Post.

"I understand it is developing a negative connotation due to the uprising in the Palestinian-Israeli areas. I don't believe the intention is to have any of that kind of [violence] in New York City. "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."

Almontaser was right. So was Jarrar (the subject of an earlier injustice in the article). They were telling the truth. It was their truth, to be sure, but the First Amendment to the United States Constitution was written “and placed before all 26 other amendments” specifically to protect each individual's personal truth.

Personal truths raised up against tenuous links. Placed before all 26 other amendments. Personal truths are the core beliefs essential to teaching of any kind, even language, the first requirement of learning. Personal truths are Almontaser's specialty.

Drawing tenuous links is a specialty of the New York Post, so jaded an activity that even an Israeli newspaper commenting on an Arabic injustice finds it unpalatable. The Post is the 13th oldest newspaper continuously published in the United States, a veneration only slightly offset by the fact that, for the past 30 years it has been owned and dictated by Rupert Murdoch. Well, perhaps more than slightly. The Post thrives on character assassination and its recent victim is Debbie Almontaser, expected principal and founder of the Khalil Gibran School.

Unable to resist so challenging a test of impartiality, the New York Sun got into the act in the form of its radical columnist (Haaretz again);
New York Sun columnist Daniel Pipes, who has strongly backed efforts to fire Almontaser and shut the school's doors before they ever open, called her remarks on the t-shirts' message "a gratuitous apology for suicide terrorism."
Well, certainly Pipes should know gratuitous when he sees it. Christopher Hitchens has said that Pipes "confuses scholarship with propaganda" and pursues "petty vendettas with scant regard for objectivity." The paper for which Pipes writes, the New York Sun, ran an editorial that proposed “protestors against the Iraq war should be prosecuted for treason.” So much for the support of political pluralism in the fourth estate. Pipes is himself a 'gratuitous apologist' for the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, which he thought was just dandy.

And those are the major players, against which Debbie Almontaser hadn’t much representative equality, even though her motives were far less tainted than the editorial board of the New York Post or Daniel Pipes. When newspapers take a stand they seem capable of everything but ridding us of demagoguery in the White House. Belatedly, the Sun reports,
But at a rally in front of the Department of Education on Chambers Street last night, supporters of Ms. Almontaser urged Messrs. Klein and Bloomberg to reinstate her. Chanting "Bring Debbie Back!" speakers representing Christian, Jewish, and Muslim groups argued that city leaders could have prevented Ms. Almontaser's resignation by defending her more strongly.

"If this is a DOE school, why aren't they standing behind it? Where is the mayor? Where is Joel Klein?" a Brooklyn mother who served on the school's curriculum design team, Deborah Howard, asked. "Where is the support of standing behind this fabulous educator and shielding her from racist attacks that have no basis in truth whatsoever?"

Trust a Brooklyn mother over a Manhattan mother every time.
Another speaker, Rabbi Michael Feinberg, blamed Ms. Almontaser's departure on the Stop the Madrassa Coalition, a group that has been campaigning to close Khalil Gibran. Rabbi Feinberg called the coalition "extremist" and pointed out that it receives support from a group in favor of "Minutemen"-style tactics against illegal immigration, New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement, and a group that describes itself as a watchdog against domestic terrorism, the United American Committee, that focuses almost exclusively on Muslims.
Thus we have the strange coalition of Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups, including a major Israeli  newspaper and a prominent rabbi, calling for an important New York experiment in Arab-language education to support its founding principle, as well as its principal, Debbie Almontaser.

One wonders how far we have actually come from those days of Governor George Wallace on Alabama schoolhouse steps. The rabidity of attacks against Almontaser and her school are directed, as they were 35 years ago in the South, by a coalition of the ignorant.

What never seems to change, is our tolerance of ignorance and race-hatred.
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Jim Freeman's op-ed pieces and commentaries have appeared in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, International Herald-Tribune, CNN, The New York Review, The Jon Stewart Daily Show and a number of magazines. His thirteen published books are (more...)
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