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Fear and Hatred in the Apple

By Mumia Abu-Jamal  Posted by Hans Bennett (about the submitter)     Permalink
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Fear & Hatred In The Apple
[col. writ. 9/8/07]
(c) '07 Mumia Abu-Jamal
 
 In New York City will soon open the Kahlil Gibran International Academy, a center for the study of Arabic language and culture.
 
 Or maybe not.
 
 That's because the school, named for a brilliant Lebanese-American writer, has become the focus of a right-wing campaign against its staff, and its very existence.
 
 Racist and right-wing groups and media outlets have so demonized the school, that its respected educator and the school's principal, Debbie Al-Montaser, felt compelled to resign.
 
 Of all things, Al-Montaser has been forced to leave because of a media-sparked uproar over a T-shirt, which bore the words, "Intifada NYC."  The T-shirt is the production of the group, Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media (AWAM), a group with no ties to the Kahlil Gibran Academy.
 
 Leave it to the notorious New York Post to use the t-shirt to depict Al-Montaser as "The Intifada Principal" (in a headline), who apparently is calling for "a Gaza-style uprising in the Big Apple."
 
 It is beyond irony that a school named for one of the most revered Arab writers, who, with several of his countrymen spent long years in the U.S., should become the focus of so much fear and hatred.
 
 Gibran is perhaps best-known for his classic 1923 work, The Prophet, a book of glorious prose, and sensitive spiritual themes. To add to the irony Gibran was a Christian.
 
 A school named in honor of an Arab Christian will hardly bloom into the site described by the New York Sun as a place to "groom future radicals."
 
 But in a nation where Arab is merely a synonym for 'terrorist', and it is assumed that all Arabs are Muslims it is hardly surprising that some right-wing media will exploit that ignorance, and feed it.
 
 In his youth, Gibran and a coterie of other Arab writers came to America to live and to write, and most of them remained here for many years. One, Lebanese writer, Mikhail Naimy, left shortly after his arrival, and returned home to pen The Book of Mirdad, a mystical work on the coming of a stranger to an abbey, who finds and exposes greed and corruption within.
 
 Gibran would be shocked by the campaign of hatred and fear generated around a school named after him.  He would, perhaps, if he could, turn his thin finger to a browned page of his work, to speak with his own voice to those who now heap hatred and calumny upon his name.  Before he published The Prophet, he penned a work aptly named, The Forerunner, a short story of a man who lived in a village, but whom few truly knew.  He arose, deep into the night, to bare his heart to the sleeping city below him, as he took to the rooftop.  This is part of his plea to the sleeping throng:
 
 "My friends and my neighbours and you who daily pass my gate.  I would speak to you in
 your sleep, and in the valley of your dreams I would walk naked and unrestrained: for heedless
 are your waking hours and deaf are your sound-burdened ears.
 "Long did I love you and overmuch.
 "I love the one among you as though you were all, and all as if you were one. And in the spring
 of my heart I sang in your gardens, and in the summer of my heart I watched at your
 threshing-floors.
 "Yes, I loved you all, the giant and the pygmy, the leper and the anointed, and him who gropes
 in the dark even as him who dances his days upon the mountains.
 "You, the strong have I loved, though the marks of your iron hoofs are yet upon my flesh; and
 you the weak, though you have drained my faith and wasted my patience.
 "You the rich have I loved, while bitter was your honey to my mouth: and you the poor, though
 you know my empty-handed shame.....
 "You the priest have I loved, who sit in the silences of yesterday questioning the fate of my
 tomorrow; and you the worshippers of gods the images of your desires.....
 "Yes, I have loved you all, the young and the old, the trembling reed and the oak..." {From:  
 Gibran, K., The Forerunner: His Parables and Poems. (Dover Publ., 1920), pp.51-53.}
 
 Like the subject of his sweet prose, the man who loves is not loved by his city, as the school in his name is not loved in the city of its founding.  Instead of love answering to love, the love of learning and culture, it comes in the name of stranger, and is clad in a brown face, and is met with fear and hatred.
 
 Gibran would smile, while tears flowed from his eyes.
 
---(c) '07 maj
 
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