Anti-Arab Racism Alive and Thriving in New York Tabloids

Washington, DC | August 20, 2007 | | The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is deeply troubled by the relentless criticism by conservative columnists, the New York Post and New York Sun regarding the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA).
ADC President Hon. Mary Rose Oakar said, “ADC is concerned that this seems to be yet another instance in which anything Arab is stigmatized and held to a different standard. ADC is deeply troubled by the persistent labeling of Arab Americans and Muslim Americans as “terrorists” or “terrorist sympathizers,” a pattern which is reflected in some commentary surrounding the school. This is a form of incitement that is not only irresponsible, but dangerous and leads stereotyping of the community. We should not let these irrational voices derail the opening of the school.”
When plans for KGIA were introduced New York School Chancellor Joel I. Klein rightly believed that idea for a school that taught Arabic language and culture was appropriate and suitable for the city’s system of dual-language programs. The city currently has more than 60 similar language and culture schools including French, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Greek, Korean, among others. There is also strong support for the school from Mayor Bloomberg, the NY Education Department, and former Mayor Edward Koch.
However, criticism from conservative columnists, several officials, The NY Post, and The NY Sun has been increasingly strident and bigoted since the school was announced in February. The KGIA is opening in partnership with New Visions for Public Schools, which is a nonprofit group that has helped to create many of New York City’s new smaller schools. The plan for the school is to offer standard college preparatory course, with the addition of daily Arabic language instruction and a focus on international relations. KGIA is intended to open in the fall and initially it will offer only sixth grade class but will expand yearly until it includes grades 6-12. It will be housed in an existing middle school, a practice common in the New York school system.
Efforts to delegitimize KGIA began with the school’s announcement. Simply because the school offered Arabic classes notorious Arab bashers began their campaign with slogans of “Jihad School” and a campaign called “Stop the Madrassa” (madrassa is the Arabic word for school). The campaign continued and then focused on long time public school teacher Debbie Al Monstaser who was the principal of the school and a driving force behind its creation. That effort culminated with AlMonstaser’s resignation earlier this week and Danielle Salzburg has been named Interim Acting Principal. Salzburg is a ten-year veteran of New York City’s Department of Education, has help found two schools, and has been involved with KGIA for the last six months.
Monday, August 20, 6pm
NYC Department of Education
Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers Street
Between Broadway & Centre St. in Manhattan
Subways: 4, 5, 6, N, R, W, M, J, 2, 3, A, C
As New Yorkers and others in support of quality public education for all of our communities, we stand in solidarity with the Khalil Gibran International Academy, which has sustained hateful and false attacks by anti-Arab media and extremists. In the post-9/11 world, a school educating our children about Arab history, culture, and language is not only crucial for the next generation to become informed leaders for positive change in our communities; it is also an extraordinary place of hope for peace, understanding, and justice for our embattled world. We regret that Debbie Almontaser was unfairly pressured to resign from her position as principal due to the attacks, and we applaud her work to establish this school and promote intercultural exchange in this diverse global city.
Those who seek to equate the study of Arabic language, culture, and history with religious fanaticism and violence are irresponsibly aggravating a present moment of hysteria against Arab and Muslim communities, and are using this moment to promote hatred in a time of war. We urge our public officials to reject these racist and inaccurate attacks, and continue to work towards building a lasting educational institution that promises to bring our communities together, rather than divide and pit them against each other. We call on all communities who want to see peace on our streets and in our world to stand with us in support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy.
Arab Resource and Organizing Center, San Francisco, CA
AWAAM: Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media
Brown Memorial Baptist Church
Center for Immigrant Families
Council on American Islamic Relations – NY
Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ)
Muslim Consultive Network
WFD Program Steering Committee at First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn
Organizational Endorsers:
Adalah-NY: Coalition for Justice in the Middle East
The African American Islamic Institute (AAII)
Brecht Forum
Brooklyn For Peace (formerly Brooklyn Parents for Peace)
Ethical Action Commitee of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture
Independent Commission on Public Education
Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives, Brooklyn
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Oakland Chapter
Peoples MEDIA Center
Sunset Park Alliance of Neighbors
WESPAC Foundation
Individual Endorsers:
Katherine Acey, Concerned Brooklyn Resident
Rev. Elizabeth Alexander, Church of the Gethsemane
Reshma Baig & Yahiya Emerick, Islamic Foundation of North America (IFNA)
Aleise Barnett, NYC Public School Teacher
Rev. Dr. Robert L. Brashear, Pastor, West-Park Presbyterian Church; Pres,
Interfaith Assembly on Housing & Homelessness
Lisel Burns, Clergy Leader, Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture
Ashaki H. Taha-Cisse, Executive Director, African American Islamic Institute (AAII)
Carolyn Rusti Eisenberg, Brooklyn for Peace
Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
Alice Fisher, Abrahamic Network of NY & Member of Congregation B’nai Jeshuran, NYC
Martha Gallahue, Concerned Parent in Brooklyn
Carol Horwitz, Concerned Brooklyn Resident
Valerie Kameya, Concerned Brooklyn Resident
Youme Landowne, Artist and Educator
Gail Lerner, NYC
Laura Liben, Teaching Artist, NY Public Schools
Dr. Lucinda Mosher, Interreligious Relations Consultant
Saul Nieves, Activist and Union Organizer
Robert Patterson, Theatre Professional and Community Organizer
Steve Quester, UFT Member
Malika Rushdan; Consultant & Artist: Modern Age Art
Rev. Charles H. Straut, Jr., DMin, Member, KGIA Advisory Committee
Eileen B. Weiss, Managing Director, Same Difference Interfaith Alliance

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