Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

The New (York City) Anti-Semitism: Reinstate Debbie Almontaser to the Kahlil Gibran International Academy

Any intelligent observer can easily discern that the “new” anti-semitism today has little connection with discrimination against Jews. Anti-semitism nowadays is mostly about deplorable discrimination and racist attacks against Arabs. Right now in New York, the Likudnik thought police are trying their darndest to designate Arabic words like intifada and madrassa (which simply means ‘school’ in Arabic, regardless of religious affiliation), treasonous. Madrassa does not mean religious school.

We see this playing out in the trumped-up brouhaha about the Kahlil Gibran International Academy, wherein Debbie Almontaser, the head, was branded a terrorist for not apologising enough (for the hardline-Zionists liking) about the word ‘intifada’ (which simply means ‘shaking off’) on a T-Shirt–worn by someone else! The racist bullying and defamation resulted in Almontaser resigning.

This reflects poorly on NYC, which has a rich history of cosmopolitanism, the same American tradition that brought Kahlil Gibran, the timeless Lebanese-born poet and philosopher, to the shores of the US where he made such a lasting impact upon the world of literature.

As Anthony DiMaggio notes, Daniel Pipes is one of the reactionaries spouting utter rubbish about Arabic, such as: “Arabic-language instruction is inevitably laden with pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage” and “Muslims tend to see non-Muslims learning Arabic as a step toward an eventual conversion to Islam…”

Islamophobe Pipes fails to mention that the most populous Muslim country is Indonesia (pop: 242 million), whose national language is Bahasa Indonesian. He neglects to mention that there are a great many Christian Arabic speakers too, such as myself. Yes, Arab culture is attached to Islam—since when then is that a crime?–but also to Christianity and Judaism, too. The demonisation of Islam and of Arabic as a language by ignoramuses and ideologues such as Pipes and Bella Rabinowitz is all in service of the terror-blather that has hijacked public discourse in the United States.

Samuel Freedman is one of the very few voices in the MSM to more accurately document the affair, as Richard Silverstein observes.

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Al Jazeera news clip (Thanks Ressentiment)

8 comments on “The New (York City) Anti-Semitism: Reinstate Debbie Almontaser to the Kahlil Gibran International Academy

  1. thepoetryman
    1 September, 2007

    The demonisation of Islam and of Arabic as a language by ignoramuses and ideologues such as Pipes and Bella Rabinowitz is all in service of the terror-blather that has hijacked public discourse in the United States.

    If only the people attempting to hijack this school would read and digest Kahlil’s beautiful words, particularly The Prophet, they may indeed change their minds. Closed-minded people are the doom of this earth.

    This was a great post my friend. Why don’t you cross-post it at The Peace Tree? I would be honored to have your voice over there.

    Peace.

  2. thepoetryman
    1 September, 2007

    The ignorance only couples the fear and they both are mindkillers. It’s truly a shame.

  3. Ann El Khoury
    1 September, 2007

    So true Mark, the spirit of Gibran would really help infuse the school’s ideological detractors with the humanity, compassion and clear-thinking they so evidently could do with.

    Thanks, I’ve just cross-posted it at The Peace Tree, and the honour is mine my friend.

  4. jonolan
    1 September, 2007

    This is happening in my backyard so to speak so I’ll comment. The issue is more complicated than you’re making it to be.

    The core of the dislike for the proposed madrassas is centered on its public funding and the people involved in its board of advisors. All the members of the board were Immans or Mullahs, none had extensive educational credentials. This makes it plausible that the school would include a large amount of religious curriculum. Public (Govt) money in the US is NOT supposed to be spent on religious institutions. There were further issues with the refusal to publish a list of the faculty.

    Then you add the media’s love of sensationalism and the lack of “cultural” education available to most average Americans and you get a problem. Yes, prejudice was / is involved but the overall situation is based on a lot more than that.

  5. Ann El Khoury
    1 September, 2007

    Jonolan, the Academy was never described as religious; it is recognized that public money is not to be spent on religious institutions in the US.

    Regarding the advisory board, it is quite permissible to have clergy on it as long as the curricula is only about religion, rather than being religious. Yes, the school’s advisory board is made up of three imams, but also Christian and Jewish clergy.

    Legitimate matters of merit and and credentials are one thing, ideologically-motivated attacks — which these clearly are — are quite another.

    Certainly, the issue is more complicated than a quick post can hope to do justice in covering, but really the gist of it is not at all complicated. The post’s focus was on the core issue of the ideological attack on a legitimate initiative, one that has the potential to do so much good and build bridges. Yes, other things come into play, but there is no claim of comprehensive coverage here, the attack on Debbie Almontaser — a very well-credentialed principal and public teacher — was my main focus.

    Your claim that “This makes it plausible that the school would include a large amount of religious curriculum” is unsubstantiated. It may be plausible, but that does not make the claim true.

    Again, I’d welcome further comments and references to back up these claims. It seems we both assign prejudice some role — but to be clear, it is not ordinary Americans who I see as being particularly prejudiced. My own experience with US friends and associates suggests otherwise, I’m happy to say. You will recall I mentioned American cosmopolitanism in the post, in clearly admiring terms. Rather, I see it as largely being about a group of individuals who are actively organized in a smear campaign and who have an identifiable ideological agenda.

  6. michaelgreenwell
    2 September, 2007

    sorry to be off topic but could you please add a link to the new blog http://exitstageright.wordpress.com
    myself, the fanonite and a few others are doing it. if you want to get involved please email me and i can add you.

    if you want to know ‘why’ then read the ‘why?’ section!!

  7. 99
    2 September, 2007

    Oh! I get it! I’m in a coma in a hospital somewhere. That trainwreck in 2000… I never woke up. This Felliniesque world? Hardeeharharharhar.

  8. Ann El Khoury
    2 September, 2007

    And again in 2004 …

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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"


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