Many people have been stunned by the furor over the so-called Ground Zero mosque, but anyone living in Brooklyn saw it coming three years ago.
That’s when the saga of the Khalil Gibran Academy — an Arabic language school — played out, first in Park Slope and then in Boerum Hill.
A new documentary about Debbie Almontaser, the school’s vilified Arab-American founder, doesn’t quibble about its heroes (Almontaser and her supporters) and villains (the naysayers and demagogues who participated in a whirlwind of misinformation and fear).
The film, “Intifada NYC,” will be screened on Friday at Park Slope United Methodist Church — and Almontaser will be there to take questions, breaking a long silence about a saga that began when she founded the Khalil Gibran Academy, which was slated to share space with a Sixth Avenue elementary school.
Parents there objected — over space concerns, they said — but that simple campaign turned into a 21st-century crusade against the innovative Arabic language and culture school and its founder.
Quickly, the well-respected educator was accused of wanting to open a “madrassa” that would churn out terrorists.
But Almontaser didn’t do herself any favors, either. In the middle of the controversy, she was quoted in the Post defending a T-shirt with the words “Intifada NYC,” and suddenly, she was being accused of being soft on terror (sound familiar?).
“The right-wing bloggers fanned people’s fears,” said Judy O’Brien, a friend of Almontaser’s and a parishioner of the church. “There was a lot of misunderstanding about the school. It wasn’t about religion or indoctrinating students into a certain political philosophy — it was a dual-language school!”
O’Brien said she hears the same echo every time she hears the inaccurate turn “Ground Zero mosque.”
“It just gets repeated until there is a total misconception of what the project is about — the same thing happened with Debbie,” she said.
“Intifada NYC” at Park Slope United Methodist Church [410 Sixth Ave. at Eighth Street in Park Slope, (718) 768-3093] on Nov. 5 at 8 pm.
©2010 Community News Group
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