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The Gibran Academy: Anatomy of a disaster

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The Khalil Gibran International Academy, an Arabic language and culture middle school named after the famed Lebanese Christian poet, was a lightning rod of controversy from the very beginning. Given the school’s demise this week, we felt it was time for a fond look back.

February, 2007: The city announces that the Khalil Gibran International Academy will be located somewhere in Brooklyn.

March, 2007: The fight begins as the city announces that the academy will share space inside PS 282 in Park Slope.

• April, 2007: The outrage begins: Daniel Pipes, a commentator on radical Islam, writes that “Arabic-language instruction is inevitably laden with pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage.” A week later, the city announces that the school won’t be in Park Slope.

May, 2007: The school is officially moved to Boerum Hill.

• September, 2007: The first day of school was covered by practically more media than were in Little Rock for the desegregation of the high school.

August, 2007: Founding principal Debbie Almontaser resigns amid pressure from the city after she didn’t forcefully condemn a T-shirt reading, “Intifada NYC.” The city appoints non-Arabic speaker, Danielle Salzberg, to replace Almontaser.

November, 2007: Almontaser sues the city for violating her free speech.

January, 2008: The school gets its third principal, Holly Reichart, who replaces Salzberg.

March, 2008: School relocated to the PS 287 building in Fort Greene.

April, 2008: Parents there say they feel “bamboozled” after learning that the academy would be housed inside their Navy Street building.

March, 2010: Almontaser is vindicated when a federal commission rules that the city “succumbed to the very bias that creation of the school was intended to dispel” when it forced Almontaser to resign.

• This week: The city plans to kill the Gibran middle school and try to turn it into a high school.

— Gersh Kuntzman

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Reader Feedback

Joe Z. from Greenpoint says:
So, I can wear a shirt with "Muslims Suck" written on it, since I have the Contitutionally guaranteed right to exercise free speech, right?

Since I'm on the subject of constitutionality, promoting and teaching religion in public schools is against the laws of this country. Muslims deserve no special entitlements or exceptions which other religions do not receive. Last time I checked, NYC, and its public school system, are still in the United States. Nothing other than English should be used in classrooms to educate students.No accomodations should be made to provide prayer rooms for Muslim students. They are no better than students of other religious backgrounds who are not afforded the same courtesies. If learning Arabic and Islamic culture are the paramount concern of the students' parents, send the kids to a madrassa. Diversity is nothing more than separatism and another step toward the balkanization of this country. The greatness of this country was the result of immigrants who came here to find a better life for themselves and their families. They accomplished this by assimilating into American society. This can't be accomplished by encouraging people to live in ethnically or religious enclaves,im essence, a ghetto mentality. Anyone who argues that they have the right to have separate schools is correct. Only, not on the taxpayer's dime.
April 10, 2011, 12:10 pm
Angantyr from England says:
This like this make me, sadly, see the USA as ridiculous intolerant. Not only was she right about the use of the word ''intifada''s true meaning in Arabic, but she was in reality driving from the school due to the narrow-minded prejudices and stupidity of anti-Islamic and racist citizens of the USA who possess an irrational hatred of anything they associate with Islam, including the Arabic language (which is spoken by many Christians - like Gibran himself - and Jews). Ignoring the fact that ''intifada'' is actually not offensive even when used by Palestinian guerillas (rightfully irked that their lands were handed over to European and Central Asian colonists), but the word is not seen in the same like by Muslims and Arabic speakers, who use the term for far more than fighting Israel!

And Joe Z. Do the research! The school didn't teach Islam. It was a school for the ARABIC LANGUAGE not Islam. The school was simply an Arabic language school that was named after Khalil Gibran, a non-Muslim, a Christian with very tolerant and loving views of humanity. The school also taught the English language and American values. It was fundamentally created to help Arabic speakers integrate into mainstream American society. The fact that you are under the impression that it was some sort of school to teach Islam shows that you didn't even research the topic and are probably clouded by bigotry.

And there are over 60 non-English language schools in New York and most are public schools. The fact that they were not seen as controversial yet an Arabic one was is embarrassing for the United States and doesn't speak highly of the American people at all.
June 12, 2014, 10:13 pm
Al Moustafa Mohammad Ali from Brooklyn says:
I am really glad that this Arabic, OK in reality, Islamic, school was shut down.

When we, Muslims, immigrate to America, we need to integrate and integrate our children in the "American" culture and way of life not promote Islam.

To understand Islam, READ THE QURAN and fully understand Islam!...

Let's stop sugar coating things.

There is absolutely NO difference between the Allah Akbaaaar and the quran of Muslims and the quran of Muslim terrorists...

It's the same Holy and Perfect book that controls the minds and every aspect of the lives of every Muslim AT ALL TIMES (not just 1,400 years ago), the same ideology and the same culture that obligates every single Muslim, not just Muslim terrorists to kill non-Muslims "wherever they find them" and makes legal child marriages, inbreeding, wife beating, stoning, cutting of hands and legs, and discrimination against women.

Over 100 Million little Muslim little girls have been raped under the pretext of islamic marriages.

More than 50% of Muslims are inbred.

Muslims never integrate in our Western society. I am an exception. They reproduce like rabbits, reject our "infidel" Western culture and dominate.

Islam and civilization can never coexist.

Good Muslims who, like me, genuinely leave Islam and fully accept our Western culture and core moral values, are very welcome to stay amongst us and fully integrate in our Western society.

Everyone else who rejects our American "aka infidel" culture and way of life, and want to promote Halal and Islam, should be offered a free travel ticket to a random Muslim country so they can live happily every after under islam and among Muslims.

Now, you have a choice to BAN Islam all together in the U.S. and shut down mosques like Angola did...

In 10-20 years, you will NOT have that choice.

http://quran.com/4/89
June 21, 2015, 1:15 am

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