Arabic public school in NYC sparks outcry

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Sep 6 12:54:59 UTC 2007

Arabic public school in NYC sparks outcry
By North America correspondent Kim Landers

Posted Wed Sep 5, 2007 7:45pm AEST

New York City's first school to teach Arabic language and culture has
just opened, and it is already been branded by opponents as a publicly
funded breeding ground for terrorists. Some have labelled it a
madrassa and have called for the New York Mayor to shut it down.
Indeed the hysteria has been so intense that students wanting to
attend the school have had to have a police guard to do so. New York
City is preparing to mark next week's sixth anniversary of the
terrorist attacks of September 1, 2001, and the city is still scarred.
Today was the first day back at school for more than one million
students in the NYC - America's largest school district, with more
than 1,400 public schools.

The furore over the new Arabic school in Brooklyn, Khalil Gibran
International Academy, has been so great that the 60 grade six
students attending today had to enter the grounds under police guard.
Nevertheless, parents were optimistic. "I am not nervous about her
coming to this school, I'm very excited, and I hope she learns a lot,"
one mother said. Another said she was nervous because of all the

"But I'm so excited for my son. I'm so excited for my son to learn
Arabic," she said.
A taste of the hysteria and hatred that this school has attracted can
be found on websites.  One posting said, "Now Muslims will be able to
learn how to become terrorists without leaving New York". Another
speculated that students in gym class will be taught how to wire their
bomb vests, while the football field will be converted into a
terrorist training camp.

'Radical' agenda

Pamela Hall is a member of a protest group called Stop the Madrassa.
She feels the Khalil Gibran International Academy, which is named
after a Lebanese Christian poet, will promote a radical Islamist
agenda in its classrooms. "We are paying with our public dollar for a
religious school, a madrassa," she said. "The Arabic immigrant
students will be isolated. Whether that materialises instantly into
terrorists, that's a huge statement to make. "But are these students
not assimilating and becoming part of the American fabric, and is that
potentially a problem? We think so, yes."

The school has some prominent opponents. Frank Gaffney is a well-known
national security analyst who was a former assistant secretary of
defence in the Reagan administration, and is now the president of the
Centre for Security Policy in Washington.
"It's not about whether we teach Arabic. We are, all of us, in favour
of teaching Arabic," he said. "It's not about whether we teach Arabic
culture. We're all in favour of doing that too.  "It is about teaching
it in an appropriate way and this is not an appropriate way. In fact,
it is a way that is fraught with peril, not just for New York but for
the country at large." The school has the support of New York Mayor
Michael Bloomberg.

Garth Harries from the New York City Department of Education says
there are 200 small schools in New York teaching Chinese, French and
Russian, and this Arabic language school will be no different. "It's a
core sixth grade curriculum that these kids are starting with, which
is the basics - maths, English, history, science," he said. "And the
kids are also going to be learning Arabic, which is an incredibly
exciting and unique opportunity for these kids.  "Religion plays
absolutely no part in the school. This is public school, it wouldn't
play a part in any of our schools."

But the opponents of this school, which is just a few subway stops
away from Ground Zero, won't rest until it closes its doors.

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