VIDEO: New Yorkers Rally to Defend Arabic-Language School
August 21, 2007
On Monday, supporters of Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA) held a rally outside the Department of Education. Many members of the press (including Fox News) squeezed into the tight space allotted by the NYPD for the demonstration. The speeches focused on setting the media and public straight about how KGIA will foster understanding of the Arab language and culture, and how desperately the school is needed to educate ambassadors who can one day overcome the bigotry and ignorance displayed by the backlash against the school and its principal, Debbie Almontaser.
They also shed light on the unfortunate controversy which led to Almontaser's resignation -- a widely reported incident in which she explained what the word "intifada" means instead of kowtowing to widespread pro-Israel bias by immediately condemning the Palestinian people's struggle for self-determination. When Randi Weingarten, President of the United Federation of Teachers, added her own voice to the right-wing media's attempts to portray Almontaser as an extremist, the principal decided to resign for the sake of the school.
Below is the video I shot of the event and hastily cut together into nine minutes of highlights from the speeches.
The speakers featured in this video are:
Rabbi Michael Feinberg
Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media (AWAAM)
Khalil Gibran International Academy Planning Team
Family member of a student at Khalil Gibran International Academy
Center for Immigrant Families
Reverend Clinton Miller
Brown Memorial Church, Brooklyn
Note that these supporters are all from relevant communities in Brooklyn and NYC. The opponents of the school are all pundits funded by right-wing extremists and their puppet websites. As Rabbi Feinberg points out, the one anti-KGIA group that claims to be a "community" organization, stopthemadrassa.org, is a coalition between race-baiting anti-immigration group NY-ICE, anti-Muslim organization United American Committee, and pro-Iraq war organization Gathering of Eagles; the donations go to self-described "American security" policy organization Center for Security Policy.
Why these well-funded right-wing groups with such lofty agendas are so hysterical about a little school in Brooklyn teaching Arabic is an interesting question. Human rights activist David Wilson wrote:
Of course, it's horrible, what they've done to this poor school and the principal--now ex-principal--but it also shows how desperate the right wing is to find a popular issue at this point. Before, they were happily overthrowing governments and wiping out populations; now they expend all this energy to bully a little school in Brooklyn. I don't quote the Bible that much, but: Deposuit potentes de sede--he hath put the mighty down from their seats.
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