Monday, April 28, 2008


In the current freak-show culture, it was probably naive of the city of New York to think that it could get away with establishing a school where students would learn the Arabic language but would otherwise be taught the standard public-school curriculum, especially when the school was named after a gentleman of the Middle Eastern persuasion (even if Kahlil Gibran was actually a Lebanese Christian) and the principal was a headscarf-wearing Muslim (even if she was well regarded outside the Arab-Muslim community), but (as reported in today's New York Times) that doesn't mean the people who ruined the principal's life and career aren't the worst people in the world:

...Then in April, she [Debbie Almontaser, the principal of the school] read an op-ed article by Mr. [Daniel] Pipes in The New York Sun.

Conceptually, such a school could be "marvelous," Mr. Pipes wrote, but in practice, it was certain to be problematic. "Arabic-language instruction is inevitably laden with Pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage," he wrote, referring to the school as a madrassa, which means school in Arabic but, in the West, carries the implication of Islamic teaching.

Given how little Mr. Pipes knew about the school at the time, the word was "a bit of a stretch," he said in a recent interview. He defended its use as a way to "get attention" for the cause. It got the attention of Ms. [Irene] Alter, 60, who contacted Mr. Pipes and, with his encouragement, helped form a grass-roots organization in response to the school project. Mr. Pipes joined the advisory board of the group, which called itself the Stop the Madrassa Coalition....

Gee, you know, I never should have gone to Daniel Pipes's neighborhood and distributed leaflets to all his neighbors that said, "Daniel Pipes likes little boys." But, hey, I didn't know at the time that he wasn't a pedophile. I'm sorry he was beaten to within an inch of his life by his neighbors and forced to leave town -- my bad!

More about the sleaziness of Pipes:

He cited an article in which she was quoted as saying about 9/11, "I don't recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims." (As The Jewish Week later reported, Mr. Pipes left out the second half of the quote: "Those people who did it have stolen my identity as an Arab and have stolen my religion.")


Of course, that was just the beginning of the right-wing jihad against the school. Read the article for the details, but here's the incident that forced Almontaser to resign. Notice that, as with, say, Barack Obama and William Ayers, tenuousness of connection doesn't reduce guilt when the trial is being conducted by a wingnut lynch mob (emphasis mine):

The Stop the Madrassa Coalition pressed its campaign. In July, one of its members, Pamela Hall, made a discovery that would elevate the controversy. At an Arab-American festival in Brooklyn, she spotted T-shirts on a table bearing the words "Intifada NYC." The organization distributing them, Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media, trains young women in community organizing and media production. The group sometimes uses the office of a Yemeni-American association in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Ms. Almontaser sits on the association’s board.

Ms. Hall took a photograph, and a few weeks later, the coalition announced on its blog that Ms. Almontaser was linked to the T-shirts.

On Aug. 3, Ms. Almontaser received a call from Melody Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Education Department. “What does ‘Intifada NYC’ mean?” Ms. Almontaser recalled Ms. Meyer asking.

Ms. Almontaser was stumped, she said. She knew of the group. But she had never heard about the T-shirts....

Most reporters lost interest in the T-shirts after Ms. Meyer explained that neither Ms. Almontaser nor the school was linked to them, but The [New York] Post persisted....

During the Post interview, ... the reporter, Chuck Bennett, ... asked her for the origins of the word intifada, she said.

"The educator in me responded," Ms. Almontaser said. She explained... that the root of the word means "shaking off." Ms. Almontaser then offered what she described as a lengthy explanation about the evolution of the word and the "negative connotation" it had developed because of the Arab-Israeli struggle.

"The thought went across my mind to be extremely careful with my words -- not to offend the Jewish community and not to offend the Arab-American community," she said. "I was feeling pressure from all sides."

...The next day, The Post ran the article under the headline "City Principal Is 'Revolting' -- Tied to ‘Intifada NYC’ Shirts.” The article quoted Ms. Almontaser as saying that the girls in the organization were “shaking off oppression,” words that The Post, according to a ruling by federal appellate judges, attributed to Ms. Almontaser "incorrectly and misleadingly."

But it didn't matter that her words were distorted. Almontaser had to resign immediately.


"Here ruining people is considered sport"? That line, from the Vinbce Foster suicide note, referred to Washington. Now it refers to anywhere right-wingers feel they can score cheap political points, no matter who suffers.

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