Washington Post: In New York, a Word Starts a Fire

Arabic Educator’s Brief Defense of ‘Intifada’ T-Shirts Makes Her a Target

Rabbig Michael Feinberg of the Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition calls for elected officials to support the Khalil Gibran International Academy.

Rabbig Michael Feinberg of the Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition calls for elected officials to support the Khalil Gibran International Academy. (By Tina Fineberg — Associated Press) 

By Robin ShulmanWashington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 24, 2007; Page A06

NEW YORK — The goals were clear when Sheneen Jackson enrolled her son in one of the first public schools in the nation to focus on Arabic language and culture. First, her 11-year-old would master Arabic. Later, doors would open for him in government and diplomacy — maybe a job at the United Nations, international travel, the prospect of contributing to Middle East peace.

Instead, Jackson discovered that the distrust and tension that infuse many Middle East issues had tainted the Brooklyn middle school.

“Sadly and unfortunately, Debbie was singled out and attacked because she’s a religious Muslim,” said Rabbi Andy Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim…

“It’s unfortunate, but I know a lot of people in New York are sensitive,” Jackson, 33, a Verizon technician, said of the controversy over the school. “That’s the whole premise of the school.”

Officials had no sooner announced in February the formation of the Khalil Gibran International Academy than conservative columnists and media outlets attacked, suggesting the principal — an observant Muslim Arab woman — might push an agenda of Islamist extremism.

Principal Debbie Almontaser said her mission was to foster tolerance and understanding. But she resigned Aug. 10 after the New York Post quoted her talking about definitions of the word “intifada.”  More…

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