“NY Arabic School Caught in Controversy” : Voice of America

By Mona Ghuneim
New York

A New York City public school embroiled in controversy opened its doors two weeks ago in the borough of Brooklyn. The small middle school devoted to Arabic language and culture has received vast media attention since its principal was forced to resign over a contentious remark in a newspaper interview. From VOA’s New York Bureau, Mona Ghuneim has details.

Supporters of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, 04 Sep 2007
Supporters of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, 04 Sep 2007

In addition to the 50 or so sixth-grade students who arrived on the first day of school two weeks ago, so too did security guards and a horde of reporters.

The Khalil Gibran International Academy has been in the media spotlight since New York’s Department of Education decided to establish and open its first Arabic-English public school.

New York has about 70 dual-language schools that feature Chinese, Spanish, and French, but this is the first school that has incited such strong controversy.

The school’s founding principal Debbie Almontaser gave an interview last month to the New York Post, a conservative newspaper. In the interview, the reporter asked about a T-shirt slogan that was created by a group of Arab women who share office space with another group that Almontaser leads. The shirts read “Intifada NYC” (New York City).

Media reports say Almontaser defended the slogan, saying the message did not advocate violence but rather a “shaking off.” Some reports say Almontaser, who speaks Arabic fluently, even consulted a dictionary in the interview to show the reporter the original meaning of the word, now synonymous with the Palestinian uprising. Almontaser later apologized publicly but resigned under pressure.

Supporters like Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz say the school and Almontaser are victims of a discriminatory campaign aimed at closing the school.  More…


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