Statement from NYC Muslim American Community Members and Leaders

TO MAYOR BLOOMBERG AND CHANCELLOR JOEL KLEIN: STATEMENT FROM NYC MUSLIM AMERICAN COMMUNITY MEMBERS AND LEADERS CONCERNING THE KHALIL GIBRAN INTERNATIONAL ACADEMY & DEBBIE ALMONTASER

October 16, 2007

In the Name of God the Compassionate & Merciful:

We, the undersigned New York Imams, Muslim leaders and active community members, are well aware of the ongoing attacks on our community leaders, unfounded attacks that seek to inflame fears of terror and sow the seeds of mistrust among the people of New York City. The ongoing racist and xenophobic attacks on Debbie Almontaser, the founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA), illustrate our concerns as fellow New Yorkers.

Despite her long history of interfaith and peace work, and despite the fact that KGIA, a dual language public school, is in no way a religious school, Debbie Almontaser has been depicted for months in right wing blogs and in New York tabloids as a religious radical and an extremist threat. This view is utterly false. We believe she was targeted initially as a Muslim woman who chooses to cover her head.

As a school KGIA serves primarily low-income children of color who wish to gain special perspective and language skills along with the regular DOE curriculum. By building bridges between Arab and non-Arab children, the school helps unify our city instead of divide our diverse communities. Isn’t this a good thing?

City Hall and the Department of Education should not have forced Debbie Almontaser to resign from her position. We respectfully request that City Hall and Department of Education reconsider their actions, and reinstate Debbie as Principal, to undo the damage that has been done to inter-group relations.

We appreciate the wide range of community support, including many allies from the Jewish community who have been clear, eloquent and principled in their defense of the school, even joining the call for the reinstatement of Debbie Almontaser to her original position. And we note that despite the media hysteria whipped up on this issue, that certain elected officials have taken a balanced and principled position in defense of Debbie and the school as originally envisioned. They deserve our thanks.

As leaders seeking to promote just and respectful relationships with members of other diverse communities in New York City, are concerned that some City Officials are permitting these small but well amplified negative forces to influence the civil discourse way in an inappropriate way. This trend is most troubling to us and to the diverse communities we represent.

Islamophobic and nativist groups such as the Stop the Madrassa Coalition should not be allowed to divide this city through fear and intimidation tactics. We call on Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein and on all elected leaders to take a public, principled stand for a united city. We call on all officials to support Debbie Almontaser reinstatement to the Khalil Gibran International Academy she worked so hard to bring into existence. Indeed, our future as a city may depend on such decisions. Shared values of justice and fair play must inform our relationships as neighbors, fellow citizens, and respectful friends.

SIGNED
Imam Shamsi Ali, Jamaica Muslim Center & Islamic Center of New York*;
Imam Salihou Djabi, Masjid Ali, Brooklyn;
Mohamed Razvi, Executive Director, Council of Peoples Organizations;
Nurah W. Amat’ullah, Muslim Women’s Institute for Research and Development;
The Board, representing the Muslim Bar Association of New York (MUBANY);
Officers Asim Rehman, Asaad K. Siddiqi, Afsaan Saleem, Farhan Memon; Directors Madiha Zuberi
Safia Hussain, Mir Subhan Ali, Engy Abdelkader
Robina Niaz, Executive Director, Turning Point for Women and Families;
Adem Carroll, Board Chair, Muslim Consultative Network (MCN);
Ayesha ala Dawiyya, Founder, Women in Islam;
SABA (Yemeni American Association);
Zeeshan Suhail, Young Nonprofit Professionals of New York; MCN Board; United Nations Association*

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