Press Release: Oct. 17

Press Advisory * For Immediate Release


The founding principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy
announced she is reapplying for the position

Watch a video of Debbie speaking!

Read her entire public statement!

New York City, October 17, 2007— “I will continue to stand against
division, intimidation and hatred,” Debbie Almontaser vowed at a press
conference at City Hall on October 16, 2007, sponsored by Communities
in Support of Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA). The deadline
for applications for a permanent replacement of the current interim
principal was October 16th. Almontaser, the visionary and founding
principal of KGIA, spoke for the first time since her resignation,
detailing how the administration forced her to step down. She also
announced her decision to re-apply for the position and to have her
lawyer initiate a lawsuit against the Department of Education for
violation of her constitutional rights.

City Council members Leticia James, Robert Jackson and John Liu,
joined other community leaders and KGIA supporters at the press
conference in re-affirming their commitment to Debbie Almontaser’s
reinstatement and to Arab-American, Muslim, and other marginalized
communities in NYC. Naamah Paley, a summer intern at KGIA who worked
closely with Ms. Almontaser and has studied Arabic in the U.S.,
Israel, and Egypt, quoted Khalil Gibran himself as saying “In
understanding, all walls shall fall down.” From Paley’s perspective,
Debbie’s reinstatement would “breathe a new life” into KGIA.

Almontaser explained the events leading up to her coerced departure.
“In early August of this year, under pressure from the New York Post,
the New York Sun, and right wing bloggers,” Almontaser said to a crowd
of journalists and supporters, “representatives of the Mayor, the
Chancellor, and New Visions demanded that I resign as KGIA’s
principal. They threatened to close down KGIA if I refused.”

She said the Department of Education “should have pointed out that I
had devoted my entire adult life to the peaceful resolution of
conflict and to building bridges between ethnic and religious
communities. In other words, they should have said that the attacks
upon me were utterly baseless. Instead, they forced me to issue an
apology for what I said. And when the storm of hate continued, they
forced me to resign.”

Opponents of the school were, in Almontaser’s words, a “part of a
larger campaign to intimidate marginalized communities.” The diverse
range of speakers and organizations present were a testament to the
importance of KGIA’s vision to serve all communities within New York
City. Councilmember Leticia James said that when she discussed KGIA
with parents and children in her district, she told them “Martin
Luther King taught us that an injustice anywhere is a threat to
justice everywhere.” James also compared Almontaser’s experience as a
target of anti-Arab racism to the recent events in Jena, Louisiana,
which led thousands of individuals across the nation to stand up
against racism and in support of justice.

Jewish and Muslim religious leaders stood together at the press
conference, praising Almontaser for the work she has done to as an
interfaith bridge-builder. “We state emphatically that those
[opposing] groups do not represent the views of the mainstream Jewish
community in New York City,” said Rabbi Michael Feinberg, reading from
a statement issued by NYC rabbis. Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid stated, “We
of the Muslim Community, regardless of whether we are born in America
or born elsewhere . . . stand in support of the Khalil Gibran
International Academy, and we stand in support of sister Debbie
Almontaser.” Muslim religious leaders are also issuing a statement in
support of Almontaser and the school.

Debbie Almontaser concluded her speech stating that she will continue
to “stand for a society based on mutual respect and understanding and
dignity for all our communities. These are values to which I have
devoted my entire adult life and career.” The full text of Debbie
Almontaser’s statement is available at


One Response to Press Release: Oct. 17

  1. Robert Wootton says:

    Barack Obama was elected it seems to me because of his moral courage and understanding. “We are not against Islam.”, I think he said during or after is election campaign. Surely he should back your campaign to be re-instated.

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