there's an article today in the NY Times about the Khalil Gibran International Academy and its ex principal. you should read it, because I am not about to present an unbiased opinion right now. grr.
so: the goal of the school: Children of Arab descent would join students of other ethnicities, learning Arabic together. By graduation, they would be fluent in the language and groomed for the country’s elite colleges. They would be ready, in Ms. Almontaser’s [the founding principal] words, to become “ambassadors of peace and hope.”
sounds great. also sounds like the first few years are going to be rough. a) it's high school. high school = melting point of hormones, personal definition, stress- c'mon. you've got to remember what it was like- high schoolers are not sane by any stretch of the imagination, and now you're going to add both politics (international and domestic) and religion as a major fuse? and that's not in terms of subject matter, that's in terms of simply hearing the name of the school, or hearing that half the classes would be taught in Arabic.
Who was Khalil Gibran? a militant cleric, perhaps, or an incendiary prophet? no? oh, that's right, he was a poet. a Christian poet. who wrote words like this:
An eye for an eye, and the whole world would be blind.
When we turn to one another for counsel we reduce the number of our enemies.
And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit.
and when the McCarthian fur started flying, how many of the people who painted Almontaser as "a “radical,” a “jihadist” and a “9/11 denier.” She stood accused of harboring unpatriotic leanings and of secretly planning to proselytize her students." do you think actually knew anything about Khalil Gibran? or read anything by him? cared?
But wait! there's more!
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, critics of radical Islam focused largely on terrorism, scrutinizing Muslim-American charities or asserting links between Muslim organizations and violent groups like Hamas. But as the authorities have stepped up the war on terror, those critics have shifted their gaze to a new frontier, what they describe as law-abiding Muslim-Americans who are imposing their religious values in the public domain.
here's their idea of 'imposing their religious values in the public domain:'
- Muslim cabdrivers in Minneapolis refusing to take passengers carrying liquour.
- City pools and gyms with female-only hours for Muslim women.
- Banks offering financial products that comply with sharia.
and I'm curious about the cabdrivers- is this an 'I've got a sixpack with my groceries' or an 'I'm ridiculously stinking drunk with an open 40 in each hand? and I'll admit, I don't really understand the bank thing, but...I don't understand much about banks, period, and my knowledge of sharia is incredibly rusty. Still. this sounds like the English Firsties whining about loan applications and things being offered in Spanish.
and then there's an editorial written about the school- by Mr Daniel Pipes, who founded the Middle East Forum, and who started this mess- which states:
“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.
and now, of course, that his goal has been reached, he can say the word was “a bit of a stretch,”
but that's ok because he needed it to gain attention for his cause. like, say...communist, not so many years ago? can we talk about Campus Watch? and how it screams back to McCarthy's blacklisting?
and can we talk about how the school follows the same global studies curriculum as the rest of the NY public schools- i.e. not jesus with your orange juice or torah with your civics or koran with your algebra?
And how one of the breaking points for the media was that the cafeteria might serve Halal food? because clearly, eating Halal makes you into a violent jihadist. and eating Kosher makes you a violent haradim. and not eating red meat on Fridays makes you a member of the Inquisition. and since I eat a lot of Thai food, I must be Buddhist. yep.
don't get me started on PETA's ideas on kosher/halal meat.
and how about the fact that understanding and trust and cooperation and coexistence and any hope of ever living in this world without fear of mutually assured destruction by Crusades 2.0 is going to require exactly what this school is trying to do. and what concordia language villages' al-waha is doing.
I had so much more ranting. I was gonna use citations and everything.
but now I'm not even mad anymore. I feel drained and disillusioned and depressed and a bunch of other negative words that start with d.
and sickened. how can we progress as a society- or even stay alive as a society- when even now, one person, with one well-placed, poisonously written editorial- can start in motion a series of events that end with smeared careers, damaged reputations, ruined prospects, yet another wedge between arab and non-arab and jew and american and conservative and and muslim and moderate and liberal?
what the hell are we teaching our kids? it's not what they're learning in school that's dangerous, but what they're learning outside of school, in the 'real world.'
(ok, that might be a slight hyperbole. you can definitely learn bad shit in school. I know, and I'm glad that I have little memory of my experiences with 'history' class.)
Why doesn't it ever go the other way? why can't someone write an editorial that snowballs into more funding? or a satellite school in Chicago, or Minneapolis, or San Francisco?
Why are we so damn afraid?
here's a last quote by Khalil Gibran:
Would that I were a dry well, and that the people tossed stones into me, for that would be easier than to be a spring of flowing water that the thirsty pass by, and from which they avoid drinking.
...and on a completely unrelated (hah, not really) note, I want to know how much using the words "incendiary" "arab" "militant" and "jihadist" in the same blog has increased my FBI/NSA file.