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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Mar 03rd
Gibran's Legacy PDF Print E-mail
Written by NYSun - WND   
Thursday, 30 August 2007

Philosopher Gibran Khalil Gibran's hometown in Lebanon Bsharri
Philosopher Gibran Khalil Gibran's hometown in Lebanon Bsharri

If one thought the chorus of concern over the proposed Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn couldn't grow any broader or any louder, it has just done so. The Department of Education's Arabic-themed school has now drawn the attention of a group founded to preserve the memory of Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese-American author and poet whose name the school bears. The Friends of Gibran Council stated in a press release yesterday that, based upon available information to date, the proposed school "would not honor the legacy of a great poet, an artist who achieved greatness in the US as an emigrant fleeing Lebanon where his community has been suffering persecution in their ancestral home in Lebanon at the hands of religious powers." The release further points out that Gibran's ancestry was Lebanese, Christian, and Maronite, making the act of attaching his name to a school dedicated to Arab language and culture a bit suspect. 

While the concerns of the Gibran Council are to be taken to heart -- including concerns over troubling radical associations with which the school has been plagued from day one Â-- we can't help but be drawn toward the conclusion that this whole kerfuffle has grown out of hand. And needlessly so. We have no apologies for the skepticism with which we and some of our columnists have greeted this school. Its former principal, Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser, could not credibly distance herself from organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has not, in our view, played a constructed role in New York; she refused to answer questions from this newspaper as to whether she viewed Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations. But few of the issues raised in respect of the school put it at the top of our worry list for New York.

What has bothered us is the sense that in establishing this school the government is entering an area that ought to be left to the market. Some insist the school is either designed to cater to Muslims -- or will end up doing so, even if it's not originally designed to do so Â-- and is a prima facie affront to the First Amendment. Others say the school is designed to offer an alternative to madrassas. We don't lack for confidence in either the mayor or the schools chancellor, Joel Klein, who shut down a bid to have Columbia's Rashid Khalidi, a professor known for making sloppy accusations against Israel's American backers, train New York City teachers on how to teach the Middle East. But the perceived need for an Arabic school in the city is precisely the kind of situation best addressed not by going to the taxpayers but by a system of true school choice through vouchers.

That is a system under which New Yorkers of Arab or Muslim background -- or any other background -- who want to go to a school specializing in Arabic would be able to do so. They would be able to do so whether the attraction of the school is that it teaches about Arab culture and history or whether it teaches religion. It would put all parents on the same footing in respect of the school, honoring their choices without imposing on others. Some might pick the Arabic-themed school. Others Catholic schools. Others ultraprogressive and secular schools. Each to his own. No doubt Ms. Almontaser would still be in her job, and the city would be relieved of tug of war over the specifics of any given school meeting state standards. If this incident has done anything, it has shown the need for school choice in New York City -- the need for the kind of freedom that was sought in America by a great poet named Khalil Gibran.

New York Sun Editorial
August 29, 2007



Arabic-themed school blasted for misappropriating name
Group says NYC officials misusing legacy of Lebanese-Christian poet, Khalil Gibran
August 29, 2007, 10:35 p.m. Eastern
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

A Lebanese-Christian group says the New York City education department is misusing the legacy of a famed Lebanese-Christian poet by naming its controversial new Arabic-themed school after him.

The Friends of Gibran Council fired off a letter to school officials Wednesday demanding they stop using the name of Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese-American author and poet.

The Council complained that the proposed Khalil Gibran International Academy – scheduled to open next month in Brooklyn – will clash with the Christian heritage of Gibran. KGIA will teach Arabic and Islamic culture.

"Gibran's ancestry was Lebanese, Christian and Maronite. Therefore, the claims of teaching Arabic under the name of Gibran ring hollow as he is not ethnically Arab," the group said in a press release. "The founders of KGIA could easily change the name of the school to honor a great Arabic writer if that is their true intent."

The Council also expressed concerns over troubling radical associations plaguing the public school.

KGIA's principal recently stepped down after her ties to a group glorifying Palestinian terrorism were revealed. A native of Yemen, Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser defended the "intifada" – a Palestinian terror campaign that left 1,221 Israelis dead.

Also, a local imam advising the school has been linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, a worldwide jihadist movement.

Khalil Gibran

"Gibran was a believer in the universality of human rights and the dignity of the individual," the Council said. "Therefore, the board of trustees of KGIA should reflect Gibran's values and ideals. Appointing radicals and imams who have been associated with extremist and jihadist groups is an affront to these ideals."

New York school officials did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment about the nonprofit group's request to change the name of the Arabic academy.

A prominent expert on Islamic terrorism agreed that the school appears to be in conflict with Gibran's legacy.

"As an American citizen of Lebanese descent, I think that the literary work of Lebanese-American author Khalil Gibran is in full conflict with the jihadist inclination of some members of the school board," said the expert, who wished to remain anonymous. "He (Gibran) would have preferred – and his community today certainly would prefer – seeing a school or institution developing the heritage of his culture, not the political culture of the jihadists."

KGIA's program will integrate intensive Arabic language instruction and the study of Middle Eastern history and historical figures – which Brooklyn teacher and activist Sara Springer says will include the life and teachings of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Text books, lesson plans and teacher materials will be adapted from publications supplied by the Council on Islamic Education, Springer says. CIE's chief consultant is Susan Douglass, a Muslim activist whose husband is on the Saudi government payroll as a teacher at an Islamic academy that has graduated terrorists.

The Friends of Gibran Council says it does not oppose the teaching of the Arabic language in public schools, but it objects to any promotion of Islamic culture.

"The teaching of Arabic in public schools is a laudable goal. Many more American students should be proficient in this largely spoken language," the group said. "However, in no way should the Arabic language and Islamism be mixed."

Garth Harries, chief executive of New York City's Office of New Schools, has insisted that KGIA will be a "non-religious" New York City public school.

"It is not a vehicle for political or religious ideology," Harries said. "And if the school is used this way, we will close it."

The Council asserts that KGIA used Gibran's name "clearly under false pretenses."

Some critics go further, saying it was no accident that the hard-line Muslim founders of the school picked a Christian with an Arabic-sounding name. They say they named the school after the Christian poet to pacify those who might suspect their true intent was to turn it into a madrassa for militant Islamic indoctrination.

Bloggers at Atlas Shrugs, for instance, charge that organizers practice an Islamic form of deception known as "taqiya."

"The use of Lebanese-American author-poet Khalil Gibran is taqiya in its most perfect and vile form," the website maintained.



The Friends of Gibran Council Press Release


The Friends of Gibran Council Website 


Last Updated ( Thursday, 30 August 2007 )
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