Despite the fact that Almontaser had three rabbis, three imams and three Christian ministers on her advisory board, a group of activists wanted to see the school and what they charge is its “Islamist” agenda shut down before it even opened.
The campaign finally found success when Almontaser didn’t appropriately condemn t-shirts made by a group with whom an organization she works with shares an office. The t-shirts had the word ‘intifada’ on them.
And no, it was not a headline from The Onion when the papers announced a non Arabic-speaking Orthodox Jewish woman had been hired to replace Almontaser as interim principal. In fact, the critics of the school hate the new principal too (eegad, she’s a feminist!) Turns out she’s way too involved and sympathetic to Almontaser, who has long been a respected member of the interfaith community.
Actually, a lot of members of the organized Jewish community are pissed at the blatantly Muslim-hating Daniel Pipes crowd. Active defenders of Almontaser in NY include members of the ADL, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the United Jewish Appeal- Federation.
In this must-read article by Larry Cohler-Esses of New York’s Jewish Week, Rabbi Paley of the United Jewish Appeal – Federation, articulates quite beautifully what is so profoundly dangerous about the small but vocal, and yes effective, Islamophobic element of the Jewish community.
This excellent article is worth it just for the perhaps unintended hilarity when Esses points out that the primary researchers who tried to dig up dirt about Almontaser to stop the school are also the proud authors of an article entitled: “McCarthyism: The Right’s Badge of Honor”. (This story bears similarities to the campaign in Boston to stop the construction of a mosque, led by the David Project and others.)
Cohler-Esses of Jewish Week says:
Rabbi Paley, a scholar-in-residence with UJA-Federation, warned that the prominent role played by a faction within the Jewish community in the attack on her would “come back and bite us. This begins to destroy the America that’s been so good to us.” Rabbi Paley, who has met Almontaser during interfaith activities, emphasized that in his remarks on this issue he was speaking only for himself and not his organization.
“The most important thing to know about the Muslim community here is that it replicates the Jewish community from many years ago,” he said. “These are people trying to become Americans as hard as they can, and also trying hard not to lose their identity, just as groups before them did.
“The idea that unless they pass an acid test — that Muslims are terrorists until proven innocent — will mean that none will pass. We are ultimately blocking them from becoming American,” he warned. The result, he said, would be an Arab immigrant community more isolated and less assimilated, “like the Arabs in France.”
The message to the Arab-American community as a result of this debacle was, “You’re a fool to think they’ll accept you,” he said.