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Daniel Pipes Hates America

Debbie Almontaser is a Yemeni-American educator who spent a career trying to build bridges between Muslim and non-Muslim Americans. With backing from the Gates Foundation and a secular Arab-American community organizing group, she chartered and became founding principal of an … Read More

By / May 5, 2008

Debbie Almontaser is a Yemeni-American educator who spent a career trying to build bridges between Muslim and non-Muslim Americans. With backing from the Gates Foundation and a secular Arab-American community organizing group, she chartered and became founding principal of an Arabic-immersion public school in Brooklyn, the Khalil Gibran International Academy, named for the famous Lebanese Christian poet. That would have been a worthy culmination of her decades of service to her own community and the broader community of New York City, had she not almost immediately become the target of a campaign of defamation that led to her widespread portrayal in the New York media as a closet jihadi, forced her to resign her position at the school, and which hobbled the operations of the KGIA from before its first day of classes.

As is often the case in apparent instances of paranoid popular uprisings against basic liberal freedoms — see the Intoonfada — the none-too-deeply buried truth is that the disgusting libels to which Almontaser has been subjected, and the larger effort to shut down her school, are the product of resentment and outrage fabricated and stoked by cynical elites. In this case, the editorial board of the New York Post, which deliberately warped Almontaser's words in order to slander her as a supporter of the Palestinian intifada, and the soi-disant middle East expert Daniel Pipes, are substantially responsible for wrecking the reputation of an innocent, honest, productive woman, and for harpooning her attempt to offer New York City public school students an education in a language perhaps more important than any other for Americans to learn.

All that Pipes knew about Almontaser last April was that she had said of the September 11 attacks, "I don’t recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims. Those people who did it have stolen my identity as an Arab and have stolen my religion" — i.e., that she explicitly repudiated those within her community who support terrorism — and that she had once received an award from CAIR. What else was a propagandist to do but launch an actionably dishonest editorial in the New York Sun, describing KGIA as a "madrassa" in its headline, and featuring a truncation of Almontaser's thoughts about September 11 to just that first sentence about not recognizing the perpetrators as Arabs or Muslims, thereby implying that she is a 9/11 conspiracy theorist.

But then, Pipes didn't feel he had to know anything at all about Almontaser or KGIA to claim publicly that she is an Islamist and the school would be. Almontaser is an Arab offering to teach Arabic, and that's all he cares about: "In practice…Arabic-language instruction is inevitably laden with pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage…[L]earning Arabic in of itself promotes an Islamic outlook."

Never mind Pipes' extraordinary racism and xenophobia, loathsome though they are. Never mind that Pipes himself claims to have studied Arabic, and Islamism is one pathology from which he certainly does not suffer. Never mind that Pipes' evidence for the inevitability of education in Arabic being "laden with pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage" consists in one example from America published in Pipes' own preposterous journal, one example from Cairo, and one example from Algeria at the height of Franco-Algerian antipathy.

There is perhaps no cheaper, easier way to foster understanding and cultural exchange between the Arab and Muslim world and the west, bolster American national security, and improve long-term economic prospects all in one fell swoop, than to massively encourage and support American students studying Arabic, Persian, and other western and central Asian languages. Pipes and his lackeys claim to be home-front foot-soldiers in the struggle against Islamo-fascism. What they have accomplished, in the name of pursuing their vendetta against anyone who prays out of the Koran — apart from destroying the reputation of an innocent woman, ruining at least one academic year in the lives of 60 New York City students, stifling academic freedom, and creating huge disincentives to chartering schools that teach important but politically sensitive material — is to make the United States demonstrably less safe and more vulnerable to Islamist (or any other kind of) terrorism. Well done.

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