New York City plans to give Brooklyn Arabs and Muslims their own public school where they can speak Arabic. The idea is to promote cultural harmony. But it's Pollyannaish, and potentially dangerous.
With this culture, tolerance is not mutual. Putting aside the issue of American taxpayers supporting a school dedicated to the study of a foreign culture hostile to our own, the move raises serious security questions.
Will the school, located not far from Ground Zero, condone or encourage jihad? Will it act like a madrassa? How will authorities know any better, if classes are taught in Arabic?
If the school were opened in any other place, it might raise fewer alarms.
But Brooklyn — home to New York's largest Muslim population — has produced a number of radicals and terrorists. A popular mosque there has been linked to the first World Trade Center bombing and other acts of terrorism.
And after 9/11, the FBI investigated credible reports that local Muslims — including at least one Brooklyn high school student — knew about the plot before it happened.
A teacher at Brooklyn's New Utrecht High School reported that one of her freshman students predicted the Trade Center's collapse a week before the towers were attacked. The student, who had recently emigrated from Pakistan, pointed out a third-story window of his class toward the Trade Center and said, "Do you see those two buildings? They won't be standing there next week."
The New York City Board of Education confirmed the account by the boy's teacher, Antoinette DeLorenzo. School officials reported the matter to police within minutes of the 9/11 attack. Two days later, FBI agents and New York police detectives descended on the school to interrogate the students and others in his class.
Now, five years later, school officials have agreed to sign off on a special ethnic school that would appeal to such boys, a place where they can practice their Arabic, the exclusive language of the Quran and Islam, and who knows what else.
The catalyst behind the movement for such public madrassas is a Muslim immigrant from Yemen. Dhabah Almontaser, a veteran of the New York City school system, pitched the idea to officials. She thinks the government should open grade schools aimed at teaching Arabic, tolerance of Islam and cultural diversity.
And she'll be principal of the first of those schools, dubbed the Khalil Gibran International Academy, in Brooklyn. Set to open in September, it will serve grades 6 to 12 and will eventually include up to 600 students.
She wants to enroll Muslims and Arab immigrants to learn about their heritage, while exposing other students to Arab culture. "I see Arab-American students who want the opportunity to learn Arabic, to read it and write it and have a better understanding of where their ancestors have come from," Almontaser said.
Apparently the thousands of Saudi-backed mosques that already do that in this country aren't good enough for her. The public school is opening in partnership with the Arab-American Family Support Center, a Brooklyn advocacy group for Mideast immigrants.
The nonprofit's Web site says it "addresses the countless social and economic barriers that face the growing population of Arab immigrants." It complains that their "needs" — which apparently include promotion of their culture in public schools — "have been largely neglected."
In the age of Islamic and Arab terror, the last thing we need to do is promote a culture of intolerance and violence in New York City, a prime target for attack. School officials instead should insist that American students be taught American culture — in English.
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