(NEW YORK, NY, 10/17/07) – The New York chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) yesterday participated in a press conference at City Hall in support of Khalil Gibran International Academy’s (KGIA) founding principal Debbie Almontaser.
“The defamatory attacks on Debbie Almontaser and the academy are part of a larger effort to marginalize the American Muslim and Arab-American communities,” said CAIR-NY Community Affairs Director Faiza N. Ali. “We call on Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein to support religious and ethnic diversity.”
The press conference, which coincided with the deadline to apply for principal of KGIA, was Almontaser’s first public appearance since her resignation.
Almontaser, joined by her attorney Alan Levine, addressed her original vision of the school, the smear campaign that lead to her resignation, and her reasons for reapplying as KGIA’s principal.
“In early August of this year, under pressure from The New York Post, The New York Sun, and right-wing bloggers, representatives of the Mayor, the Chancellor, and New Visions demanded that I resign as KGIA’s principal,” said Almontaser in a prepared statement to the press and public. “They threatened to close down KGIA if I refused. The next day, I submitted my letter of resignation.”
“The DOE had available to it a simple response,” stated Levine in a letter dated October 9 to Chancellor Klein. “One which would have preserved Ms. Almontaser’s dignity and reputation and would have quieted the islamophobes who were seeking her ouster. Ms. Almontaser has been a consistent and public advocate of nonviolence. She has, at great personal risk and with notable courage, sought to build bridges between the Muslim and Jewish communities. To imply that she would support violence against Jews is repudiated by everything she has said and done in her career. The charges are preposterous…The DOE did not say that.”
“KGIA was Ms. Almontaser’s vision and she was unarguably the right person to lead it,” said Rabbi Michael Feinberg, quoting a statement from Jewish leaders to Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein. “That she is not principal today is solely the result of attacks upon her by marginal, right- wing groups, who charged her and KGIA with hostility to Israel and Jews. We state emphatically that those groups do not represent the views of the mainstream Jewish community in New York City.”
“As leaders seeking to promote just and respectful relationships with members of diverse communities in New York City, we are concerned that some City Officials are permitting these small but well amplified negative forces to influence civil discourse in an inappropriate way. The trend is most troubling to us and to the diverse communities we represent,” read a statement dated October 16 from NYC Muslim American community members and leaders to Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein. “Islamophobic and nativist groups such as Stop the Madrassa Coalition should not be allowed to divide the city through fear and intimidation tactics.”
CAIR-NY is member of the Communities in Support of KGIA, a diverse of group of New Yorkers and community based organizations committed to quality education for all communities.
SEE: Communities in Support of KGIA
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 33 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR-NY Civil Rights Director Aliya Latif, 212-870-2002, 732-429-4268, email@example.com; CAIR-NY Community Affairs Director Faiza N. Ali 212-870-2002, firstname.lastname@example.org