Cinnamon Stillwell

I’m the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum that focuses on Middle East studies. I was a political columnist for (San Francisco Chronicle online) from 2004-2008. I've written for the American Thinker, Frontpage Magazine, Family Security Matters, Accuracy In Media, Newsbusters, Israel National News, The Jewish Policy Center, J-The Jewish News Weekly of N. CA, Intellectual Conservative and many others. More info at

Friday, August 10, 2007

Khalil Gibran Academy Principal Dhabah Almontaser Resigns

The much-criticized principal of Khalil Gibran Academy, the Arabic language school set to open in NYC next month, Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser, has resigned. And many are saying good riddance.

Beyond the controversy surrounding the school itself, which some feared would become a madrassa in the heart of Brooklyn, it was Almontaser's lame attempt to defend the T-shirts with the term "Intifada NYC" emblazened proudly across the front that appear to have done her in. The T-shirts, which were spotted on sale at an Arab Fair in Prospect Park last month, carried the logo of, Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media. AWAAM is sponsored by and shares office space with the Yemeni American Association, of which Almontaser is the founder and a board member.

The fact that the term "intifada," which everyone knows is directly associated with the Palestinian/Arab war of extermination against Israel (otherwise known as the "uprising") had entered the mainstream lexicon in such a startling fashion was not lost on the public. Facing mounting criticism, particularly from United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, Almontaser eventually condemned the T-shirt's message. But not before telling the New York Post that "intifada" just means "shaking off" and that the shirts somehow represented women "shaking off" oppression. And if you believe that, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn (literally) to sell you.

While some are reporting that it was the New York Post (which has covered the story extensively) that broke the T-shirts story, to the best of my knowledge, it first came to light via the Stop the Madrassa Coalition (STMC). The tireless activism of STMC spokeswoman and local parent Pamela Hall, who has been all over the media in recent weeks trying to call attention to the story, as well as the related information made available at the STMC website, turned out to be invaluable. Almontaser's resignation is a testament to the importance of citizens taking an active role in their children's education, not to mention being vigilant about potential Islamist encroachments.

The next challenge will be the fate of Khalil Gibran Academy itself and STMC is not letting up on the pressure. Stay tuned.

Update: Atlas Shrugs, who has been covering the story for months, blogged on Almontaser's resignation earlier today. Lots of useful links and info. Check it out.


Anonymous Paul said...

Good riddance to "Debbie" !!!

Saturday, August 11, 2007 5:25:00 AM  
Blogger arasmus said...

I'm sorry this whole thing happened. Looks to me like Ms. Almontaser is quite a smart and reasonable person, with a proven record of public service. Opening up the KGIA in Brooklyn seems like an excellent idea too - There's nothing to be afraid of! There are other "cultural" schools in NYC that give inner-city students opportunities to "see" other cultures. Given that this was a publicly funded highschool, its curriculum could never remotely approach a "Madrasa". Having said that, it would provide a civil alternative to schools linked to a particular religion - Muslim in this case.

Given the amount of hate she's endured over the last few months, I think what happened was that she was snared; walked right into a trap. Why in the world was she singled out to explain what AWAAM's T-shirt meant, in the first place? If it were in straight English - for example, "END ISRAEL'S OCCUPATION", or "PALESTINIANS NEED A HOME TOO" - I doubt Ms. Almontaser would have been called in to explain somebody else's T-shirt. And - what is this hogwash about AWAAM being linked to Hamas?!? This is ridiculous.

News reports of her "defending" the "INTIFADA NYC" T-shirts seem to exaggerate. From her words, she didn't denounce, but she didn't embrace either. To say she "defended" the T-shirt is quite disingenuous, but those words are in the first paragraph of the NYT article about her resignation. The goons hounding her relentlessly managed to get what they wanted, it appears.

It's too bad -- the KGIA's future is now unclear, and if it doesn't open I think it's clearly a missed opportunity, derailed by misinformation and hyperbole. Consider the shrill words from NY Post, NY Sun,,

I suppose Pipes feels pretty good about this. I think it's shameful.


Saturday, August 11, 2007 10:53:00 PM  

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