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War of ideas’ homefront
It is generally accepted that the conflict we are in is as much a war of ideas as a military one. Sadly, the United States has largely failed to wage this ideological struggle against adversaries who both understand its vital importance to the outcome and who often, like most ideologues, are very skilled in its ways.
This is bad enough overseas, where adherents to one strain or another of the ideology best described as Islamofascism use various organizations, media and educational institutions to recruit and indoctrinate young people. The failure to recognize the danger such activities represent, let alone to counter them effectively, is among the most serious shortfalls in the Free World's response to our Islamist enemies.
Even more alarming is accumulating evidence we are also failing to appreciate the inroads being made by those promoting a similar agenda on this war's homefront — here in the United States. In fact, Islamists have been assiduously waging the war of ideas for decades, in American mosques and prisons, on military bases and college campuses across the country and, increasingly, in the public square. The infrastructure that has made possible such ideological inroads has largely been built by various Saudi institutions, charities, princes and businesses. The Islamofascists' success in these areas owes as much to our indifference, political correctness and cognitive dissonance as to their zeal.
A case in point is a new school that New York City seeks to initiate this autumn with public funding. The so-called Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA) will start small — a single sixth-grade class lodged temporarily inside an existing public school in Brooklyn. According to Garth Harries, an official in the city's Department of Education, the KGIA's purpose will be to "offer a challenging multicultural curriculum ... [that] integrates intensive Arabic language instruction and the study of Middle Eastern history and historical figures to enliven learning across all subject areas."
There are a number of grounds for concern that what is billed as "multiculturalism" will actually be Islamist indoctrination — at taxpayer expense:
• For starters, the curriculum for classes supposed to start in little more than a month has not been made available to parents of prospective students or concerned citizens. Even assuming the best of intentions on the part of New York educators — notably, Public Schools Chancellor Joel Kline has promised to "shut [the school] down" if it assumes a religious, political or national character inconsistent with a public school — it is a serious error to rush into an educational experiment fraught with peril without the closest scrutiny by parents and independent experts.
That is especially so since the KGIA's principal-designate, Dabah (a k a "Debbie") Almontaser told a reporter in May: "What will be different [is that] we will be able to infuse historical information into math and science and literature.... With any foreign language you engage in, you need to learn the history, culture and customs of the people in order to navigate the language effectively and not offend anyone."
• If such a curriculum sounds like a vehicle for injecting the Islamists' slanted view of Middle East history and promoting the culture of victimhood that is a staple of much of their proselytizing and indoctrination, it probably is, given Ms. Almontaser's views and associations. In January 2002, she told an interviewer: "The American people believe that everything is all right and that the U.S.A. lives by its ideals of democracy, individual freedom and the American dream out there as well. So did I, until September 11, 2001.... Earlier you could be arrested for being black and driving a car, now it has become a crime to fly when you are brown. I believe a lot of Arab-Americans have realized that we are in the same boat as the black Americans; we must learn from their experiences and struggle against racism. I have realized that our foreign policy is racist; in the 'war against terror' people of color are the target."
• The deck has been further stacked in the direction of creating a publicly funded madrassa (or fundamentalist Muslim religious school) by putting Islamist organizations and individuals on its planning and advisory committees. For example, the latter include 12 religious figures — a striking departure from the principle of separating church and state. The three Muslim clerics are, respectively, the director of Jamaica Muslim Center Koranic Memorization School in Queens, the deputy emir (leader) of Majlis Ash Shura (a group that advocates the repressive theocratic code known as Shariah law) and New York University's imam, who forced the New York University administration not to display the Danish editorial cartoons of Muhammad that Islamofascists used to foment violence around the world.
A group of parents and concerned citizens calling itself the "Stop the Madrassa Coalition" (www.stopthemadrassa.wordpress.com) has just written New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the state's governor, Eliot Spitzer, urging that the opening of the Khalil Gibran International Academy be postponed until satisfactory answers are provided to a host of questions.
Among other things, these concern: the character of the curriculum; the competence and agenda of the teaching staff; and "the amount of politicization and Shariah-tainted indoctrination our children are exposed to before Mr. Klein will 'shut it down.' "
If we hope to defeat the Islamists' in the war of ideas they are waging against us, we had better deny them a beachhead in Brooklyn — and a precedent and model for publicly funded madrassas across America.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington and a supporter of the Stop the Madrassa Coalition.
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