Segments in this Video

Muslims as Scapegoats (01:23)


In 2007, New York City is the venue for the American Muslim Day Parade. Arabs and Muslims were always stereotyped, but after 2001, they were the scapegoats for everyone's fears.

Dual Language Schools (01:34)

New York City has over 60 dual language schools. In 2007, the first Arab-themed public school opened under the name Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA).

Multicultural Environment (01:15)

KGIA's founding principal was Debbie Almontaser. The school is targeted at all of New York City's children. Half of the school speaks English and half speak Arabic. Khalil Gibran embodied multiculturalism.

Relations Between Arab and Muslim Communities (01:17)

In the late 1990s, Debbie Almontaser becomes an educator in the New York City public school system. After 9/11, she devotes herself to strengthening relations between Arab and Muslim communities and the rest of the city.

Controversial School (01:08)

A journalist fears that the KGIA will promote pan-Arabist ideology and radical Islamic ideology. Thus, the school devoted to be a dual language school in which Arabic is taught becomes very controversial.

Racism and Xenophobia (01:05)

A coalition forms to "stop the madrassa" in New York. Radicals claim the "jihad school is a threat to national security." Comments are racist and xenophobic. Critics attack Almontaser a "9/11 denier."

Public Fear over Dual Language School (01:05)

A woman who is opposed to the Khalil Gibran Academy believes the school will create terrorists because students will be isolated in the "madrassa." Another critic calls the school's purpose "soft jihad."

Enemies of the Dual Language School (01:23)

The NY Dept. of Education would not have approved of a school that focused on religious education. There is nothing Islamist or religious about the KGIA. The Jewish Action Alliance speaks out against the school.

Public Outcry (00:53)

Protesters claim they do not object to the teaching of Arabic. They fear that the school will secretly teach anti-American sentiment as part of the curriculum. The coalition files for information about the textbooks and curriculum to be used at KGIA.

Freedom of Information (01:04)

The DOE hands over thousands of records and a list of textbooks to "Stop the Madrassa." Learning materials include English language children's books translated into Arabic. The curriculum is mandated by the NY Dept. of Education.

Racial Stereotypes of Arabs (01:08)

Racist stereotypes once applied to black Americans are now applied to Muslims. A representative of the NY Dept. of Education explains the core curriculum of KGIA. Religion plays no part in the school.

Misdirected Outrage (01:24)

"Stop the Madrassa" takes pictures at the Arab-American Bazaar and is particularly outraged over T-shirts imprinted with "Intifada NYC." The photographer erroneously links the shirts with the Khalil Gibran International Academy.

Libelous Press Release (01:44)

"Stop the Madrassa" issues a press release accusing Debbie Almontaser of having personal responsibility for t-shirts that have nothing to do with her. The New York Post will not let go of the story, even though it is false.

Interview Gone Awry (01:23)

After interviewing Debbie Almontaser, principal of KGIA, a reporter makes up his own story to imply that the principal wants a revolution in NYC. Right-wing bloggers "lose it" on the Internet over something that is not true.

Intifada: Controversial Term (01:09)

"Intifada" is the term often used to describe the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation of the Gaza and the West Bank. The word inspires many responses and interpretations.

Fear and Betrayal (01:02)

The NYC Dept. of Education has a "knee jerk" reaction and asks principal Almontaser to apologize. She refuses, and the department writes its own letter that exacerbates the situation. Politicians call for her dismissal.

Forced Resignation (01:18)

The mayor of NYC calls for Almontaser's resignation. Forced to resign, Almontaser feels she is giving up her lifelong dream.

Political Irony (01:24)

Brooklyn represents a world community. A borough president goes public with his support of Debbie Almontaser. Almontaser has always worked for understanding among diverse groups.

Call for Reinstatement (01:10)

After her forced resignation, Almontaser secludes herself in order to protect the school. Many people call for her reinstatement.

Conservative Bigotry (01:06)

Groups call on city leaders to stop pandering to racists and to reinstate Almontaser. Conservatives are accused of bigotry and racism.

Arab Women's Group (01:19)

An Arab women's group offers media education for young Arab women. The group encourages leadership among young women of color, and empowerment through media.

Provocative Word (01:39)

An Arab women's group was responsible for T-shirts at an American-Arab Bazaar that was imprinted with "Intifada NYC." It was intended to promote empowerment and not rebellion.

First Day of School (01:37)

A month after Almontaser was forced out, KGIA opens for its first day of classes. Commentators like Glenn Beck, who do not understand the purpose of the school, rail on-air about the "Arab school."

Arabic Classes (00:47)

A student of Khalil Gibran school replies to an interviewer's questions. She explains that taking Arabic language classes several times a week is the only Arabic experience in the school. Otherwise, it is a "regular" school.

Principal's Position Open (01:15)

The NY Dept. of Education posts the job of principal of KGIA. The ousted principal, Debbie Almontaser, applies for the job. She also announces that she is preparing to file a lawsuit against the NY Dept. of Education for violating her Constitutional rights.

Lawsuit Against NY Dept. of Education (00:58)

Debbie Almontaser's attorney explains the basis for her lawsuit against NY. He believes her forced resignation was the district's giving in to Islamophobia. Almontaser says she left the outcome of the lawsuit "in the hands of God."

On the Witness Stand (01:01)

On cross examination, Debbie Almontaser experiences the intensity of questions, especially about her relationship with Mayor Bloomberg. As the judge reads the decision, reactions in the courtroom are negative.

Dramatic Court Decision (01:35)

A judge asserts that Debbie Almontaser's conversation with the "New York Post" was not protected speech, and that her employer had the right to remove her. Two months later, her case is heard by the Court of Appeals.

Court of Appeals (01:54)

In the Court of Appeals, Debbie Almontaser feels a sense of justice for the first time. Yet, the Court does not grant her relief. Thus, she cannot get her job back as principal of KGIA. The Court recommends her case go back to the lower courts.

New Principal at KGIA (01:34)

A woman is chosen as principal of KGIA to replace Debbie Almontaser. The new principal commits to a dual language program. "Stop the Madrassa" continues to speak out against KGIA.

Radical Protesters: Fear and Loathing (01:46)

Protesters against KGIA bring up the topic of beheading in Muslim countries and other forms of radical Islamic extremism in their complaints about the school. Protesters object to Muslim women's headscarves.

Adult Protesters (01:09)

Attacks against the KGIA are vile and unrelenting. The school hopes to reform public education by promoting understanding. Ironically, that is not how the protesters see it.

Liberal vs. Conservative Views (00:60)

A conservative asserts that liberals protest everything but will not support anything that is pro-American. "Stop the Madrassa" may believe they are hunting down future terrorists.

Fear of Change (01:32)

There is a conservative element in America that fears the demise of the long-held Judeo-Christian paradigm. In 2009, Debbie Almontaser's First Amendment claim was denied again.

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Intifada NYC: The Khalil Gibran Academy and Post-9/11 Politics

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In 2007, the first Arabic-language public school in the U.S. opened in New York City, generating a tidal wave of controversy. This program follows the Khalil Gibran International Academy’s turbulent beginnings; the political firestorm that culminated in the resignation of Debbie Almontaser, the academy’s founding principal; and Almontaser’s legal battle to get her job back. The compelling narrative combines news clips, interviews with key players in the controversy, and graphic novel–style drawings for added visual interest—shedding light on important First Amendment concepts as well as the “Stop the Madrassa” campaign that accused the school of harboring Islamist influences. Contains harsh language. (46 minutes)

Length: 46 minutes

Item#: BVL41390

ISBN: 978-1-61616-667-0

Copyright date: ©2009

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

Official Selection: London International Film Festival

Official Selection: Rooftop Films Summer Series

Official Selection: Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.