Masjid al-Farooq mosque (Courtesy Salon.com)
Foes of a new publicly funded Arabic-themed school in New York worry it will draw students from a radical mosque tied to terrorism and become an incubator for young jihadists.
The Khalil Gibran International Academy, scheduled to open next month in Brooklyn, is located three blocks from the Masjid al-Farooq mosque frequented by one of the terrorists involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The Boerum Hill mosque counts among past imams:
- Blind Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, who is serving a federal prison sentence for conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks.
- Fawaz Abu Damra, who has preached that Muslims should be “directing all rifles at the first and last enemy of the Islamic nation, and this is the sons of monkeys and pigs – the Jews.”
- Gulshair El-Shukrijumah, one-time interpreter for the Blind Sheik and the late father of Adnan el-Shukrijumah, a suspected al-Qaida operative wanted by the FBI as possibly training to be the “next Mohamed Atta.”
Federal investigators recently traced money raised for al-Qaida back to the al-Farooq mosque, which did not return phone calls seeking comment.
“It is still frequented by Islamists,” said Sara Springer, an eighth-grade teacher at a public middle school in Brooklyn.
“I am very concerned that the school will be a madrassa, funded by taxpayer dollars,” she said. “We will in effect be supporting the training of future terrorist cells.”
Officials say the new school, known as KGIA, will educate students about Islamic culture and Arabic, but will not promote Islam. Local detractors are not swayed, however.
“You cannot separate Arabic culture from Islam,” argued Robert Hall, a co-leader of the Bronx Household of Faith. He described KGIA as a “publicly funded religious school.”
Springer is leading a group of parents and concerned citizens calling itself “Stop the Madrassa Coalition” to close the school, which so far has enrolled 44 students.
The group contributed to last week’s ouster of KGIA’s principal – a native of Yemen, a country well-represented at al-Farooq mosque – by calling attention to her close ties to an organization selling T-shirts that glorify Palestinian terrorism. Dhabah “Debbie” Almontaser defended the shirts – which are emblazoned with the phrase, “Intifida NYC” – before resigning in the wake of public outrage.
“Both parents and teachers have a right to be concerned about children attending a school run by someone who doesn’t immediately denounce campaigns or ideas tied to violence,” said Randi Weingarten, head of the United Federation of Teachers in New York.
The intifadas were Palestinian terror campaigns that left 1,221 Israelis dead. Most of the attacks were suicide bombings, and many of the victims were civilians.
Still, school officials are pressing ahead with plans to open the school, which will offer students internships with Muslim lawyers, trips to the Middle East and community activism.
The program will integrate intensive Arabic language instruction and the study of Middle Eastern history and historical figures – which Springer says will include the life and teachings of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
Text books, lesson plans and teacher materials will be adapted from publications supplied by the Council on Islamic Education, Springer says. CIE’s chief consultant is Susan Douglass, a Muslim activist whose husband is on the Saudi government payroll as a teacher at an Islamic academy that has graduated terrorists.
“Parents have raised the fear of jihad incitement privately,” said Springer, who has attended a few of the PTA meetings concerning the school.
Garth Harries, chief executive of New York City’s Office of New Schools, would neither confirm nor deny Springer’s assertions regarding the curriculum.
He did, however, assert that KGIA is a “non-religious” New York City public school.
“It is not a vehicle for political or religious ideology,” Harries said. “And if the school is used this way, we will close it.” He says his department will monitor funding and curriculum at KGIA.
But Springer doubts officials will be able to detect jihadi indoctrination when many of the classes will be taught in Arabic.
“How will they know what is transpiring within the school?” she said.