Principal Resigns Over ‘Intifada’ T-Shirts
AP, Posted: 2007-08-11 10:13:10
NEW YORK (Aug. 11) – An Arabic-themed public school will still open in September, despite the abrupt departure of its embattled principal, the city Department of Education said.
So far, 45 students have enrolled in the Khalil Gibran International Academy, which is eventually to cover grades 6 to 12. But the Brooklyn school and its intended principal, Debbie Almontaser, have faced questions and criticism since plans for the academy were announced in February.
Almontaser resigned Friday after coming under fire for failing to condemn the use of the highly charged word “intifada” on T-shirts.
“I became convinced yesterday that this week’s headlines were endangering the viability of Khalil Gibran International Academy, even though I apologized,” she said in a statement.
Almontaser’s departure comes on the heels of an editorial flaying in the New York Post and an article this week that connected Almontaser to Arab Women Active in Art and Media.
That group is selling shirts imprinted with the words “Intifada NYC.” It shares office space with the Saba Association of American Yemenis, which counts Almontaser among its board members.
The tabloid asserted the shirts had a subversive meaning: “The inflammatory tees boldly declare ‘Intifada NYC’ – apparently a call for a Gaza-style uprising in the Big Apple.”
Almontaser, a public school teacher with 15 years of experience, told the paper that was a stretch. She said the word, which is most commonly associated with the violent Palestinian uprising against the Israelis, “basically means ‘shaking off.”‘
“That is the root word if you look it up in Arabic,” she said. “I understand it is developing a negative connotation due to the uprising in the Palestinian-Israeli areas. I don’t believe the intention is to have any of that kind of (violence) in New York City.”
She said the shirts provided an “opportunity for girls to express that they are part of New York City society … and shaking off oppression.”
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