EEOC Finds Bias in NYC Firing Arab School Principal, Almontaser
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the New York City Department of Education (DOC) discriminated against Debbie Almontaser, founding principal of the Khalil Gibran Academy, the City’s first Arab-language public school, when they removed her from her position. Readers of this blog may recall a ferocious campaign waged by Jewish neocons and Islamophobes like Daniel Pipes, David Yerushalmi, the N.Y. Post, and Stop the Madrasa against the school and Almontaser personally.
Matters came to a head when Almontaser was smeared over a T-shirt displaying the word “Intifada.” Her opponents made her out to be a supporter of Islamism and armed resistance because she explained the Arabic meaning of the word to a reporter, while not denouncing it sufficiently. When Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein dropped her like a hot potato, her days were numbered. After her forced resignation, she sued and lost. Then she filed a claim with EEOC for discrimination. The N.Y. Times reports on the finding:
A federal commission has determined that New York City’s Department of Education discriminated against the founding principal of an Arabic-language public school by forcing her to resign in 2007 following a storm of controversy driven by opponents of the school.
Acting on a complaint filed last year by the principal, Debbie Almontaser, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the department “succumbed to the very bias that creation of the school was intended to dispel and a small segment of the public succeeded in imposing its prejudices on D.O.E. as an employer,” according to a letter issued by the commission on Tuesday.
The commission said that the department had discriminated against Ms. Almontaser, a Muslim of Yemeni descent, “on account of her race, religion and national origin.”
This is a great deal for civil rights in New York and in America. It is a day that Arab-Americans can be proud. It is a day when all Americans should be proud. Debbie Almontaser turned to the federal government for redress and it did what it could to make her whole.
This is a day when Muslim-haters like Norman Podhoretz and his friends I mentioned above should hide their heads in shame (though they will shake their fists in defiance instead). Their bullying has been shown for what it is: un-American, unfair, unjust. We are better than the haters in Stop the Madrasa. The democratic system worked.
My chief regret is that the political leadership of New York and the Jewish communal leadership were cowards and turned tail at the first sign of trouble. Instead of standing up to the ranters, Bloomberg folded at the earliest opportunity. The New York Jewish federation, after allowing Rabbi Michael Paley to represent it in the fight on behalf of the Academy, forced him to shut up. I was never able to determine who specifically made this decision–whether it was an executive decision by CEO Jon Ruskay or a lay decision influenced by a wealthy neocon board member like James Tisch. Whoever made the decision betrayed the courage necessary for true leadership. Instead of speaking out and doing the right thing, they let Daniel Pipes present the Jewish community’s position by default.
The EEOC called on New York City to do the right thing:
The commission asked the Department of Education to reach a “just resolution” with Ms. Almontaser and to consider her demands, which include reinstatement to her old job, back pay, damages of $300,000 and legal fees. Should the two sides fail to reach an agreement, the dispute will end up in court, her lawyer said.
Instead of hearing the message, the City’s attorney said his client would fight Ms. Almontaser every step of the way. They still haven’t gotten the message. I only hope that cooler heads will prevail. The former principal was wronged and deserves her job back and the chance to lead this school. That’s what’s fair. That’s what’s American.
I do take issue with one statement in this report:
Despite Ms. Almontaser’s longstanding reputation as a moderate Muslim, her critics succeeded in recasting her as a “9/11 denier” and a “jihadist.”
This is very sloppy writing and editing. Her critics did NOT succeed in recasting her as any of those things. But the mud flung by the Islamophobes resonated in certain quarters (like the pages of the Post) and her employer hung her out to dry. There was never ANY truth to any of the claims against Almontaser. They were all lies. So in that sense her critics could not have succeeded in any objective sense in labeling her. But they waged a vitriolic racist campaign which the DOE and city refused to counteract. Rather than fight, they folded.
In its criticism of the City’s actions, the Commission found that Almontaser had said nor done anything related to the T-shirt incident that warranted her removal:
It was The Post’s article, the commission wrote in its letter this week, that prompted the Department of Education to force Ms. Almontaser to resign. (City officials have said that she resigned voluntarily.)
“Significantly, it was not her actual remarks, but their elaboration by the reporter — creating waves of explicit anti-Muslim bias from several extremist sources — that caused D.O.E. to act,” the commission’s letter said.
I’m delighted that the EEOC pointedly noted the nasty role playing by Pipes and STM and labelled them “extremist.”
9 thoughts on “EEOC Finds Bias in NYC Firing Arab School Principal, Almontaser – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Richard, if you recall, the Jewish community not only remained silent but one of them, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, actually was a force in closing down the school, claiming it would foment terrorism or some such nonsense. Sadly, no one stepped forward to silence his hate speech.
Congratulations to Debbie Almontaser for her victory.
"the department had discriminated against Ms. Almontaser, a Muslim of Yemeni descent, “on account of her race, religion and national origin."
Gee – ya THINK?! And does anyone REALLY believe that it was mere coincidence that the city chose to replace her with an Ashkenazi Jew who has no connection and no knowledge whatsoever of Arabic language, Arabic history, or Arabic culture?
And just to clarify a few things:
Madrasa , مدرسة, which is NOT pronounced muDRAAAAAASuh, but MEDrasa, is nothing more and nothing less than the Arabic word for – get ready for it! – school. All over the Arab world children go to madrasa every day where they learn reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history, science – exactly the same stuff children learn in madaris مدارس – plural of madrasa – all over the world. Christian children go to madrasa, Jewish children go to madrasa, Yezidi and Sabaean, Zoroastrian, and even atheist children go to madrasa. There are state run and private secular madaris, Christian madaris, Jewish madaris, and yes, there are also Muslim madaris.
So, when the bigots shouted "stop the madrasa", what they were saying was "stop the school".
Kahlik Gibran, for whom the school is named, was not a Muslim. He was, in fact, a Catholic from the Maronite sect. Maronite Catholics are found mainly in Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine (most of the Palestinian Maronites were expelled or fled in 1948 and the years following). This fact and its significance seem to have been lost on the racists and bigots who forced Debbie Almontaser out of the school she conceived and founded.
Intifada is a perfectly respectable Arabic word, and her explanation was spot on.
"The democratic system worked."
I wouldn't go that far. This is a victory for decency, but only after she was forced out of her job because the local political establishment caved in to racists and jerks (apparently including the head of the teacher's union). The system failed miserably–it will redeem itself if she is reinstated or receives a massive wad of cash in compensation, or preferably both.
Amen to that.
And Shirin, your comments are funny. Yeshiva basically means "house of study" as well in Hebrew. Connotations are what connotations are, regardless of your (thoroughly amusing) far-left create-discrimination-where-there-is-none fury.
Additionally, if the school is just about the Arabic LANGUAGE, then it shouldn't matter whether the person in charge is a hijab-wearer or not.
I wouldn't call victory just yet – let's see how the court reacts. Best case scenario, she gets compensation for her previous loss – I wouldn't call that victory by a long shot.
So let’s see…you think it’s a fine idea to have an Ashkenazi Jew as principal of a school that teaches Arabic langugage and culture. While you say it’s fine to fire the Arab woman who founded the school. The fact that you focus on the fact that she wore a hijab as if that was the only thing important about her is racist, offensive & shows your bad faith. BTW, would you advocate an Arab w. no specific knowledge of Hebrew or Jewish identity become principal of a Jewish/Hebrew/Israel-focused public charter school like Steinhardt in NY or the one in Florida? The day you say you’ll publicly advocate for that will be the day I’ll stop calling you a hypocrite.
When the EEOC rules in yr favor in a clear, unvarnished way as this opinion proves, you have won a BIG victory. She will use this ruling to advance a civil case against the district which will be forced to compromise. I’m betting she also wins her job back. I know it would annoy the hell out of you, which is only one of many reasons I’m rooting for her.
Shira, here is some more Islamic fashion for your enjoyment and enlightenment. Again, suggest you might want to share with Bill Mahr since he, too, loves Islamic fashion.
Ah, Shira, it is so cute and clever the way you try to insult while showing yourself to be an ignorant clown.
Whatever Yeshiva “basically” means, a Yeshiva is, in fact, an Orthodox Jewish virtually exclusively male institution of religious study usually undertaken in preparation for the rabbinate. That is not a “connotation”, that is what it actually is. Madrasa, on the other hand, does not “basically” mean “school”, it actually means school and a madrasa actually IS a school, as in the place children go to learn secular academic subjects such as language, mathematics, history, science, and so on. It has no other “connotation” except in the minds of ignorant bigots like you.
Your fascination with Islamic fashion and hijab in particular is adorable. Do you really think this is about hijab, or were you just trying to show off that you know that word? More to the point, if the school is about Arabic LANGUAGE, don’t you think it should matter whether or not the principal, faculty, and staff actually know Arabic LANGUAGE? And by the way, it is not JUST about Arabic LANGUAGE, but also about Arabic culture and history. And as I pointed out before, the school is named after a Christian Arab.
And since you have shown such an interest in Islamic fashion, you can fashion THIS, and THIS. Oh – and you might consider sharing these links with your co-bigot, Bill Mahr.
And I think you will
SIMPLY LOVE these.