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Battle over Muslim schools really about pro-Israel activism
By Ray Hanania — A federal panel says that a Saudi Arabian school based in Northern Virginia should be closed because they don’t like some of the things they assert the school is teaching its students. Not surprisingly, the actions of the so-called U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (CIRF) are no different from other U.S. commissions controlled by the Bush Administration that have shown a clear pattern of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias.Another such group that comes to mind is the so-called U.S. Commission on Peace, whose members included, at least briefly, renowned anti-Arab and anti-Muslim basher Daniel Pipes. Pipes is accused of heading a campus watch group accused of preaching religious hatred, too, something the CIRF seems to have missed. Although none of the members of the CIRF come close to Pipes, clearly the organization is driven by an anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias that reflects the prejudices brought to it by excessively pro-Israel activists. There are some moderates. One director is a member of the American Jewish Committee, an organization that once championed human rights but seems to have moved to the political right.The CIRF did not offer specific criticism of the school, in part because they are apparently working off typical anti-Arab and anti-Muslim rumors often spread by extremist pro-Israel groups that target anything Arab and Muslim in the United States. The theory being that if pro-Israel supporters can keep the Arab and Muslim groups in America under siege, isolate them as being “anti-American,” and falsely accuse them of preaching hatred, then the influence of these groups in forcing Israel to compromise with the Palestinians will be minimized.
There is one Muslim member on the Commission, but no Arab members, of course. There never are. All the accusations come from suspect third party sources with a Middle East axe to grind.
One might ask why the “Committee on International Religious Freedom” does not challenge Israel’s policies, which discriminate against not only people it occupies who are not Jewish but regularly against Muslims and Christians who allegedly have Israeli citizenship.
Israeli public schools routinely preach hateful and one-sided narratives on Palestine, denying that it exists, excluding Palestine from Israeli maps and asserting that Palestinians are really Jordanians, a vicious form of slander that is so hateful it makes anti-Semitism almost sound complimentary.
They have never challenged the hateful preachings in some Jewish religious schools, not just in mainstream Israeli society but also in the settler movement which has openly called for the killing of Muslim and Christian Arabs.
It is not a coincidence that this latest political smear of a Muslim and Arab institution comes in the wake of a similar smear that involved a school in New York City set up to teach the Arabic language to all students.
The silence from the CIRF over the shameful and hateful campaign against Debbie Almontaser was deafening. Almontaser was forced from her job as principle of the new Khalil Gibran Arabic school in New York City because Pipes and other hate-mongering columnists and editors at the New York Post falsely accused her of actions that were untrue.
But they did achieve their goal. They installed in Almontaser’s place, a pro-Israel activist who openly describes herself as a “Zionist,” even though the new pro-Israel principal can’t speak Arabic at all.
Why should she be able to speak Arabic? This isn’t about teaching people a new language. It’s all about defending Israel.
Clearly, the real issues here are not about religious hatred, but rather about an ongoing political battle between Arabs and Israelis, and the political activists on both sides. These activists seek to strengthen their argument against the other and routinely teach one-sided and often hateful views to their students, be they Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Arab or Israeli.
Both sides are guilty of infractions of religious and racial intolerance. That is clear. But the prosecution of the cases is what is the problem. They only target Arabs and Muslims, never mainstream institutions that are pro-Israel that are also guilty.
For every incident of ugly rhetoric published in the Arab textbooks, there are just as much ugly rhetoric published in pro-Israeli and Israeli textbooks and schools.
But, again, because of the Arab-Israeli conflict that is center stage in our American politics, skewered in favor of the pro-Israeli side of course, we never hear anyone complain about the hate being taught in Israeli public and religious schools. We only hear the vague attacks against Muslims such as that all “Madrassas” teach anti-Israeli and anti-American hate.
The word “Madrassa” is not some special school distinction, but simply the Arabic word for “school.” So EVERY Arab school, Muslim or Christian, by the way, is called a “Madrassa.” But most pro-Israel activists who preach this hatred always try to ignore the Christian Arabs.
No one should take anything that the CIRF or the Institute for Peace or any of these U.S. commission seriously when it comes to the Middle East. None have adequate representation from the Arab American community to counter balance pro-Israel bias and hateful rhetoric that dominates the discussions of these commissions.
They are purely political, as political as this phony and slanderous attack now being waged by pro-Israel activists against the Islamic Saudi School.
Let’s not even mention that Saudi Arabia is one of the most pro-American Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East, and that the Saudis are as much a target of Islamicist extremism as are American and other Western targets.
That also suggests the pernicious politically motivated nature of claims like this one by the CIRF and the Institute for Peace.
This debate has nothing to do with preventing hatred.
It’s all about promoting anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and author. Copyright Arab Writers Group, www.ArabWritersGroup.com)
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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