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On the July 25 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity previewed a discussion of plans to operate an Arabic language and culture school in Brooklyn, New York, by saying that "if you live in New York City, guess what? Your tax dollars could be going to fund a madrassa," and that "the city that fell victim to the biggest terrorist attack in world history challenges the separation of church and state and using tax dollars to fund an all-Muslim school." During a later preview an on-air graphic read: "funding fatwa." In fact, the school's "advisory council" is made up of several Christian ministers, Jewish rabbis, and Muslim imams, according to a comment posted by Daniel Meeter, a member of the advisory council, on The New York Sun's website in response to an April 24 Sun article attacking the school. Co-host Alan Colmes also noted that the person after whom the school is named, author and artist Khalil Gibran, was a Maronite Christian, an eastern rite Lebanese sect in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
According to the New York City schools website: "The Khalil Gibran International Academy's mission is to prepare students of diverse backgrounds for success in an increasingly global and interdependent society. Our focus is on holistic student development and rigorous academics."
Further, as Colmes noted during the debate, "New York City school chancellor Joel Klein has said that if [it] becomes a religious school or anything other than a public school, he will shut it down. They are supposed to teach standard college preparatory curriculum." Klein's quote was aired by New York City cable channel NY1 News. The New York Times also reported (subscription required) on May 18, "the Khalil Gibran International Academy [is] a new dual-language school that will teach Arabic language and culture."
From the July 25 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, which also featured Sara Springer from Stop the Madrassa Coalition and Hussein Ibish, executive director of the Foundation for Arab-American Leadership:
HANNITY: And if you live in New York City, guess what? Your tax dollars could be going to fund a madrassa. That's right. It's a story that will shock every American. We'll break it wide open right here on Hannity & Colmes.
HANNITY: And later, the city that fell victim to the biggest terrorist attack in world history challenges the separation of church and state and using tax dollars to fund an all-Muslim school. That story coming up straight ahead.
HANNITY: Coming up, controversy over an Arabic school set to open in Brooklyn, New York, paid for with taxpayer dollars. So will this be a breeding ground for radicals? We'll debate. We'll let you decide straight ahead.
COLMES: Coming soon to a classroom near you, Al Qaeda. Well, that's not my view, but that's what critics of New York's first Arabic public school would have you think. The Department of Education originally scheduled the Khalil Gibran School to open its doors September of this year, sharing space with a public school in Brooklyn. But they've been forced to rethink the proposition after receiving protests from parents in the neighborhood. Parents are concerned that the school will be a breeding ground for future terrorists. However, proponents of the school believe it's the best way to combat ignorance about Arabic culture.
Here to discuss all this, executive director of the Foundation for Arab-American Leadership, Hussein Ibish, and from Stop the Madrassa Coalition, Sara Springer. We welcome you both. Sara, welcome to Hannity & Colmes.
IBISH: Thank you.
SPRINGER: Thank you.
COLMES: Let me be clear. This is an Arab school, as I understand it, not a Muslim school, as some have said that it is. It's not about the Muslim faith; it's about Arabic culture.
SPRINGER: Right. The issue is we really don't know what the school is about because the Department of Education has refused to be clear about what the curriculum is, what the textbooks are, who the publishers of the textbooks are. The lesson plans --
SPRINGER: -- the -- whether these teachers are certified. Who will be teaching it. The point of view --
COLMES: Well, actually, in defense of the side other than you in this, New York City school chancellor Joel Klein has said that if it becomes a religious school or anything other than a public school he will shut it down. They are supposed to teach standard college preparatory curriculum. The principal, Debbie Almontaser, says she plans to teach the history of the Arab people. It will encompass international perspectives, and to develop global citizens. They have said all those things in preparation for this coming to the neighborhood.
SPIRINGER: Right. That's absolutely true.
COLMES: Sara, let me get the other guest in. By the way, interesting, Hussein: Khalil Gibran was a Maronite Christian.
COLMES: He wasn't even of the Islamic faith.
IBISH: No, actually he was quite a devout Christian, and the majority of Arab Americans actually are Christians, no doubt. Many of the professors, if you're drawing on the pool of Arabic speakers in New York, will be Christians as well as Muslims. The board of the school is Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
HANNITY: All right, we don't have a lot of time, Hussein --