Ken Connor

Abraham Lincoln once famously observed, "The philosophy of the school room in one generation is the philosophy of government in the next."

The truth of Lincoln's observation is, no doubt, at the core of the apprehensions that New Yorkers have expressed about the Khalil Gibran International Academy scheduled to open next month in Brooklyn. Adding to their apprehensions is the fact that KGIA is just three blocks from a mosque which has a history of employing radical imams and which was frequented by one of the terrorists implicated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

It takes a lot to rankle Gotham City dwellers, but, given their experience with radical Islam, one can sympathize with their angst. Mind you, KGIA is a public school and will be funded with public tax dollars, some of which will come from families of the victims of 9/11. World Net Daily reports that the school's curriculum "will integrate intensive Arabic language instruction and the study of Middle Eastern history and historical figures," including the life and teachings of the prophet Muhammad. WND also explains that field trips will include destinations in the Middle East and that "teacher materials will be adapted from publications supplied by the Council on Islamic Education." New York City school officials have tried to assure the public that the school will be "non-religious" and will not promote a political or religious ideology, but skepticism abounds.

Two thoughts come to mind as I reflect on this story. The first deals with the notion of the "double standard"; the second, with "duplicity."

Our current climate of political correctness in this country has produced a dizzying double standard as it relates to Christianity and its competing world views—including Islam. Can you imagine the response of New York City educrats to school organizers who would have the temerity to advocate public funding of a school that would focus on the life and teachings of Jesus, promote the virtues of Western Civilization, and offer field trips to the holy city of Jerusalem (complete with side trips to Bethlehem and the Sea of Galilee)? Why, those "constitutional Neanderthals" would be thrown out on their ear! Their proposal wouldn't even pass the laugh test at the NYC DOE. Before you could say "ACLU," there would be a federal lawsuit to enjoin public funding of the proposed "inherently religious" enterprise. Not so, however, with Kahlil Gibran International Academy. In post-modern New York City, all religions may be equal, but some are more equal than others.

Second, it is duplicitous to suggest that one can separate Arabic culture from the religion of Islam. That's like trying to square a circle. It can't be done. In Islam, there is no separation of church and state. Islamic fundamentalists do not draw a distinction between religion, culture and politics. The three are united under Sharia law. These religious zealots see the state as a primary vehicle for advancing Islam. Indeed, the coercive power of the state is essential to spreading the teachings of the Koran. The words, "religious liberty," are not in the lexicon of these fundamentalists. "Convert or die!" is their mantra. Will citizens of the Empire State be funding the education of the next generation of suicide bombers who are committed to the expansion of a worldwide Islamic state? Inquiring minds in the Big Apple want to know.

One would hope that these concerns would be self-evident to school officials charged with the responsibility of educating New York City's schoolchildren, but apparently they are not. Sadly, those who dare to voice their concerns are branded "intolerant bigots" by the NYC educational elites. For the elites, to be deemed "intolerant" or "bigoted" is a fate worse than death in the Age of Tolerance and Moral Relativism.

The fact that the school officials do not credit even facial legitimacy to the concerns being raised by ordinary citizens speaks volumes about the critical thinking skills of New York's educational establishment, many of whom are products of New York City schools. One can only conclude, therefore, that the NYC public school system is, in fact, in dire need of radical reform—just not the kind that radical Islamists have in mind.


Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.