Losing the Propaganda War
Imagine a public school teacher telling his/her students, “For the next few weeks, you’re all going to become Christians.” Imagine that students had to wear crosses, memorize Christian prayers and recite them, memorize Christian concepts of the Eucharist and celebrate them, fast during Lent and chant “Jesus is the Messiah!” How long would it take for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to file a lawsuit? A week? A day? A minute? As we’ve seen many times, it would be immediate and very expensive for the school district, which, when it lost, would have to pay huge legal fees to the ACLU.
In 2000, a seventh grade teacher in California’s Byron Union School District (about fifty miles east of San Francisco) forced her seventh-grade students to become Muslims for three weeks. Students wore a star and crescent, memorized Muslim prayers, verses and the five pillars of faith, fasted during lunch period as if it were Ramadan, chanted “Allah Akbar!” and played a dice game called “jihad” (defined as “struggle against oppression”). What did the ACLU have to say about this? Nothing. Not a peep. Christian parents were outraged and filed a lawsuit in federal court against the school with the assistance of the Thomas More Law Center.
I interviewed Richard Thompson, president and general counsel for the Thomas More Law Center last week. The lawsuit against Byron Union School District was one of the earliest to call attention to increasing Muslim influence in our public schools. He said, “[T]he judge dismissed the case saying, well, this was a typical educational program. The activities were not overtly religious, that would raise any ‘establishment clause’ concerns. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that dismissal in a non-published opinion.”
“Non-published?” I asked. “Is that typical?”
“No,” he said. “And this was a very neat trick that they pulled. Because it was non-published - at the time the rule was that any non-published opinion could not be used as precedent - so what they basically did was, give the Byron Union School District a pass on the fact that they were in fact involved in overtly religious education. But it would not be used as a precedent so that Christians could say, okay, well you’ve done it for the Muslims - now we’re going to be able do it for Christians. That was our first involvement in a school - a public school - overtly promoting the religious faith of Muslims.”
The case was appealed to the US Supreme Court which, last October, declined to intervene. I asked then if there were any other cases of this nature he knew of. “There are some very suspicious things going on in the city of New York,” he said, “with this new school [Khalil Gibran International Academy] - a charter school - that the city has approved. What is of concern is that it is really a cover for a madrassa, right there in Brooklyn where, under the guise of just being a charter school for Arabic-speaking students, it is really going to be cover to promote Islam, to inflame hatred towards Christians, Jews and other religions? And it’s going to be funded by the taxpayers of New York? And when you look at the people on the board of directors - you have, several of them, imams or Muslim clerics - you have a suspicion that this is going to have a religious taint to it. Now there’s nothing wrong - if you want a religious school in the United States, you can have a religious school - but you can’t pay for it with public funds and that is the constitutional issue there. . . . the New York public school system was very secretive about the programs of the school and one of the things that this parents’ group [Stop the Madrassa Coalition] is trying to find out is what are the objectives? What [will be taught in] the classes?”
The parents’ web site published a link to a Monday New York Post story which begins: “Activists with ties to the principal of the city's controversial new Arabic-themed school are hawking T- shirts that glorify Palestinian terror, The Post has learned. The inflammatory tees boldly declare ‘Intifada NYC’ - apparently a call for a Gaza-style uprising in the Big Apple. . . . [The school’s principal, Dhabah] Almontaser downplayed the significance of the T-shirts. ‘The word [intifada] basically means “shaking off.” That is the root word if you look it up in Arabic,’ she said.”
Parents are skeptical according the Post: “‘Intifada is a war. Isn't that what Arafat had?’ said Pamela Hall, a Manhattan mom opposed to the academy on the grounds that it violates separation of church and state.”
The Post article ended with: “A Department of Education spokeswoman defended Almontaser, saying her link to the T-shirt was tenuous.” Somehow I expected that.
Is this all part of a new front in Radical Islam’s propaganda war? Are we losing? Attorney Richard Thompson said: “[T]here are a lot of great questions [and] I don’t have all the answers, but we are a public interest law firm and I would hope - hopefully in your article someplace you will mention that we’re willing to look at cases and file lawsuits.”
My interview with Richard Thompson ranged further into Muslim propaganda in our secondary and post-secondary education system, public and private. More next week.