New York public school accused of radical Islamist agenda

September 4, 2007

-- A public school in New York that will teach Arabic language and culture opened Tuesday amid accusations that it will impose a radical Islamist agenda in its classrooms.

Carmen Colon enrolled her son in Khalil Gibran Academy, but pulled him out because of the controversy.

About a dozen security guards and police officers were on patrol Tuesday when the Brooklyn school opened, mainly to shepherd the throngs of reporters covering the event.

Carmen Colon was thrilled at the prospect of sending her 11-year-old son to the school.

"I know for a fact that any American who learns Arabic will make tons of money whether it's translation, whether it's in the customer service area," she said. "I thought it was the best advantage I could give my son."

According to its Web site, Khalil Gibran International Academy's goal is "to prepare students for college and successful careers and to foster an understanding of different cultures, a love of learning, and desire for excellence in all of its students."

But a group called "Stop the Madrassa" insists there's a more sinister agenda and is demanding the academy be closed. Video Watch why one student withdrew from the school »

"We are paying with our public dollar for a religious school, a madrassa," said Pamela Hall, a member of the group.

"The Arabic immigrant students will be isolated," Hall said. "Whether that materializes instantly into terrorists, that's a huge statement to make. But are these students not assimilating and becoming part of the American fabric? And is that potentially a problem? We think so, yes."