Home > Uncategorized > Shouting Fire: Stories From the Edge of Free Speech, Commentary 2

Shouting Fire: Stories From the Edge of Free Speech, Commentary 2


This part of the documentary deals with Debbie Almontaser, the American Muslim teacher in New York City.  The New York Post basically caused her to resign from the Board of Education and lose her chance at becoming permanent principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy.  In spite of her career based on promoting intercultural, trans-religion understanding and peace, New York City’s school Chancellor and Mayor were convinced by the Teacher’s Union that she is agent of threats of violence.  When asked on phone by the New York Post to explain the women’s T-Shirt of a Yemeni organization which Almontaser was part of, saying “Intifada NYC”, she explained the passive root of the often rebellious term.  This acted as evidence against her.

I think that it is okay for a newspaper to “be this partisan” as my professor asks.  “Partisan” in this case might offend reasonable Republicans (since the target is probably not Democrats when describing the Post.)   In America at least, there are plenty of big newspapers at the opposite end of any spectrum of opinion.  But I think the act itself is despicable.  From what I’ve heard, it was a cruel trap based on semantics.  I believe whomever called Almontaser did not have the desire to find out the truth, but to fulfill either media frenzy or appeal to anti-terrorism fear in the buying audience.  It may be vague to say this but, I think what makes the investigators of Watergare honorable was their urge to expose lies, not help craft a negative statement to take down the enemy.

I think our media is offended a little too easily about negative statements regarding the United States and the September 11, 2001 attacks.  But what I think, or at least some of the media finds acceptable, is explanations of bad choices made by the government, or waning public values, that allowed anti-America aims to carry out.  You can’t say “America deserved the deaths of 2,000 people” or “our lifestyles are the kind that ought to be punished.”  But you can say “If we hadn’t gone into this country and manipulated this region or regime we could have avoided this” or “we’ve become too soft on security and have to improve our homeland defense.”  Few Americans would say “America is not good”, but many say “America is misusing its potential” or “abandoning what makes this country great.”

A person that is close to an organization with a negative public image, in some circumstances, may be justifiably fired.  But what I dislike is the frenzy to boot people out of their position.  People get so passionate about being invaded or tarnished by an ideological enemy, that neither gets to have their facts properly checked, nor has a real debate with the other.  This may just cause greater opposition and disrespect toward the accuser.  Then again, media with a good following like the Post may not mind the public image of hardcore knavery.

I would like for the Post  to prove me completely wrong with evidence- about the phone conversation, or Almontaser’s true nature.  Until then, I will not take their side of the issue.

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