"Stop the Madrassa" Says It Has Been Defamed

Seriously

Critics of the city’s first Arabic-themed public school, who have organized under the provocative name “Stop the Madrassa,” think they have been slandered by the ousted principal, Debbie Almontaser.

Almontaser made some allegedly offending and false comments during a prepared statement she read when she filed a lawsuit against the mayor, the schools chancellor and the Department of Education. She named "Stop the Madrassa" and went on to say, “Members of the coalition stalked me wherever I went and verbally assaulted me with vicious anti-Arab and anti-Mulsim comments.”

Now the lawyer for the coalition, David Yerushalmi, has sent a letter to Almontaser’s lawyer demanding that she "publicly rescind" her statement and "issue a public apology."

The text of the letter in full:

 

 

Dear Mr. Levine:

I am one of the attorneys representing the Stop the Madrassa Community Coalition in its efforts to uncover the pedagogical, political, religious, and other agendas underlying the creation and operation of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (“KGIA”). Your client, Dhabah (Debbie) Almontaser, has made public statements falsely stating, inter alia, that my clients have engaged in the act of “stalking” your client. Specifically, in explaining the context of her resignation as principal-designate of KGIA, Ms. Almontaser stated publicly:

Leading the attack was the “Stop the Madrassa Coalition” run by Daniel Pipes, who has made his career fostering hatred of Arabs and Muslims. The coalition conducted a smear campaign against me and the school that was ferocious. Members of the coalition stalked me wherever I went and verbally assaulted me with vicious anti-Arab and anti-Muslim comments. They suggested that, as an observant Muslim, I was disqualified from leading KGIA, even though the school is rigorously secular, and its namesake, Khalil Gibran, was a Lebanese Christian. To stir up anti-Arab prejudice, they constantly referred to me by my Arabic name, a name that I do not use professionally. They even created and circulated a YouTube clip depicting me as a radical Islamist. (Emphasis added.) This statement has been published by several news outlets, including the New York Times (see, http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/16/principal-of-citys-arabic-school-says-she-was-forced-out/).

While much of what your client has said and continues to say about my clients is false or misleading, this particular statement is more than simply a wild and false accusation by a litigant seeking to gain some sympathetic status as a “victim” of “hatemongering”. This statement is an unadulterated lie accusing my clients of a criminal offense in the state of New York (see, e.g., New York Penal Code § 120.50). Such a false public accusation isdefamation per se.

Moreover, this blatant lie has now been repeated by you as Ms. Almontaser’s attorney in the federal lawsuit recently filed on behalf of Ms. Almontaser. In that lawsuit (Almontaser v. NYC DOE et al) you allege the following:

35. Leading the attack was the Stop the Madrassa Coalition, which conducted a ferocious smear campaign against the school. Members of the coalition stalked plaintiff wherever she went and verbally assaulted her with vicious anti-Arab and anti-Muslim comments. They suggested that, as an observant Muslim, she was disqualified from leading KGIA, even though the school was designed to be rigorously secular, and its namesake, Khalil Gibran, was a Lebanese Christian. To stir up anti-Arab prejudice, they referred to plaintiff by her Arabic name, a name that she does not use professionally. Her critics even created a YouTube clip depicting her as a radical Islamist.

While you might hide behind the immunity granted to litigants in their court pleadings, this formalization in federal court of your client’s pre-litigation out-of-court outrageous and false claims against my clients will not stand uncontested. In addition to the false statement that my clients committed the crime of stalking, the other claims that your client has made, such that she was “verbally assaulted” with “vicious anti-Arab and anti-Muslim comments”, underscore Ms. Almontaser’s inability to discern fact from fiction. Further, Ms. Almontaser’s statements about Dr. Pipes are unfounded. Dr. Pipes has never “run” the Stop the Madrassa Coalition – for which he has not had any sort of executive or line position and whose advisory board he joined only several months after the coalition came into existence. Or, has Dr. Pipes ever said or conducted his affairs in any way that might “foster hatred of Arabs and Muslims,” as an even cursory review of his writings would reveal. Dr. Pipes is a respected scholar who, for the common protection, examines in a careful and critical way the dangers of what he describes as “radical Islam”. Finally, the claim made by your client and now by you that referring to your client as “Dhabah (Debbie) Almontaser” is an effort to “stir up anti-Arab prejudice” stands exposed as silly if not absurd when one peruses the various ways your client has been addressed by her supporters (see, e.g., http://www.revson.columbia.edu/fellows/alumni/debbie_almontaser.html).

Insofar as your client has made public false and defamatory out-of-court statements about my clients which would lead the public to believe my clients have engaged in criminal and tortious conduct against your client, on behalf of my clients I hereby demand that Ms. Almontaser publicly rescind these accusations and issue a public apology. Furthermore, my clients demand that you amend the complaint filed in the above-referenced federal lawsuit by deleting paragraph 35. Failure to respond appropriately to this demand within 5 business days, will result in my clients taking all appropriate and legal measures against your client to redress these wrongs.

I look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

David Yerushalmi

"Stop the Madrassa" Says It Has Been Defamed