Khalil Gibran International Academy - protesting against racists comments on school.

When New York City decided to open a government-funded school devoted to Arabic language and Arab culture, no one could have predicted the firestorm of protest that accompanied it.

The Khalil Gibran International Academy opened its doors this month to about 60 6th graders, and hopes to add a grade every year. It is one of the smallest schools in the city, and one of 70 bilingual schools in New York, which boasts schools that teach in Haitian Creole, Chinese, Spanish, etc.

But the fact that this school has an Arab theme touched a raw nerve for some, who called it a "madrassa" and warned that it would become a "breeding ground for homegrown terrorists." The school’s supporters say this smacks of racism, especially since religion will not be taught.

On Monday, Riz speaks with two people on opposite sides of the school fence: Deb Howard is one of the people who helped in the design of the academy, and argues that the school will bring together children from diverse backgrounds to "create ambassadors of peace."

Daniel Pipes and is the founder and director of the Middle East Forum and one of the forces behind the "Stop the Madrassa Coalition." He is also a newspaper columnist who argues that political Islam is incompatible with democracy, freedom, multiculturalism, and human rights.

You can watch Riz at 1900gmt, with repeats at 0000GMT, 0500GMT, and 0930GMT.

This episode aired on Monday 17th September 2007.

Watch Riz Khan here:

Watch Riz Khan Street Talk here:

To contact us click on 'Send your feedback' at the top of the page

Watch Al Jazeera English programmes on YouTube

Join our debates on the Your Views section of the site

Source: Al Jazeera