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thepeoplesvoice.org: German Missionary School in Jerusalem displays virulent Islamophobia

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On 22 May, 2010, the Schmidt Girls School in East Jerusalem flagrantly fired a Palestinian female teacher, Nadera al Nimmari, reportedly for wearing a headscarf.

According to news reports, the school principal and his secretary escorted al-Nimmari to the school’s outer gate, telling her that she could be reinstated only if she removes the headscarf off her head.

Humiliated and emotionally tormented, al-Nimmari left her school, not understanding what was going on.

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In Jerusalem itself, the incident has been viewed as an expression of sheer hatred of and fanaticism against Islam by an institution which claims to promote interreligious tolerance.


In its website (http://www.heilig-land-verein.de/engl/html/about_us.html), the German Association of the Holy Land, the mother organization catering for the Schmidt School, boasts of “promoting dialogue and reconciliation among the different religions.”

However, it is amply clear that the abrupt and unceremonious sacking of a teacher of 27 years because of her religion is an act of religious intolerance to put it very mildly.

The Schmidt school administration claims that al-Nimmari has not been completely dismissed and that she could always return, but without wearing the headscarf, a religious Islamic obligation upon all practicing Muslim women past the age of puberty.

Needless to say, the unfair and provocative decision to sack a teacher because of her religion is already drawing angry reactions in the Arab community in East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories.

These reactions are understandable and legitimate since the repulsive act is being viewed as an expression of hate against the Islamic faith.

Indeed, for many Palestinians, the manifestly illegal firing of a woman teacher who has spent half of her life teaching at the German school constitutes the moral equivalent of a declaration of war on Islam at least within the confines of that school. Needless to say, this is totally unacceptable.

Some students at the school, both Christian and Muslim, have questioned the clearly vindictive behavior on the part of the School administrator, Nicolas Kirscher.

One student was quoted as asking “why this man doesn’t ask the nuns to take off their own headscarves as he has asked our teacher to do so?”

Nabil Zuheiman, father of two students at the Schmidt school, described the decision to fire the Muslim teacher, al Nimmari, as symbolizing the decapitation of tolerance and multi-culturalism” at the school.

“It is a sharp blow to respect of religious beliefs.”

“I respect the Catholic identity of the Schmidt school, this is why I decided to admit my daughters to school. However, this draconian decision takes the school back to the time of the inquisition. Sorry, this is not the Catholic Church that respects people’s religious beliefs.”

The mother of one student was quoted by the Maan News Agency as saying that “this decision is sending the wrong message to the students, that there is discrimination at the school based on religion.

“They are also trying to send a tacit message, saying ‘don’t you even think of wearing the scarf in the future.’”

Another mother, named Jumana Nasseruddin, said : “I am a graduate of this school so are my daughters. I would like to remind the principal that the Fourth Geneva Convention outlawed discrimination on the basis of religion and color of skin. Hence the administration is creating religious discrimination and finding a rift between Christians and Muslims.”

I strongly believe that the decision to fire al-Nimmari was in no way an uncalculated decision. Things just don’t happen this way. There must have been a deep sense of intolerance and hostility against the Islamic faith on the part of whoever took this unfortunate decision.

In that sense, the decision reflects and epitomizes a really grave problem. In the final analysis, a hater of Islam can’t remain a principal of a school the majority of whose students are Muslims.

Palestinians, like this writer, have a long experience with missionary schools, some which appeared more than 130 years ago. The Schmidt School was established in 1886, during the Ottoman era.

However, the enduring continuity of these schools has always been maintained thanks to a carefully-observed modus Vivendi whereby school administrations kept a safe distance from religiously sensitive matters, including interference in religious issues such as telling Muslim students and employees what or what not to wear, or banning headscarves or ridiculing or vilifying Islamic religious symbols and customs.

To our chagrin, and to its own detriment, the Schmidt School is now violating these timeless red lines.

We hope and pray that the German Association of the Holy Land will immediately correct this unfortunate mistake.

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Khalid Amayreh is a journalist living in Palestine. He obtained his MA in journalism from the University of Southern Illinois in 1983. Since the 1990s, Mr. Amayreh has been working and writing for several news outlets among which is Aljazeera.net, Al-Ahram Weekly, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), and Middle East International. He can be reached through politics.indepth@iolteam.com.

Source: thepeoplesvoice.org

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Muslim American born in Brooklyn, NY with Guyanese parents currently living in Virginia working full-time as a web developer.

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