During a weekend dominated by partisan bickering over the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, it was refreshing to see a network that wasn’t exclusively covering the reaction to the verdict. On the Fox News Channel program America’s News Headquarters, host Shannon Bream served as the moderator of a “fair and balanced debate” on the recent revelations that a Tucson school district received funding for an Arabic language program from an organization with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Tucson Unified School District has reportedly accepted a $465,000 grant from Qatar Foundation International, a philanthropic organization that has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is, of course, closely tied to many Islamic extremist groups including Hamas and Al Qaeda.
The grant money will be used to help develop Arabic studies programs at two local magnet schools as a part of their International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, which provide students with college-level classes to prepare them to play a role in the global society. It will immediate assist the 225 student who are currently enrolled in the program while the schools hopes to be able to increase participation to over 400 students in the coming years.
As liberal talk show host Leslie Marshall pointed out, this is not the first time the Qatar Foundation has given grant money to a U.S. school system to promote Arab studies. According to DNAinfo New York in 2012, the group donated several hundred thousand dollars to fund a 3-year program in a Harlem school to test how receptive elementary-age children would be Arabic classes. The program integrates the teaching of simple Arabic vocabulary into games like musical chairs. Thus far, more than 200 students have voluntary participated in the program.
The other contributor to the debate was conservative radio host Chris Plante, who argued against accepting money from the organization given their seemingly extremist connections. He argued that our school system needs to be careful from whom it accepts money because it is rare that the funds are given with no strings attached whatsoever. Often, the organization, especially when it has extremist ties, is donating the money to try to “advance their agenda.” Plante warned that this particular group could be trying to “spread Sharia law” while pointing out that the organization, through their spokesman, has shown that they are “clearly anti-capitalist.”
Regardless of which side one agrees with, Fox News provided its viewers with a welcome hiatus from the one-sided liberal coverage that has dominated the news media in recent weeks. Host Shannon Bream merely played a regulatory role in the debate and ensured that each side of the argument was given adequate and equal time to express his or her opinion. There are no instances of a participant having to raise his voice to insert his opinion; instead, Bream conducted a civilized discussion of intelligent ideas in an unbiased and nonpartisan fashion.
Indeed, it is quite a welcome change from what has unfortunately seemed to have become the status quo in the cable news media.
For reference, the transcript of the debate is provided below:
America’s News HQ
1:27 p.m. Eastern
SHANNON BREAM: Controversy is brewing in Tucson, Arizona, where two schools will take grant money from a group with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Joining us now for fair and balanced debate are radio show hosts Leslie Marshall and Chris Plante. Welcome to you both.
CHRIS PLANTE: Hey, Shannon.
LESLIE MARSHALL: Good morning.
BREAM: All right now, Chris, this money will be used in classrooms where they're teaching Arabic. Isn't that a skill we'd like some American kids to develop? What's wrong with that?
PLANTE: Sure, nothing wrong with that I assume we're taking money from the Chinese government in classrooms where they're teaching Chinese and on and on. Since when did the United States become such a third world basket case that we're accepting a few hundred thousands from outside sources so we can fund our educational system? It's absurd just on that level alone, but then we're talking about the Muslim Brotherhood, or an affiliated organization being behind the funding. And the Muslim Brotherhood is of course the granddaddy of all the radical Islamic organizations, the group that assassinated Anwar Sadat, forget about what you have been reading about in the New York Times about them recently. Their leaders actually mentored Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The current head of al-Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri is a longtime Egyptian Muslim brotherhood leader. They have an agenda. It is to spread sharia law. There is no motivation for them to give money to a Tucson school district if it were not for advancing their agenda. Obviously it's about that.
BREAM: Leslie, I'll give you a chance to respond. I don't know where to start. Chris put a lot out there.
MARSHALL: Actually Chris said a lot, but, Chris, I love when you just give me some tennis balls right over the net. Let's go. First of all, you know, I was told that I'm related to Kevin Bacon by six degrees of separation, but I won't be doing the Footloose dance anytime soon. We're not talking about the Muslim Brotherhood writing a check. We're talking about a man who actually a few years ago did the very same in Harlem, and I didn't hear any outrage from anybody on the right, including you, Chris, about that. It's been a successful program. Shannon makes an excellent point. After 9/11, do you know one or two of the Americans we sent overseas could speak Arabic? We need more Arabic speakers and understanding of Arabic studies and Arabic culture, the Muslim world, and Arabic nations. In addition to that, the other tennis ball that you gave me was that -- so that's first. Second, China. Yes, China. Zionist organizations. There are numerous people that are linked to other organizations that have their own agendas that have given money to schools. And let me answer the question why does America need it? Because, Chris, you and your buddies always cut education every time you get a chance. You know, here in Los Angeles…
PLANTE: That's completely absurd.
MARSHALL: …we have to sell cookies and cakes and have bake sales to buy pencils and to buy backpacks for our kids, for crying out loud, in our public school system. So I think that we need money for education in America, and I think Tucson did what most people would do, which is open it with open arms.
BREAM: Chris, I know you're chomping at the bit, but I want to have you both react to something. This comes from a member of the Tucson Unified School District board, Mark Stegeman, if I'm pronouncing it correctly. He says, “as far as I can tell the money comes with no strings attached. There are people we wouldn't want to take money from. That would be case-by-case. The main issue is what we can do with the money. We get lots money from different foundations including American foundations that fund all different things. I don't know what they're funding.
PLANTE: I don't know what they're funding, wonderful. Also, you’re right Leslie; they did fund a program in Harlem, too. And why did they choose this school district? It’s a school district that was in the news in a while back for teaching a very radical sort of Reconquista, Southwestern-America-is-occupied-territory, creating disgruntled feelings among the populace in the school system there. They pretend they're occupied. They have conferences with Palestinians there because some of the more radical teachers want to pretend that's southwestern United States is actually Mexican territory that’s being illegally occupied by the United States of America. Why else would they choose this school district? It's the only reason it was in the news, and why Harlem? Indeed that's a good question. I don't think Zionist organizations have the same agenda that the Muslim Brotherhood has, that radical Islam has. We've heard from spokesmen with this organization that they're clearly anti-capitalist; they have another system in mind for monetary system, economic system, that is -- that conforms with Islam. Look, they have an agenda. We'll take money wherever we can get it because we're crying poor mouth and still playing that bumper sticker of the “we've got to have bake sales while the Pentagon buys bombers”. I mean really? Honestly it's 2013; let's catch up here. And radical Islam isn’t some benign little thing. In Northern Virginia, we had an Islamic school where they are teaching in the textbook that Jews are descendants from monkeys, and the rest of the infidels are descended from pigs. And that Islam is superior, and eventually that Allah will point out the Jew hiding behind the rock. This is in the textbooks. Now, that was a Wahhabi school but radical Islam pretty much peddles the same message everywhere they go. And honestly you're perfectly happy to accept outside funding of our school systems for programs because we're so poor? Really? Honestly? That's where we are in America today?
BREAM: All right Leslie, quick final word to you.
MARSHALL: The blue horizon schools, which are Muslim-based, and are not teaching radical Islam, are some of the highest rated schools in the united states of America, one. Two, they are not teaching radical Islam, nor have they in Harlem, nor are they in Tucson, if you look the at curriculum of the Harlem school. What it can actually do, Chris, it can provide opportunities for kids to learn a language that's different than what we're being taught. Most students are taught Spanish, and French, and now Chinese and Japanese. It's going to be able to give them job opportunities and a better understanding. I lived in Israel in 1996. I can tell you, I've been to some Zionist meetings where the words were “get rid of the Palestinians” and I quote, “by any means necessary.” So I think that any group that's radical, whether they have the name Islam after it or not is dangerous, any group that is radical. I don't think it's radical to provide money for education to expand the horizons and the knowledge, because knowledge is power, of our children in the United States in Tucson or otherwise.
BREAM: All right Leslie and Chris, I hate that we're out of time. You guys are great debaters. Thank you so much both for joining us today and we will keep an eye on the story. Thank you.
PLANTE: Thanks, Shannon.