The foreword is beautifully written by Dr. John Esposito, renown author and authority on Muslim and Christian understanding. Dr. Esposito captures the essence of this book by summarizing the book and the important role it will play in the field of education.
"While Muslim religious identity does play a significant role in the job performance of principals in public schools, unlike non-Muslim teachers, their religion is often more emphasized rather than their skills and accomplishments by the influence of predominantly negative portrayals of Islam and Muslims in the political discourse and media. They are too often seen through the lens of stereotypes as different from their peers, as a foreign “Other” rather than their professional credentials, experiences, and track records.
The result, as Dr. Almontaser documents so effectively, is, in contrast to their non-Muslim colleagues, the pressures of a double standard and a climate of suspicion that requires an excessive cautiousness in what they say or do and political correctness. On the plus side, as a result of their experience, Muslim principals are often more aware of and responsive to minorities and the importance of a strong emphasis on diversity, tolerance, and civic engagement. In an America that in a matter of decades will see a population that is largely Brown and not White and an Islam and Muslim population that is the second largest religious community, it is imperative that the lessons to be learned from Leading While Muslim: The Experiences of American Muslim Principals After 9/11 be studied, taken seriously, and addressed."
~ John L. Esposito
University Professor and Founding Director Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim–Christian Understanding
Director: The Bridge Initiative
“Debbie Almontaser is a gifted educator, a bold civic leader and a stunning writer. Leading while Muslim is an invitation for readers to appreciate the struggles that Muslim American educators endure - structurally, consciously and unconsciously - from the State, the media and from strangers, and also to appreciate the gifts and commitments that Muslim American educators bring to our schools. In this volume we meet a set of dedicated educators, each with their own story, fueled by deep commitments to public education, committed to difficult dialogues and relentless communication, working to challenge stereotypes and build an always precarious "we" within the walls of their schools. This book is a gift, so that we can remember "why" public schools, "how" to strengthen the the activism that sustains public life, and so we can recognize the foundational role played by Muslim American school leaders as advocates of equity, excellence and dignity in our schools.”
Distinguished Professor of Critical Psychology, Women’s Studies, American Studies and Urban Education at the Graduate Center
“Muslims have been part of American society since the founding of the Republic. Yet, relatively little is known about their lives and their roles in American society. This important new book by Dr. Debbie Almontaser, a veteran educational leader from New York City, sheds light on the experiences and contributions of Muslim principals. Through their stories we learn both about the challenges they face, particularly in the aftermath of 9/11, and how they navigate barriers related to prejudice, pernicious stereotypes, and xenophobia. For educators and others who recognize the potential for education to serve as a force for justice and tolerance, this book will be an invaluable resource.”
—Pedro A. Noguera, PhD
Distinguished Professor of Education
UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
“On the afternoon of September 11th 2001 I received a phone call from Dr. Debbie Almontaser, then a student of mine in a principal preparation program. The Twin Towers had just fallen, her son in the National Guard was heading to Ground Zero to help with rescue efforts, and she was being called upon to lead. We discussed her courageous work as an educator--for years she had devoted her practice to building bridges between communities and forging conversations across faiths. Now, she feared, our country's political discourse would turn against her and her Muslim colleagues in education. Her powerful work at that time distinguished her as a thought leader and she was approved to open a new dual language school, the only one teaching in Arabic and English in New York City. Quickly, the school she opened was caught in the crosshairs of that same political discourse, ultimately forcing her to leave her school, step back, reflect, research, and write. The result is Leading While Muslim, a profile of fourteen Muslim principals that provides an important treatise on education, on diversity, and on the undue burdens placed on leaders from marginalized groups in navigating the fraught and complex terrain of leading our nation's schools. Leading While Muslim is an important contribution to the literature on school leadership and a must-read for all interested in how educators from marginalized groups find strength in themselves so that they can continue to serve children and hopefully contribute to a more just world.”
—Sandra J. Stein,
Former Chief Executive Officer,
NYC Leadership Academy
“Not much has been written about the challenges that American Muslim principals face. As a school leader, Debbie Almontaser finally gives voice to a much needed educational community: Muslim school leaders. Within these pages, she discusses topics that are encountered everyday by these American Muslim school leaders. Almontaser creates a clear and coherent framework for her argument and her writing is clear and a pleasure to read. Each chapter is grounded in research and contains valuable reflections. Her emphasis on these school leaders is an essential component towards bridging the educational norms in contemporary public schooling. This book is among the best written I have seen on this educational topic. Almontaser has a lifetime of experience in public school education, including as a school leader. Today, she is helping education leaders and lay leaders. As a result of her experiences, she provides guidance and inspiration to focus on encouraging community cultural practices in our schools.”
—Wafa Hozien, Ph.D,
Educational Leadership Department, Central Michigan University
“While this is a book about Muslim American principals, most non-Muslim teachers and principals can also relate to how their work has changed under a Security State. Our post-9/11 world of political spectacle has created a culture of fear, reinforced old prejudices, and focused on new targets -- Muslim Americans merely being the most recent. Dr. Debbie Almontaser provides us with portraits of courageous Muslim American school leaders who struggle to lead their schools through the fear and prejudice.”
—Gary L. Anderson, Professor
Dept. of Administration, Leadership, and Technology
Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
“Dr. Debbie Almontaser’s work fills a need among the growing body of substantial research on Muslim Americans. Comparing Muslim principals with earlier religious minority leaders such as Catholics and Jews, Almontaser shows how they walk a tightrope in avoiding any impression of "having a religious agenda, in decisions to be overly exacting in following rules, and in dealing with Muslim students. The book offers a sobering look at a problem that is not unique to Muslim American leaders, but it calls for raising awareness of what kind of support is needed when clearly qualified minorities are hired, so that a target is not painted on their backs. Either school systems value professional diversity or they merely pretend to tolerate a token amount of it. Almontaser's book calls for further study and especially interviews of various minority school principals to compare their experiences. Chances are good that these findings apply to more than just Muslims.”
—Susan Douglass, Ph.D.
K-14 Education Outreach Coordinator
Center for Contemporary Arab Studies