Thursday, October 18, 2007

Islamic Saudi Academy Again Under Scrutiny

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

It remains to be seen whether or not anything will come of the recommendation of a federal panel. From this source, October 18, 2007:
McLEAN, Va. (AP) - A private Islamic school supported by the Saudi government should be shut down until the U.S. government can ensure the school is not fostering radical Islam, a federal panel recommends.

In a report released Thursday, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom broadly criticized what it calls a lack of religious freedom in Saudi society and promotion of religious extremism at Saudi schools.

Particular criticism is leveled at the Islamic Saudi Academy, a private school serving nearly 1,000 students in grades K-12 at two campuses in northern Virginia's Fairfax County.
The commission's report says the academy hews closely to the curriculum used at Saudi schools, which they criticize for promoting hatred of and intolerance against Jews, Christians and Shiite Muslims.

"Significant concerns remain about whether what is being taught at the ISA promotes religious intolerance and may adversely affect the interests of the United States," the report states.

The commission, a creation of Congress, has no power to implement policy on its own. Instead, it makes recommendations to other agencies.

The commission does not offer specific criticism of the academy's teachings beyond its concerns that it too closely mimics a typical Saudi education.

The report recommends that the State Department prevail on the Saudi government to shut the school down until the school's textbooks can be reviewed and procedures are put in place to ensure the school's independence form the Saudi Embassy.

Messages left Wednesday with the State Department and the Saudi Embassy were not immediately returned.

Several advocacy groups in recent years have cited examples of inflammatory statements in religious textbooks in Saudi Arabia, including claims that a ninth-grade textbook reads that the hour of judgment will not come "until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them."

Saudi officials said they have worked in recent years to reform the textbooks and the curriculum, but critics say progress has been insufficient.

The school's director-general, Abdalla I. Al-Shabnan, said Wednesday that he had not seen the report. But he said the academy has adjusted its curriculum in recent years and removed some of the inflammatory language that had been included in the Saudi text. The school's curriculum may now serve as a model for the Saudi government to use in continuing its reform of Saudi schools, he said.

"There is nothing in our curriculum against any religion," Al-Shabnan said.

He also said he is willing to show the school's curriculum and textbooks to anybody who wants to see them, and he expressed disappointment that the commission did not request materials directly from the school.

"We have an open policy," he said.

He also pointed out that many of the school's teachers are Christian and Jewish.

The commission based its findings in part on a the work of a delegation that traveled to Saudi Arabia this year. The commission asked embassy officials to review the textbooks used in Saudi schools generally and at the Islamic Saudi Academy specifically but did not receive a response.

Commission spokeswoman Judith Ingram said the commission did not request to speak to academy officials because that went beyond the commission's mandate.

The report also criticizes the school's administrative structure, saying it is little more than an offshoot of the Saudi Embassy, with the Saudi ambassador to the United States serving as chairman of the school's board of directors. The structure "raises serious concerns about whether it is in violation of a U.S. law restricting the activities of foreign embassies."

After the Sept. 11 attacks, critics questioned the nature of the religious education at the Saudi academy. The school again found itself in the spotlight in 2005, when a former class valedictorian, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, was charged with joining al-Qaida while attending college in Saudi Arabia and plotting to assassinate President Bush.

Abu Ali was convicted in federal court and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He is appealing his conviction.
Over two years ago, in an article dated October 5, 2005, significant concerns arose about the Islamic Saudi Academy:
WASHINGTON - The American government is demanding that Saudi Arabia account for its distribution of hate material to American mosques, as the State Department pressed Saudi officials for answers last week and as the Senate later this month plans to investigate the propagation of radical Wahhabism on American shores.

The flurry of activity comes months after a report from the Center for Religious Freedom discovered that dozens of mosques in major cities across the country, including New York, Washington, and Los Angeles, were distributing documents, bearing the seal of the government of Saudi Arabia, that incite Muslims to acts of violence and promote hatred of Jews and Christians.

A Washington-based group that is part of the human rights organization Freedom House, the Center for Religious Freedom also found during its yearlong study that the Saudi-produced materials describe democracy and America as un-Islamic. They instruct recent Muslim immigrants to consider Americans as enemies and the materials urge new arrivals to use their time here as preparation for jihad. The documents also promote the version of Islam officially embraced by Saudi government and several of the September 11, 2001, hijackers, Wahhabism, as the only authentic Islam....
Some six months before the above article, the Washington Post published the following about the Islamic Saudi Academy:
Eleventh-graders at the elite Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia study energy and matter in physics, write out differential equations in precalculus and read stories about slavery and the Puritans in English.

Then they file into their Islamic studies class, where the textbooks tell them the Day of Judgment can't come until Jesus Christ returns to Earth, breaks the cross and converts everyone to Islam, and until Muslims start attacking Jews.
As early as 2004, Paul Sperry wrote "Look Who's Teaching Johnny about Islam," an article indicating that that the influence of the Islamic Saudi Academy extends further than the boundaries of the school's two campuses:
A top textbook consultant shaping classroom education on Islam in American public schools recently worked for a school funded and controlled by the Saudi government, which propagates a rigidly anti-Western strain of Islam, a WorldNetDaily investigation reveals.

The consultant, Susan L. Douglass, has also praised Pakistan's madrassa schools as "proud symbols of learning," even after the U.S. government blamed them for fueling the rise of the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Douglass, routinely described as a "scholar" or "historian," has edited manuscripts of world history textbooks used by middle and high school students across the country. She's also advised state education boards on curriculum standards dealing with world religion, and has helped train thousands of public school teachers on Islamic instruction.

In effect, she is responsible for teaching millions of American children about Islam, experts say, while operating in relative obscurity.

WorldNetDaily has learned that up until last year Douglass taught social studies at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, Va., which teaches Wahhabism through textbooks that condemn Jews and Christians as infidels and enemies of Islam. Her husband, Usama Amer, still teaches at the grades 2-12 school, a spokeswoman there confirmed.
Susan Douglass also has connections to the Council on Islamic Education:
Critics complain that Douglass, who taught at the Saudi academy for at least a decade, has convinced American textbook publishers and educators to gloss over the violent aspects of Islam to make the faith more appealing to non-Muslim children. The units on Islam reviewed by WND appear to give a glowing and largely uncritical view of the faith.

Asked about it, Douglass referred questions to the Council on Islamic Education, which did not respond. CIE's website lists her in its staff directory as a "principal researcher and writer."

CIE is a Los Angeles-based Muslim activist group run by Shabbir Mansuri, who has been quoted in the local press saying he's waging a "bloodless" revolution to fight what he calls anti-Muslim bias in public schools and promote Islam in a positive light in American classrooms. Mansuri, who consults with Saudi education ministers at his center, claimed in a 2002 op-ed piece that Islam has been on American soil "since before this nation was founded."


Douglass has argued for more in-depth coverage of Islam in classrooms, while at the same time advising that Christian principles, including historic facts such as Christ's crucifixion, are clearly qualified with attributions such as "Christians believe."

Houghton Mifflin is not the only major publisher influenced by CIE. Prentice Hall also collaborates with the group. And its "Connections to Today," which is the most widely used world history book in the country, instructs students that jihad is an "inner struggle to achieve spiritual peace," according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Also, CIE has helped write supplemental teachers materials that engage children in entertaining Muslim role-playing activities in the class. Parents say they make the study of Christianity and other religions seem dull by comparison....
I'm not holding my breath for the academy to close. Similar calls, including calls for extensive education of the institution, have come before. Besides, as I mentioned earlier in this posting, the school's influence extends much further than the boundaries of the academy's campuses. Nevertheless, closing the academy would be a step in the right direction.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 10/18/2007 06:38:00 PM