Islamic Saudi Academy controversy heats up U.S Senators join in call to close school amidst curriculum concerns
(Christian Action Network) The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom confirmed Tuesday, Nov. 20, an action by 12 U.S. Senators asking the U.S. State Department to close the Islamic Saudi Academy until a full, independent examination of all their textbooks can be conducted.
The commission claims the curriculum at the school is laced with intolerant and hateful teaching that raised concerns and a call to fully review the school’s textbooks.
The Saudi school’s Director General, Abdalla Al-Shabnan, complained about the attention being poured on the school located in Northern Virginia, and on Saudi curriculum in general.
[The government of Saudi Arabia operates 20 or more Islamic Saudi Academy schools around the world.]
Al-Shabnan pointed to a visit by Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland, [D-Mount Vernon, Virginia] as proof of the academy’s good-faith openness – that State Department officials are welcome to visit and Arabic-speaking interpreters may accompany them.
“The announcement by the senators is in support of our action,” Freedom Commission spokesperson Judith Ingrim said.
At issue are reported curriculum samples from Saudi school sources describing circumstances for violence toward infidels and “sanctioning the murder of those with whom one disagrees,” a commission report stated.
Ingrim noted she remained unimpressed by Hyland’s visit. “It takes more than dropping by the school and viewing a few of the books,” she said. “You first of all have to be fluent in the Arabic language and secondly very knowledgeable in religious and cultural references.”
She noted books appearing in local newspaper photographs were not relevant to the commission’s probe. “The books pictured in the Washington Post were regular old history and geography books; those are not of concern to us,” she said.
Flap about the controversy has included complaints by area residents who stated they have compliments toward the respectful, kind demeanor of the academy students.
‘I was pleasantly surprised to be cheerfully greeted by every student I passed as I walked around,” Kathleen Cornwell, mother of a Christian school student said of a sporting event she attended.
“The friendliness of ISA students is commendable and should be viewed as evidence that they are not being trained to hate.”
Ingram said the issue is not about whether students are behaving themselves, but about the Saudi Arabian government’s refusal to cooperate with the probe, something they are under authority by the U.S. government oversight capacity to do in this situation.
“What seems to be lost in the press coverage is the fact that this is not a normal private school, it is an arm of the Saudi Arabian government, and run out of their embassy,” she said. “We have not yet seen the books, not the ones at issue.”
CAN President Martin Mawyer said he would advise residents to understand the well-behaved outer appearances of the Islamic students and faculty in context of a wider reality.
“This school produced at least three known terrorists – terrorists kill people,” Mawyer said. “It’s not about all of them being terrorists, but some are, and they draw their justification from the same religious well.
“Let me pass along the words of a U.S. Army Major after his tour of duty in Iraq,” he added. “He said to me, ‘these are the most kind, giving, absolutely hospitable folks – except for when they’re trying to kill you.’”
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