A Minnesota teacher who substituted for two fifth-grade classes at a publicly funded school located in the same building as an Islamic mosque says religion appears to be a significant focus of the education.
Amanda Getz of Bloomington, Minn., told a columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune her duties at Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy in Inver Grove Heights included taking students to the bathroom, four at a time, to perform "their ritual washing."
Then, the teacher told columnist Katherine Kersten, "teachers led the kids into the gym, where a man dressed in white with a white cap, who had been at the school all day," was preparing to lead prayer.
Beside him, another man "was prostrating himself in prayer on a carpet as the students entered," the teacher said.
The Star-Tribune previously documented that the charter high school for kindergarten through eighth-grade students is named after a Muslim warlord, shares the address of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, is led by two imams, is composed almost exclusively (99 percent) of blacks and has as its top goal to preserve "our values."
And it's all funded by the taxpayers of Minnesota.
Kersten wrote she had asked for permission to visit the school and was denied. The school also declined to return a WND telephone request for an interview.
The institution has drawn objections from a number of people, including Robert Spencer, the expert who monitors such developments at Jihad Watch.
"Can you imagine a public school founded by two Christian ministers, and housed in the same building as a church? Add to that – in the same building – a prominent chapel. And let's say the students are required to fast during Lent, and attend Bible studies right after school. All with your tax dollars," he wrote. "Inconceivable? Sure."
If such a place existed, Spencer said, "the ACLU lawyers would descend on it like locusts. It would be shut down before you could say 'separation of church and state,' to the accompaniment of New York Times and Washington Post editorials full of indignant foreboding, warning darkly about the growing influence of the Religious Right in America."
Kersten's latest report documents the teacher's observations at the school.
Getz told Kersten that the orders when she arrived were to prepare for the "assembly" at the school by having the children do their ritual washing and take them to the gymnasium.
"The prayer I saw was not voluntary," Getz told the columnist. "The kids were corralled by adults and required to go to the assembly where prayer occurred."
She said, "When I arrived, I was told 'after school we have Islamic Studies,' and I might have to stay for hall duty. The teachers had written assignments on the blackboard for classes like math and social studies. Islamic Studies was the last one – the board said the kids were studying the Quran. The students were told to copy it into their planner, along with everything else. That gave me the impression that Islamic Studies was a subject like any other."
She also reported the fifth-graders stayed in the classroom after the end of the school day, and the "man in white" who led prayers during the assembly came in to teach Islam.
"TIZA has, in effect, extended the school day – buses leave only after Islamic Studies are over," noted the columnist. "Getz did not see evidence of other extra-curricular activity, except for a group of small children playing outside."
Kersten continued, "Significantly, 77 percent of TIZA parents say their 'main reason for choosing TIZA … was because of after-school programs conducted by various non-profit organizations at the end of the school period in the school building,' according to a TIZA report."
Kersten noted earlier that the school shares the same building as the headquarters of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, whose mission is "establishing Islam in Minnesota." There also is a mosque in the building, and TIZA's executive director, Asad Zaman, is a Muslim imam, and its sponsor is a group called Islamic Relief.
"Why does the Minnesota Department of Education allow this sort of religious activity at a public school?" Kersten questioned.
She noted the ACLU of Minnesota is looking into the situation, and "the Minnesota Department of Education has also begun a review" now.
"TIZA's operation as a public, taxpayer-funded school is troubling on several fronts. TIZA is skirting the law by operating what is essentially an Islamic school at taxpayer expense," Kersten wrote. "The Department of Education has failed to provide the oversight necessary to catch these illegalities, and appears to lack the tools to do so. In addition, there's a double standard at work here – if TIZA were a Christian school, it would likely be gone in a heartbeat."
Kersten previously revealed other links between the school and Islam, including a carpeted space for prayer, halal food in the cafeteria and fasting for students during Ramadan.
Just last year, the program for the 2007 MAS-Minnesota convention, under the motto "Establishing Islam in Minnesota" asked the question, "Did you know that MAS-MN … houses a full-time elementary school?"
On the adjacent page was an ad for Tarek ibn Ziyad.
The Minnesota Department of Education confirmed the academy pocketed more than $65,000 in state money for the 2006-2007 year under one program alone.
WND previously reported in Idaho the five pillars of Islam were taught under the guise of history, "religion guidelines' used in public schools were assembled with help from a terror suspect and U.S. courts upheld mandatory Islamic training in schools.
The Minnesota school's own website explains it tries to provide students a "learning environment that recognizes and appreciates the traditions, histories, civilizations and accomplishments of Africa, Asia and the Middle East."
It boasts of a "rigorous Arabic language program" as well as "an environment that fosters your cultural values and heritage."
The school says it is named after Tarek ibn Ziyad, the "Ummayad administrator of medieval Spain. Thirteen hundred years ago, serving in the multifaceted roles of activist, leader, explorer, teacher, administrator and peacemaker, he inspired his fellow citizens to the same striving for human greatness that we hope to instill in our students today."
Even Islamic websites, however, explain that Tarek ibn Ziyad invaded Spain from Africa in a bloody battle after ordering the boats that had carried his soldiers burned so they could not retreat.
"This marked the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Spain. Muslims ruled the country for hundreds of years so gloriously and well that Spain became afterwards the fountain-head of culture and civilization for the whole continent of Europe," the Islamists boast.