A charter school for kindergarten through eighth-grade students in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., 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, many Somalis, and has as its top goal to preserve "our values."
And it uses funds from taxpayers of Minnesota.
The school's agenda was revealed by Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten, who noted that she asked for permission to visit the school and interview officials for her report, but was denied. The school also declined to return a WND telephone request for an interview.
But it has been drawing 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, 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."
But the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, which was named after the Muslim warlord who invaded and conquered Spain a millennium ago, has drawn no such protests, Spencer wrote.
He called the academy "yet another manifestation of the witless multiculturalism that grants protected victim status to Muslim groups in view of the 'racism' and 'Islamophobia' from which they supposedly suffer. Latitude that would never be granted to other faith groups, particularly Christians, is readily given here."
Kersten revealed there actually were many more links between the tax-supported school and Islam. The academy features a carpeted space for prayer, serves halal food in the cafeteria, has all students fast during Ramadan, features after-school classes for students on the Quran and Sunnah, and 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 has reported earlier when in Idaho, the Five Pillars of Islam were taught under the guise of history, after the "religion guidelines' used in public schools were assembled with help from a terror suspect, and when U.S. courts upheld mandatory Islamic training in schools.
Kersten said the school's principal is Asad Zaman, and the school's co-founder is Hesham Hussein, both imams and leaders of the MAS-Minnesota.
After the academy was launched in 2003, they "played dual roles: Zaman as TIZA's principal and the current vice-president of MAS-MN, and Hussein as TIZA's school board chair and president of MAS-MN until his death in a car accident in Saudi Arabia in January," she reported.
Reporters who earlier visited the school had a number of reports:
"A visitor might well mistake Tarek ibn Ziyad for an Islamic school," reported Minnesota Monthly in 2007. "Head scarves are voluntary, but virtually all the girls wear them." The report also included school officials' denials that there were any inappropriate religious activities at the school.
Kersten reported the academy was, in fact, originally proposed as a private Islamic school. It was converted when Islamic Relief, a California organization, agreed to sponsor a publicly funded charter school.
She wrote she visited a booth for the academy at the MAS-Minnesota 2007 convention, and was told students go directly from class to "Islamic studies" at 3:30 p.m.
"There, they learn 'Quranic recitation, the Sunnah of the Prophet' and other religious subjects, he said," according to Kersten.
She noted that beyond the issue of religious influences in a publicly funded school, Islamic Relief Worldwide, the parent of Islamic Relief-USA, has been accused by Israel of supporting Hamas, which is designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group.
"TIZA has improved the reading and math performance of its mostly low-income students. That's commendable, but should Minnesota taxpayers be funding an Islamic public school," Kersten wrote.
"Am I the only one that read this article and found it appalling that my tax dollars are being used by a school that is thinly veiling its attempt to be a public institution?" asked "ali0056" on the newspaper's forum. "I find it alarming that this place of public education is appearing to be so secretive about its intentions …"
"aklemz," however, accused Kersten of failing to do adequate reporting, noting that Keith Ellison, a Muslim elected from Minnesota to Congress, describes Zaman as a "bridge-builder."
The school's own website explains that 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."
"Arabic is the language of culture that holds together the peoples of the middle East, South Asia, North Africa, and East Africa. By immersing our students in this world language, we equip them with a vital tool to communicate with the peoples in a strategic part of the world. … By the time students finish the program, they will be able to understand, read, write, and converse in Arabic."
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 he 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.
Spencer, however, raised a question:
"Does the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy represent the same idea for those who founded it and now operate it – the burning of boats, representing the determination of Muslim immigrants to stay in the U.S., followed by conquest? …. It is not an illegitimate question."