A Saudi-funded school has denied federal claims that its textbooks condone violence against apostates, adulterers, and polytheists. But the protesters who gathered outside the school yesterday are unconvinced.
The Virginia-based Islamic Saudi Academy came under scrutiny last year, when the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the school close until investigators could ensure the Saudi government kept its 2006 promise to excise any textbook passages promoting violence.
The school and Saudi embassy failed to give the Commission textbook copies and the State Department still declines to release the textbooks to the public. But the panel collected 17 textbooks containing passages that justify intolerance, violence and murder.
For example, a twelfth-grade textbook on Koranic interpretation says it's permissible for a Muslim to kill an apostate, an adulterer or someone who has intentionally murdered a believer. A textbook on monotheism says "major polytheism" (polytheists include Shi'a Muslims, Sufi Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists) makes "blood and wealth permissible," meaning that Muslims can take a polytheist's life and property. The textbooks also contain expressions of intolerance towards Jews, Shi'a Muslims, Baha'i adherents and Ahmadis.
A statement from the Academy counters that the report is "erroneous" and examines "mistranslated and misinterpreted texts, and references to textbooks that are no longer in use at the Academy." The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors conducted an earlier examination of the textbooks and said they found no serious problems before unanimously deciding to extend the school's lease.
Shortly before the Commission's report became public, the school's director Abdall I. Al-Shabnan, was arrested and charged with obstructing justice for not reporting the claims of a 5-year-old girl said her father was sexually abusing her. According to police reports, Al-Shabnan believed the girl was lying, told her parents to get her counseling, and ordered school officials to delete a written report from the school's computer.
The Commission is calling for the public release of all textbooks and urging the State Department to create a formal mechanism to monitor the Saudi's commitment to revise the books.