FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. -- The chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is asking the U.S State Department to decide whether a controversial Saudi government-funded Islamic school should remain open.
Gerry Connolly -- who is the Democratic nominee for Congress in Virginia's 11th District -- offered a strong defense of the Islamic Saudi Academy and accused the school's critics of slander during a meeting last month in which the school's lease was approved but asked on Monday for the State Department's recommendation.
"The lease has a provision that says the State Department gets to give its concurrence, so this letter is essentially saying, 'A. We want to know definitely from you, are there such troubling texts or not?' and B. 'Do you give your concurrence in the renewal of this lease or not?'" Connolly said.
The Islamic Saudi Academy receives much of its funding from the Saudi government and teaches roughly 900 students in grades K-12 at campuses in Alexandria and Fairfax.
The school is under heavy criticism from a federal commission and others over textbooks that allegedly teach violence and hate.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a panel created by Congress that monitors religious freedom rights around the world, said earlier this month that it obtained 17 of the academy's textbooks and found several disturbing passages.
A 12th-grade text says that apostates -- those who leave Islam -- and adulterers may be permissibly killed. A social studies text states that "the Jews conspired against Islam and its people."
The school issued a statement saying the textbooks had been mistranslated and misinterpreted and that some of the textbooks studied by the commission are no longer in use.
"It's the same textbook material that is provided to all the Saudi-financed schools, and to say that this one school doesn't have that is just straight unbelief," said James Lafferty with the Traditional Values Coalition. "It's like saying there's a McDonalds somewhere that doesn't have a Big Mac. "
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in mid-May to extend the school's lease after county officials conducted their own review of the textbooks and said they didn't find any serious problems.
The State Department last year obtained copies of the school's textbooks but has so far refused to make them public.
Critics of the school say the State Department ought to take a more assertive role in regulating the school because it functions as an arm of the Saudi embassy.
Adding to the school's troubles, the academy's director, Abdalla I. Al-Shabnan, was arrested on June 9 and charged with failing to report a child abuse allegation and obstruction of justice.
Police alleged he covered up an incident in which a 5-year-old girl attending the school reported that she was being sexually abused by her father.
According to court papers, Al-Shabnan, 52, of McLean, told police that he didn't believe the girl, and advised the girl's parents to put her into counseling. State law requires school authorities to report alleged child abuse within 72 hours of learning of the allegation.