The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has put the fate of a controversial Islamic school in the hands of the U.S. Department of State.
"We're essentially telling the federal government to do their job," said Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay (D).
Board chairman Gerry Connolly sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice asking the State Department to sign off on the board's May 19 extension of the Islamic Saudi Academy's lease on a former Fairfax County school building.
"Our lease with Saudi Arabia specifically recognizes the State Department's role and responsibility in this regard," the letter, which was unanimously approved by the board, states.
The board is reexamining the lease extension in the wake of new questions about the teachings of the Islamic Saudi Academy, which has campuses in Alexandria and Fairfax, by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Earlier this month, the committee flagged the school's textbooks as promoting religious intolerance and violence.
Some of the school's textbooks "include some extremely troubling passages that do not conform to international human rights norms," according to a USCIRF statement. Reportedly, the textbooks contain passages teaching that it is permissible to kill or steal from those who don't believe in Islam or members of differing sects of Islam.
The Islamic Saudi Academy has disputed that interpretation of the texts and claims that the books in question are not in use at the academy.
"The Academy has repeatedly extended invitations to the USCIRF to visit its campus, review materials and meet with teachers and administrators, but the USCIRF has refused to accept these invitations, which speaks volumes about the seriousness of the commission's intentions," according to an academy statement.
Further complicating the matter, the school's director, McLean resident Abdalla I. Al-Shabnan, 52, was arrested June 9 for failing to report an alleged incident of child abuse of one of his students, a 5-year-old girl.
The confluence of scandals has put the Board of Supervisors, and especially Connolly, who is currently in the midst of a congressional campaign, in a politically difficult situation.
"We're asking the U.S Department of State to tell us yes or no, instead of playing ping pong in the media," Connolly said.
The state department had not received the board's letter at press time, but a department spokesperson said the department does not oversee locally accredited schools.