This article focuses on the controversy generated by a report of the Congressionally chartered group, The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The report spearheaded by Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute. The USCIRF reviewed the Saudi-sponsored Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) of Fairfax, Virginia, in particular the hate texts from its Wahhabi Islamic Studies program. It tells the story of a coalition of regional and national grass roots activist groups and a courageous U.S. Congressman, author of the landmark 1998 federal legislation (PL 105-202) that created the USCIRF, Rep. Frank Wolf of Northern Virginia. Who, faced with the feckless political actions of Fairfax County government officials, has vaulted the problems of the ISA from a local to a national and international arena. In the words of one of the leaders of the grass roots protests against the ISA, its Saudi Embassy sponsorship and its Wahhabi hate texts, Jim Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), and a former Capitol Hill aide, it has become a "hot potato."
Christine Brim of the Center for Security Policy (CSP), noted in an email comment to the author the common thread from the 1990's to today regarding citizen actions against the Saudi-sponsored ISA and the positions of local leaders:
Over the last twenty years, the boards of supervisors of Poolesville, Loudoun County, Fairfax County, and officials at the State Department all demonstrated the same craven support for the terrorist-financing regime of Saudi Arabia's first radical madrassa in the U.S., the Islamic Saudi Academy. Time after time, elected local officials gave in to the ISA in the face of Saudi petrodollars and intimidation. The good news is that also over the last twenty years, local citizens have organized and won against the ISA in Poolesville, MD and Loudoun County, VA. This year, the residents of Fairfax county have a chance to close down the ISA as recommended by the USCIRF. We have a chance especially in this election year; especially given the ISA Director's refusal to obey Virginia laws to report - not to cover up - the alleged sexual abuse of a five year old student.
The scandal is how Gerald Connolly and the rest of the Fairfax board of supervisors may have created a political climate over the last several years making that alleged cover-up a probability.
Unlike Connolly, more socially responsible citizens in Poolesville, MD and in Loudoun and Fairfax counties have spoken out against the Saudis and against Saudi lessons in shariah law which requires violent jihad against other religions and against civil liberties.
A Washington Jewish Week report on the ISA hate text controversy entitled: "Islamic Text books get an F" raised the level of concern:
Pro-Israel activist and Silver Spring resident Sarah Stern, founder and president of the think tank EMET: Endowment for Middle East Truth, said the presence of institutions such as ISA exemplifies "a huge infiltration" of Saudi influence in America. Many of these institutions, she added, regularly expose students to militant Islamist philosophy.
"They're hiding behind our constitutional protections, and we in the West who have a hands-off attitude are being seduced by our own naiveté," she said. "It's happening right under our noses. We are asleep at the wheel of history and we've got to wake up and take the sand out of our eyes."
The record of failed Saudi attempts to expand the ISA
The ISA with a main campus in Alexandria, Virginia and a satellite in McLean has sparked controversy since its founding in 1984. The private school has a current enrollment of 900 students in K-12 programs partially drawn from the children of the Saudi and 35 other diplomatic legations of Muslim members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Three fifths of the students come from the local northern Virginia and suburban Maryland Muslim community. The Saudi government sponsors 19 similar schools in foreign countries around the globe.
There are an estimated 250,000 Muslims in the metropolitan Washington area spawning a network of Mosques and dozens of day and religious schools. A number of the Mosques and madrassas in northern Virginia, in what is called "Wahhabi alley," harbor extremist Imams and members involved with the leadership of Muslim Brotherhood fronts, such as the Council of American Islamic relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society (MAS). Not a few have been engaged in funneling charitable funds to terrorists groups such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The ISA is a creation of the Saudi Embassy. In a report of the US Commission on International religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued on the ISA in October, 2007, it noted:
- It is the only school in the United States that is operated with the direct authority of the Saudi embassy. Twenty such academies are operated by the government of Saudi Arabia in foreign capital cities around the world.
- It operates on two northern Virginia properties owned or leased by the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, with the leased property being leased by "the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia d/b/a (doing business as) the Islamic Saudi Academy."
- The Saudi ambassador to the United States is the chairman of the school's board of directors, which, according to the Academy's web site, "oversees the educational and administrative operation" and "provides direction and guidance to every aspect of" the school's operations.
- The school is funded by the government of Saudi Arabia.
- On numerous occasions, Saudi Embassy officials have spoken to the press on the ISA's behalf-including in response to inquiries about its curriculum.
- According to the Academy's brochure, posted on its own web site, the ISA uses Saudi government "curriculum, syllabus, and materials."
Recent investigations of ISA corporate and tax records by Patrick Poole in a Pajamas Media report have revealed that the ISA may have been operating illegally since 2004. The ISA has also not filed tax reports required under IRS rules as a tax exempt organization further reinforcing the importance of the Saudi Embassy role. Poole notes:
As the Academy has forfeited its Virginia incorporation and is now operating as a d/b/a of the embassy, and considering that the school is funded by the embassy, it operates on property owned and leased by the Embassy, the embassy speaks publicly on its behalf, and it uses Saudi government curriculum, it is impossible to conclude anything but that it is solely an entity of the Saudi government controlled entirely by the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC.
The Saudi Embassy had earlier backed elaborate plans for the expansion of the ISA in the 1990's in both Poolesville in rural western Montgomery County Maryland and in Ashburn over in Loudoun County Virginia near Dulles International Airport. These plans were thwarted through citizen grass roots NIMBY actions to oppose multi-million dollar campuses that would have supported upwards of 3,500 students in elaborate complexes spanning over 1,100 acres and estimated to cost in excess of $80 million. Whether it was alleged environmental impacts on water and sanitation issues, it was clear that many local citizens who showed up at planning board sessions also registered outrage about Saudi religious bigotry towards non-Muslims, as well as, possible infiltration by radical Islamic terrorists.
In a January 1995 Washington Post article on the Poolesville, Maryland ISA project these comments were indicative of the negative sentiments that eventually overrode proposed annexation plan for the ISA development based on existing Saudi property –a ranch and polo field:
The Muslim school financed by the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not only a threat to the area's prized open space, it could harbor Middle Eastern terrorists, Stringer says.
"The Saudis are one of the most intolerant, bigoted kingdoms in the Middle East," said the retired spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "The Saudis should clean up their own palace before they screw up ours."
Note this drama at a fractious Loudoun County hearing on the Saudi proposal from a Washington Post article in 1998:
Leesburg resident Virginia Welch appeared in a long black veil -- "soon becoming the only clothing allowed by the Islamic police," she said -- and distributed copies of a State Department report citing human rights violations and repression of Christianity in Saudi Arabia, including the alleged confiscation of Bibles.
The crowd applauded Patricia Roush, of San Francisco, who said her two daughters were kidnapped by her Saudi ex-husband. "No approval for the Saudi academy unless my daughters are freed!" she shouted. "This . . . is not an isolated personal family matter. . . . There are thousands of American-born children of American mothers that remain hostage in that desert."
These comments were illustrative of the hue and cry that coursed through the news reports, despite the willingness of local boards to proceed. There was a defeat in the Poolesville, Maryland ISA project, and a ‘pyrrhic' victory in the Ashburn, Virginia ISA contretemps. When enrollment in the ISA fell from a peak of 1,300 to its present level, the Saudi Embassy sold the Ashburn, Virginia tract in 2004 for $13.5 million to the County in a disputed deal that involved an FBI investigation of local officials' conflicts of interest. One of the reasons for abandonment of the Loudoun County project by the Saudi Embassy was a reduction in legation families after 9/11. Note this comment from a Saudi human rights advocate, who lives in northern Virginia, taken from a 2004 Washington Post report on the cratered Saudi deal for the ISA:
Ali Al-Ahmed, a scholar with the Washington-based Saudi Institute, which pushes for religious tolerance in Saudi Arabia, said the school might have abandoned its plans for a grand new campus because the academy's enrollment may have dropped. Al-Ahmed said the Saudi diplomatic community that forms the core of its student body has been shrinking since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
ISA loses an accreditation, could one more be in Jeopardy?
The Washington Post on July 11, 2002 published an article headlined "Muslim School Withdraws From Association; Saudi-Funded Academy Loses Accreditation; Va. Agency Had Raised Questions" about the "withdrawal" of the ISA from the prestigious Virginia Association of Independent Schools. According to the Washington Post:
Sources familiar with the decision said the Virginia accrediting agency became concerned that the school was not adhering to its standards on funding and governance and asked questions earlier this year. The association's standards require that the governing board be independent, that the administration be stable and that funding not come primarily from a single source.
Reporter Valerie Strauss further noted:
Sources said that the association's board probably would have stripped accreditation from the school if it had not withdrawn, but that it had not met to discuss such a move.
The sources also said that some board members were concerned about aspects of the school's curriculum. The Washington Post in January reported that some Islamic studies classes at the school use Saudi Arabian textbooks that promote hatred of other religions. However, the curricular concerns were not part of the questioning that led to the withdrawal, sources said.
It seems that the concerns about ISA hate texts and espousal of Wahhabi doctrine were in evidence back in 2002.
We have confirmed that the ISA is not on the roster of VAIS. See here.
If you go to the ISA website it states:
ISA is fully accredited with SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) and CITA (Commission for International and Trans Regional Accreditation). The ISA achieved SACS Standards and received re-accreditation. The Academy will also adhere to the Action Plan set forth to implement the recommendations by the SACS quality assurance team.
Note that the head of SACS accreditation back in 2002 said:
…he would be concerned if the [ISA] was teaching hatred.
With the release of the USCIRF report on the hate texts used in the current school academic year, shouldn't SACS be concerned about this evidence of ISA teaching hatred?
To answer this question, I put a call in to the Decatur, Georgia office of SACS and found that Mr. Bush had gone into ‘semi-retirement' and was referred to the Virginia office. I posed concerns about what SACS would do in the wake of the release of the USCIRF report on the hate texts. The person who answered said that a ‘responsible officer' would get back to me. A member of the SACS Georgia staff did return a call and confirmed that they would look into the matter.
The Washington Post article included a response by the spokesperson for the Saudi US Embassy, Nail Al-Jubeir, brother of the current Saudi Ambassador, who said, "We don't do the day to day running of the school…..though. It is part of the royal court."
The USCIRF study of the ISA Wahhabi hate texts – the fuse that lit the controversy
On June 12, 2008, the USCIRF released a report covering the translations of 17 textbooks used by the ISA. Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC and a Commissioner of the USCIRF pressed for the translation of these ISA texts.
Shea had been appointed to the USCIRF by its Congressional author, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA). Earlier, while at Freedom House, Shea had authored a report on the contents of Saudi Ministry of Education texts containing Wahhabi doctrine hatred. In 2006, she and other USCIRF Commissioners made a trip to Saudi Arabia to confer with the education ministry that resulted in a commitment to clean up the texts used in Islamic studies abroad, including here in the US. The date for launch of those alleged clean texts was the start of the 2008 academic year.
Problems with the ISA Islamic studies curriculum and texts were chronicled by the Washington Post in early 2002, in the wake of public concerns following 9/11 and revelations that 15 of the 19 perpetrators were educated Saudi nationals.
Here's what one ISA parent said at the time in the Washington Post report:
I wouldn't be surprised if some teachers are sometimes anti-American or anti-Semitic, said Abdulwahab Alkebsi, whose 12-year-old daughter attends the Islamic Saudi Academy. But I don't want it to be that way.
"I choose the school because of the same reason why all American parents choose private schools -- it's a better environment and no peer pressure of drugs and being a sex symbol at too young an age. But there are other American values -- like freedom of speech and assembly -- that we should be teaching our kids to respect.
Note this prescient comment from Amir Hussain, a California researcher on Muslim communities in America, concerning the Saudi Wahhabi Islamic Studies curriculum of the ISA:
One of the things the community has been concerned about for years is the Saudi influence and Saudi money. You have people who come in and say, "Hey, I'll build you a school." Then people begin to realize, if that school gets built with Saudi money, do we want that kind of curriculum?
Witness these comments from Ali Al-Ahmed and ISA students in the Washington Post February 2002 article:
Ali Al-Ahmed has reviewed numerous textbooks and said many passages promote hatred of non-Muslims and Shiite Muslims.
The 11th-grade textbook, for example, says one sign of the Day of Judgment will be that Muslims will fight and kill Jews, who will hide behind trees that say: "Oh Muslim, Oh servant of God, here is a Jew hiding behind me. Come here and kill him."
Several students of different ages, all of whom asked not to be identified, said that in Islamic studies, they are taught that it is better to shun and even to dislike Christians, Jews and Shiite Muslims.
Some teachers "focus more on hatred," said one teenager, who recited by memory the signs of the coming of the Day of Judgment. They teach students that whatever is kuffar [non-Muslim], it is okay for you to hurt or steal from that person.
As revealed in the USCIRF report, the contents were appalling. In October, 2007, the USCIRF had recommended to the U.S. State Department that this Saudi-backed institution be closed. State turned a deaf ear, and the Washington Post in an editorial took the USCIRF to task for not being ‘tolerant.' Note what the USCIRF translations found in the texts used at the ISA: The commission said it obtained 17 of the academy's textbooks through a variety of channels, including from members of Congress. The texts did appear to contain numerous revisions, including pages that were removed or passages that were whited out, but numerous troubling passages remained, according to the panel:
• The authors of a 12th-grade text on Quranic interpretation state that apostates (those who convert from Islam), adulterers and people who murder Muslims can be permissibly killed.
• A social studies text offers the view that Jews were responsible for the split between Sunni and Shiite Muslims: "The cause of the discord: The Jews conspired against Islam and its people. A sly, wicked person who sinfully and deceitfully professed Islam infiltrated (the Muslims)."
• The authors of a 12th-grade text on monotheism write that "major polytheism makes blood and wealth permissible," meaning that a Muslim can take with impunity the life and property of someone believed guilty of polytheism. According to the panel, the strict Saudi interpretation of polytheism includes Shiite and Sufi Muslims as well as Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists.
• More generally, the panel found that the academy textbooks hold the view that the Muslim world was strong when united under a single caliph, the Arabic language and the Sunni creed, and that Muslims have grown weak because of foreign influence and internal divisions.
The current controversy surrounding the ISA arises from the school's Islamic Studies program and the Saudi Kingdom's close alliance with the extremist Wahhabi Sunni Islamic doctrine of hatred towards non-believers and other major Muslim Sects like Shiism, Sufism, Ismail, Ahmadiyyah that are considered deviant. Reinforcement of that Wahhabi doctrinal hate can be found on several links to the School's website. Note these comments from a FrontPageMagazine account about the ISA by Joe Kaufman and Bella Rabinowitz;
Today, the above ISA web links have been replaced by new extremist links. Beginning in August of 2002, ISA's website linked to Al-Islam, a site run by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Da‘wah and Guidance. The site propagates hatred against Jews and Christians. Al-Islam includes such brutal pleas as: "Let there be curse upon the Jews and the Christians…" and "May Allah the Exalted and Majestic destroying the Jews."
Furthermore, according to the school's website, from 2000 to 2001, the 9th and 10th grade ISA curriculum included learning about "the reform of Mohammed Bin Abdulwahab and his alliance with the Saudi family, who united the Arabian Peninsula during the first half of the 20th century." Bin Abdul Wahhab was the individual from which Wahhabism was created, arguably the movement that ignited the terrorist threat faced by the world today.
Kaufman and Rabinowitz chronicled what hatred espoused by the ISA Islamic studies curricula had spawned among its graduates.
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was 1999 class valedictorian at ISA. In an act of foreboding, his class named him "Most Likely to Be a Martyr." Foreboding, because, in November of 2005, he would be convicted of joining Al-Qaeda and plotting to assassinate President Bush. He received a 30 year prison sentence for his crime.
As stated in an FBI criminal complaint, ISA graduates Mohammed Osman Idris and Mohammed Hassan El-Yacoubi, in December of 2001, were on their way to Israel, for what seemed to be a suicide mission. El-Yacoubi, during a search that was conducted by El Al security personnel, was found to have had on his person a farewell letter from his younger brother, Abdalmuhssin, who himself had attended ISA. The letter was in Arabic, and according to writing experts, it contained language discussing an attack that was to be carried out against Israelis, possibly in relation to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
In August of 2002, Idris was sentenced to four months in jail for lying on a passport application.
And it's not just the students. Ismael Selim Elbarasse is a former comptroller (accountant) for ISA. Elbarasse, named as a co-conspirator for the 2007 Holy Land Foundation (HLF) terror trial, has been described by the U.S. government as a "high-ranking" Hamas operative for his financial dealings with Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook. In August of 2004, Elbarasse was arrested, after police viewed his wife videotaping sensitive parts of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Bridge from his vehicle.
More oil was poured on the ISA controversy, when the school's general director, Al Shabnan was arrested on June 9th just before the release of the USCIRF text book report, on charges of obstruction of justice after Fairfax County Police had earlier raided the school, seized computer hard drives and documents in connection with his failure to report a sexual abuse complaint as required by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The activists that organized the ISA protests and embarrassed local officials in Fairfax County
There is a strategy that stems from being able to rapidly respond to circumstances and it is applicable to describe what happened in the Fairfax County grass roots protests. On May 19th, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on the lease renewal for the ISA. Opponents from three different activist groups made appearances. They included Andrea and Jim Lafferty from TVC, Christine Brim from the Washington, DC-based CSP and John Cosgrove from the United American Committee Virginia (UAC-VA) chapter and host on a blog radio program, Radio Free Dar al Harb. All three opponents of the ISA lease renewal were Fairfax County residents. Prior to the Board of Supervisors hearing, they had known of each other's efforts. However, as a result of what happened at the hearing they became the initial activist members of the anti-ISA protest group. The Laffertys of TVC had created a network of local pastors in northern Virginia to combat the ‘outreach program' of the notoriously extremist Mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, Dar el Hirja Islamic Center. Brim was a senior officer at CSP, founded by Frank Gaffney, Jr., concerned with plans and programs including initiatives to combat Shari'a law in America and ‘encroachment of free speech.' Two other members of the activist group would join in the planning of the anti-ISA protest, the author, a board member and blog editor for ACT! For America founded by Brigitte Gabriel, author of "Because They Hate" and frequent media analyst on Middle East issues. The author was called to join by John Cosgrove of UAC-VA upon referral by a mutual friend, "Beowulf" the nom de guerre of an ex-CIA covert operations officer and counterterrorism expert. The author, in turn, reached out to Patrick Poole, investigative journalist, and consultant to law enforcement and military counterterrorism groups. Poole writes for Pajamas Media and his own blog, Central Ohioans Against Terrorism. One of the common threads in the group was experience and contacts on Capitol Hill regarding the issue of radical Muslim extremism infiltration in America and the ability to reach contacts in both local and national media.
The group also reach out to Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute for periodic discussions during the ensuring ISA protest campaign.
The May 19th hearing on the ISA lease renewal belied what Brim had commented on, the calumnies of local government officials who only saw the multi-million dollar payments from the Saudi Embassy and a demonstrable means of showing ‘good faith' to the rising Muslim community by paying court to a ‘good neighbor' for political reasons. Gerry Connolly, Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, has been nominated as the Democratic candidate in the 11th Virginia Congressional District. He wanted to court contributions and the votes from the Fairfax County Muslim community.
The 2007 USCIRF report prompted a coalition of concerned grassroots organizations to request the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to delay the renewal of the ISA lease until a Federal investigation into the ISA was completed. During the hearing, County Supervisors dismissed concerns as slanderous, bigoted, and unfounded. During the course of the hearing, Fairfax County Chairman, and Democratic Candidate for the 11th Congressional District, apologized to Mr. Al-Shabnan for what he deemed slanderous accusations that impugned the integrity of the Islamic Saudi Academy.
Since that May 19 hearing, the Mr. Al-Shabnan has been arrested and the USCIRF has confirmed ISA textbooks justify murder as an Islamic right.
Only Supervisor Gross has responded to the issue, and she continues her support for the ISA, and its textbooks that contain passages filled with hate and incitement to violence. Chairman Connolly has yet to retract his apology to the ISA and Mr. Al-Shabnan. Supervisor Hyland has not yet commented on whether the texts cited in the USCIRF report are similar to those he identified as "texts of concern" during his independent and undocumented investigation of the ISA.
These hateful passages remain despite a 2006 US State Department request for the ISA to remove all insensitive and offensive content from textbooks. The ISA's non-compliance with the 2006 US State Department request has not been accounted for and raises concerns about what the ISA, as an extension of the Saudi government, considers offensive and the level of accountability they have to their local hosts and Federal government.
After heaping scorn on the opponents of the lease renewal with the Saudi Embassy, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on May 19th to renew the ISA lease. Literally within days of that vote a veritable media meltdown occurred. The Fairfax County Police raid on the ISA offices of director general Al-Shabnan was like a bolt from the blue on May 23rd. On June 9th Al-Shabnan was arrested and charged with the ‘obstruction of justice' in the failure to report the sexual abuse complaint to Virginia authorities. On June 11th the USCIRF released its now controversial report on the ISA Islamic studies texts.
On June 12th, after conferring with Cosgrove, I suggested a conference call that Friday with the group to discuss what to do regarding possible actions. During the call, the Laffertys raised the TVC protest rally scheduled for June 17th at the ISA main campus in Alexandria, Virginia, we discussed our organizational involvement and outreach to regional and national media.
I contacted Brigitte Gabriel, Guy Rodgers our executive director at ACT! For America and head of chapter development, and Kelly Cook to inform Virginia and Maryland members about the June 17th ISA protests. Out of those contacts came other group members, notably Catherine Martin and Isabelle Cruz of our northern Virginia chapter leadership. John Cosgrove reached out to the UAC New York chapter whose leaders, including Pamela Hall of the Stop the Madrassa campaign against the NYC Khalil Gibran International Academy and its former principal, Debbie Almontaser. Brim, likewise, did the same within her CSP area network and created the blog Saudi Watch to aggregate news, views, videos on the ISA and related issues for the protest campaign. Poole went to work crafting pieces on the Al Shabnan arrest and review of the ISA corporate and tax papers. What ensued was a prelude to a mea culpa by the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, the press conference and announcement of a letter sent to Secretary of State Rice suggesting that it was her Department's problem.
The ISA Protests-pour les deluge
There was a flurry of news articles on the June 17th protest demonstration at the ISA in Alexandria, Virginia. The Washington Post, entitled its version, "Group Says School Teaches "hate", the Washington Times headlined theirs, "Islamic school draws fire." Both pieces drew attention to the basis for protests, the Islamic hate texts revealed in the USCIRF report. The group of 15 protesters held signs that read:
Honk to Stop Islamic Terrorism;
This Saudi school is Anti-Semitic and Anti-Christian.
Andrea Lafferty, executive director of TVC commented:
"They're free to come here and worship, but they are not free to come here and teach hate."
Christine Brim of the CSP said:
"They don't have a First Amendment right in this country to incite violence against other groups."
Rahima Abdullah, the ISA education director replied to these allegations:
"That's absolutely not true. What we teach here is love and tolerance.
We have new books now and the ones the commission is talking about have been out of use for some time, and were misinterpreted, then."
It was left to the CNSNews.com account to question whether the ISA was cleaning up its act in a headline: "Islamic Saudi Academy Prepares "Clean" Books for Fall."
The CNSNews.com report had several revelatory exchanges with school officials, State Department and USCIRF spokespersons.
Judth Ingraham, spokesperson for the USCRIF indicated that the State Department didn't turn over textbooks that the Saudi Embassy had turned over to State and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The USCIRF had to resort to obtaining them from other sources, including Members of Congress. In 2006, the Saudi government said it would "revise and update textbooks to remove remaining references that disparage [Shia and other] Muslims or promote hatred towards other religions".
CNSNews.com queried the State Department and got this bizarre response:
Since they're already made public [on the Saudi Ministry of Education Web site] we don't need to duplicate them on our web site or give them to (the Commission) because they've already been put out in the public domain.
Then the logical question was why the USCRIF had to scramble and use other means to obtain these allegedly public documents. Typical State Department bafflegab.
A spokesman for ISA, a U.S. history teacher, David Kovalik was shown these wordings from an ISA textbook and agreed that they were offensive:
The cause of discord. The Jews conspired against Islam and its people. A sly, wicked person who sinfully and deceitfully professed Islam infiltrated (the Muslims).
Kovalick's response was:
Well, that is very anti-Semitic and uh, wow, no, but those don't exist in our books.
When State was questioned about its own investigation, the result was more bafflegab from their spokesperson.
We're continuing to review the hard copy ones received, and we're working with the Saudi government. But they are taking place. This is a priority; it's not something that we've slipped under the rug.
Then an ISA official indicated that "the books will not include controversial subject matter" but will still teach Islam. That's a virtual impossibility given the analysis of the canon of Islam by analysts like Bill Warner of the Center for the Study of Political Islam.
With doubtless tongue in cheek, USCIRF spokesperson, Ingram said:
If that's true, we are working toward the same goal. Let's start the school year off on the right foot, with ‘clean' textbooks.
Cosgrove of the UAC VA chapter was shown confronting the ISA staff in this video made by Pam Hall of Stop the Madrassas from the NYC UAC contingent who came down to the Virginia protest-a singular act of solidarity.
Then there was this accidental confrontation between an ACT! For America member, Isabelle Cruz and protester with a Wahhabi Muslim at a nearby stop light:
I got into it with a Muslim man today at the [Islamic Saudi Academy] protest when he was waiting for the light to change. He kept yelling that we were a bunch of idiots, that we should protest at the Jewish school and that we should be ashamed that we were doing this in front of kids. I told him he should be ashamed that the academy teaches his kids to hate Americans. He kept ranting and raving so I asked him if it was not true that the Koran teaches that Jews and Christians are Apes and Pigs, and he said, facetiously that, yes, that the Koran teaches that Jews and Christians are apes and pigs.
More Taqiyya from an Al Jazeera Interview of ISA staff at the protest: Muslims persecuted
Al Jazeera also showed up at the ISA on June 17th to spread more taqiyya to the worldwide Muslim viewing audience. The comments were similar to those of the ISA administrators and faculty interviewed by the Washington press that day. The non-Muslim faculty like history teacher Mr. Kovalick and Ms. Schneider interviewed by Al Jazeera appear to repeat dhimmi-like endorsements of the ISA line that no hatred is preached at the school. The problem is, can either speak or read classical Arabic to know what is in the contents of the Islamic studies texts reviewed by the USCIRF?
Al Jazeera reporter: "This child recites verses from the Koran with perfect diction, even though he is only six years old. These flowers, which have just begun to bloom, have sprouted on American soil. Their parents decided to help them find their roots in a supervised environment. This goal has been achieved at the Islamic Saudi Academy.
"However, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which was established by Congress, has recommended that the academy be shut down, alleging that its religious curricula, which are taught in Saudi Arabia as well, included material inciting to racism and intolerance towards other religions. [The commission] did not even talk to those in charge of the academy, let alone visit it."
Abd Al-Rahman Al-Ghufayli, principal of the Boys' School: "We have nothing to hide. That's why we invited them there and tried to discuss things with them, but I'm sad to say, they did not accept our invitation. This suggests that the commission has a certain agenda, which it is trying to implement."
Reporter: "The local authority of Fairfax County, where the academy is located, has challenged the threats of closure. It determined that the allegations are invalid, and it approved the religious curricula after examining them. The non-Muslim teachers also expressed disgust and frustration at the allegations."
Kate Schneider, English teacher: "The thing that frustrates me so much about these accusations is that first, they are not true, and second, it is so completely opposite from the truth. This school teaches faith and the same basic values we want all our children to have."
Les deluge: the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors June 23rd Press Conference
Less than a week following the June 17th protests the dam burst. There was a mad scramble to get to the Fairfax County (Virginia) Center for an early afternoon news conference. The reason was to witness a ‘mea culpa' by the Fairfax Board of Supervisors concerning their embarrassment over the ISA text book report released by the USCIRF on June 11th. The June 17th protest had caught a media wave of attention that embarrassed the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and Chairman, Gerry Connolly, Democratic candidate for Congress in the 11th District-Virginia. Even the Arab News covered one glaring aspect, the arrest and charging of the ISA director general Al-Shabnan, for ‘obstructing justice' in a cover up of a child abuse complaint.
Jim Lafferty of TVC arrived at the press conference as Connolly effectively said, "no one spoke Arabic, and so how were we to know?" This is the same Connolly who was recorded on video tape at the May 19th hearings on the renewal of the ISA lease lambasting Lafferty and others calling them "bigots engaged in slander." Now, Connolly has been recorded with this lame response on video cameras from local TV news outlets, Channel 4 (NBC) Channel 5 (FoxNews) and Channel 7 (ABC News).
Watch Lafferty of TVC and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Connolly on this NBC news Washington, DC affiliate video, here.
The purpose of this news conference, according to Lafferty, was to announce that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors had sent a letter to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to investigate the allegations in the USCIRF hate text report of June 11th.
That is putting the entire embarrassing matter into the laps of the Arabists at the US State Department.
Lafferty had a comment on the whole unraveling of the ISA USCIRF hate text report triggered by the June 17 protest.
ISA is simply one of a worldwide network of Saudi-sponsored school pouring the same Wahhabi doctrine of hate into the minds of tens of thousands of students, Saudi and others. Consider ISA a franchise. It is equivalent of walking into a McDonald's franchise in the US. You'd expect to find a Big Mac there, wouldn't you?
Connolly and the rest of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors now look downright foolish and arrogant.
Connolly, the Virginia 11th District Democratic candidate will now face a formidable attack by his GOP opponent given snippets of his remarks at the May hearings contrasted with those at the June 23rd news conference.
The NRCC slams Fairfax County Supervisor Connolly for ‘flip flopping' on the ISA
As night follows day, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) issued a press release on June 24th slamming Connolly for his ‘flip flop' on the ISA lease renewal decision passing the buck to the U.S. State Department. Witness this headline:
Connolly Flip-Flops on Saudi School After Giving a Full-Throated Defense of "Terror High," Connolly Now Calls for Investigation after Feeling Political Pressure.
Note the contrasting excerpts from the May 19th presentation versus the comments at the June 23rd press conference:
According to the Associated Press, Gerry Connolly supported the school just last month, when their lease was up for an extension:
"Protesters also criticized the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for voting unanimously last month to extend the school's lease. County officials conducted their own review of the textbooks and said they didn't find any serious problems.
"The board's chairman Gerry Connolly, the Democratic nominee for Congress in Virginia's 11th District offered a strong defense of the school and accused critics of slander during the meeting in which the lease was approved." (AP, 06/17/2008)
At the meeting on May 19, 2008, Gerry Connolly specifically said, "I find no evidence, no grounds, to do anything but to renew the lease of an institution that has been a good neighbor."
But now, Gerry Connolly is singing a different tune:
"Fairfax County leaders asked U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday to determine whether the county should continue leasing property to the Islamic Saudi Academy following controversy surrounding the school's teachings.
"With unanimous support from the county's Board of Supervisors, Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) sent a letter to Rice ‘formally requesting' that the State Department provide direction regarding the county's one-year lease renewal, approved last month, with the Saudi Arabian government for operation of the academy." (Washington Post, June 24, 2008)
"Gerry Connolly's change of heart seems to come at an opportune time," said NRCC Press Secretary Ken Spain. "After giving a full-throated defense of the school and accusing critics of 'slander', it appears that Gerry Connolly is buckling under political pressure. It is hard to figure out what is worse, a public official who is incapable of standing by the courage of his convictions or one who has incredibly bad judgment."
Rep. Frank Wolf sends a letter to Secretary Rice and the State Department over the ISA investigation
On the same day that the NRCC slammed Connolly, a State Department spokesman responded to the letter from the Fairfax County Supervisor requesting that the Department take him out of his political misery on the ISA ‘hot potato'.
A State Department spokesman at the Daily Press briefing essentially said it is a local, meaning, country matter. The excuse that the USCIRF report on the Islamic Saudi Academy hate texts came out on June 11th after the County Board of supervisors made their decision didn't wash. Neither did the County's rationale that the State Department was responsible under the Federal Foreign Missions Act to clear the lease renewal.
Tom Casey, deputy spokesman for the State Department said as much in response to a question during a Daily Press briefing:
MR. CASEY: Well I think it's something we've just gotten. We'll certainly take a look at it and see what kind of response would be appropriate, but I -you know, it's not something we've had a chance to really look through. As you know this is a school that is incorporated and overseen through the county there. It's not an institution that we have any sort of formal role in accrediting or managing. But certainly, we'll take a look at the letter and if there's some thoughts or advice that we can offer, we'll certainly do it.
Rep. Frank Wolf, ranking minority on the House State and Foreign Operation Sub Committee of House Appropriations had sent a letter to the State Department. We got a look at what he sent. It was terse and to the point. Wolf wrote:
"The United States government owes it to those who are concerned and to the parents and students at the ISA [Islamic Saudi Academy] to thoroughly examine this matter and find out the truth about the content of the textbooks in question," Wolf's letter read. "Your personal attention is appreciated. Please keep me informed of developments."
The letter to Secretary Rice had a handwritten notation: "The State Department is not doing its duty." A veritable understatement, to say the least.
Wolf noted in his letter to Secretary Rice the huge Saudi commitment to underwriting the extremist Wahhabi doctrine across the length and breadth of the Muslim ummah:
He referenced the Pulitzer-Prize winning book, "The Looming Tower," by Lawrence Wright; despite Saudi Arabia's constituting only 1 percent of the world's Muslim population, it supports 90 percent of the expenses of the entire faith, including thousands of religious schools around the globe staffed with Wahhabi imams and teachers as well as radical madrassas along the turbulent Pakistani border — and also the Saudi government academies.
Wolf can make these statements for some good and sound reasons.
The House Committee he sits on controls the State Department budget, so Secretary of State Rice and her minions in Foggy Bottom have to pay courteous attention to his remarks and requests. The second issue is more fundamental. Wolf authored the enabling legislation for the USCIRF that undertook the investigation of the Islamic Saudi Academy hate texts. Just as soon as Wolf's letter reached Foggy Bottom another State Department spokesperson passed the buck to the Justice Department.
What will the ISA protest group do next?
The ISA protest group, of which this author is a charter member, will not rest on its laurels given the evident conflation of the controversy from a local into a national, and now international, one.
Thanks to Fairfax County Supervisor Connolly's ‘mea culpa,' the reactions at the U.S. State Department and the receipt of Rep. Wolf's letter, there is more grist for the mill.
Among the items under consideration are:
• A FOIA request to Fairfax County forcing them to divulge the deliberations on the ISA lease renewal and alleged internal studies of the Islamic Study texts criticized by the USCIRF report;
• Putting pressure on the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to re-open the accreditation file of the ISA for cause in recognition of the new information from the USCIRF report;
• Investigation of the corporate and tax filing status of the ISA and Saudi Embassy d/b/a relationship; and,
• Review and disclosure of Federal Elections Commission records on contributors to Connolly's Congressional campaign.
Perhaps there may even be a Congressional investigation into the ISA affair and how the Saudis are engaging in Cultural Jihad in America.
The revered Supreme Court Justice Brandeis said in one of his famous dissents about the importance of public disclosure, "sunlight is the best disinfectant." Stay tuned. This story has legs.