In June of 2008, there was a vigorous protest of the hate-filled Islamic studies texts used by the Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) in Fairfax Virginia. We wrote about it extensively here and here. To refresh our collective memories, the ISA is one of 20 such private institutions, creatures of Royal Saudi Embassies throughout the world, which are supplied with texts cleared through the Saudi Education and Religious Affairs Ministries. The ISA has been controversial since its founding in 1984 and has migrated from exurban Maryland to Northern Virginia to now two sites in Fairfax County Virginia - one a leased Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia. As we will see, local activists in Northern Virginia are protesting plans for expansion of the ISA school site at the Popes Head location.
In 2006 and in 2008, Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom and a Commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom spearheaded two reports. One on Saudi textbooks involving 'discussions' with Saudi Education ministration officials and in 2008, a review of the Islamic studies texts used at the ISA that triggered local activist protests and vigorous calls for investigation by our pusillanimous State Department by Rep. Frank Wolf (R) of Northern Virginia. The Saudi Royal Embassy in Washington and the ISA indicated in response that so-called new texts, cleansed of hate-filled incitement to murder, a violation of criminal felony laws in the US, of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, gays, apostates, would be forthcoming for use in the current school year at the ISA.
The Associated Press, which ran a story this week headlined "Saudi Academy in Virginia Revises Islamic History Books," relies on quotes from three individuals who give the academy's new textbooks a Good Housekeeping seal of approval: Academy director Abdulrahman Alghofaili, Brown University visiting fellow Eleanor Doumato, and University of North Carolina anthropology professor Gregory Starrett. As AP makes clear, all three were paid by the Islamic Saudi Academy to review the textbooks.
A fourth commentator quoted in the AP report, Ali Ahmed, who is the president of the Gulf Institute and who is not funded by the Saudis, gives a somewhat different assessment. As the AP reporter paraphrases, "The revised texts now being used at ISA make some small improvements in tone. But he said it's clear from the books that the core ideology behind them — a puritanical strain of Islam known as Wahhabism that is dominant within Saudi Arabia — remains intact."
Last summer, in our report on the ISA "hot potato", we discussed the problematic accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in 2005, the necessity of a serious re-examination of its interim approval. We went so far as to contact SACS staff and send them reports of the problematic texts collected by Shea and others. Recently, Shea had conversations with General Counsel of SACS. This is what she found:
The AP story reports that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a large regional educational accrediting agency, was conducting a review of the Saudi Academy curriculum. Unfortunately the Association may not be up to the task. In 2005, it accredited the Academy, not knowing — since it did not have the capacity to translate the texts from Arabic — that the school countenanced religiously motivated killing. Although the accrediting association now says it has improved its procedures, it still relies on volunteers to do its inspections.
She pointed out to me in a phone conversation that the U.S. Army Fort Belvoir Command chose the ISA for an Arabic language program on the strength of the SACS accreditation and awarded the school a plaque – a testimonial to language and 'cultural' skills of this Saudi backed institution.
In conversations with Shea yesterday, she noted that the website of the ISA, still has 'useful' links to the Royal Saudi Embassy, the Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs and Al-Islam, the latter two conveying xenophobic Wahhabist hate-filled doctrine. In a report on "Behind the Veil at the Islamic Saudi Academy", we noted that third graders confronted a non-Muslim teacher with songs about killing all Christians, except, of course, their teacher. Thus, you can redact textbooks, but the hate-filled environment remains.
And how dangerous is Saudi Wahhabist doctrine at the ISA? Shea notes this:
Readers may recall ["Teaching Terror"] that the Saudi curriculum has been blamed — including by a growing number of Saudi commentators — for helping to form the ideology underlying such Jihadi terrorists as Osama bin Laden, the 11 Saudi members of the 9/11 hijacking team, the Saudi Gitmo detainees (who formed the largest contingent there, after persons from Afghanistan), the Saudi suicide bombers in Iraq (who formed the largest such foreign contingent), the Pakistani Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and its network of radical schools that trained the Mumbai terrorists ["Tread Softly"], and even a former valedictorian of the Saudi Academy itself, to name but a few.
But if the swirl of controversy about redacted Saudi Islamic studies texts at the ISA isn't enough, there is the looming protest by local citizen activists in Northern Virginia about plans for dramatic expansion of facilities, including a 'student worship center' at the Popes Head location. This protest has been spearheaded by Jim Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition who was active in the June, 2008 ISA protests.
A Traditional Values Coalition news release had the background of still yet another ISA controversy.
…..planning commission officials and lawyers and
consultants for ISA met with residents in the area around the Popes Head
"campus" of ISA to outline a plan to replace the current building on the
property with a very large two-story structure which will give them 10 times
the square footage they have presently. There will be a worship center for
student use only.
The residents have a number of land use experts in their civic associations
who did an excellent job picking apart some of the claims made by the county people.
One of the residents' attorneys and I made a run at describing what goes on at ISA but the planning commission guy was having none of it. He insisted that "land use" issues were the only ones which could be discussed. We framed a lot of the ISA talking points in land use terms but it is clear the planning bureaucrats have already bought into it. Two of the ISA usual suspects were there but they said nothing.
The planning folks are determined to push this through.
We have two opportunities to publicly pressure them. First at the Planning
Commission public hearing on March 18 at the Government Center in Fairfax
and then at the Board of Supervisors meeting.
Whether, it is a controversy about redacted Saudi Education Ministry texts used at the ISA or its expansion plans, the Saudi Royal Embassy sponsored private school and its Saudi minders never hesitate to tap into taqiyya to fool us infidels, or to bribe us with cold hard cash. As Shea noted to me, Saudi Arabia had an eight page advertising supplement in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, extolling its 'virtues'. She speculated that advertising buy was probably in excess of $1 million, something the News Corporation owners of the venerable publication couldn't pass up in tough times for print media.