A coalition opposing the expansion of the radical Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax County, Va., has filed a conflict-of-interest complaint with the Virginia state attorney general over the county government's role in distributing invitations to an Islamic dinner.
Invitations to the free dinner – which is billed as, "Understanding Islam Conference: A Symposium to Promote Peace, Harmony, Understanding and Cultural Diversity" – were distributed by e-mail to county residents by Fairfax County official Sandra S. Chisholm, community interfaith liaison for the Department of Systems Management for Human Services.
Local citizens trying to block the expansion of the Saudi academy, which they say is a "breeding ground" for terrorists, complain that the conference reveals the county's bias in the fight.
The county planning board already has approved the expansion plans for the school, which is controlled and funded by the Saudi Embassy. And the country board of supervisors is expected to uphold the ruling.
"The Fairfax County government no longer pretends to be fair and impartial in its dealings with residents who oppose the railroading of the ISA expansion through its offices," said James Lafferty, chairman of the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force, or VAST. "This is an outrageous effort to stack the deck against the protesting county residents just weeks before the vote on the massive ISA expansion."
The vote is scheduled for July 13.
He says the county-sponsored Islamic dinner also raises constitutional questions about "separation of church and state."
"No church or synagogue ever got such preferential treatment from the county government," Lafferty argued.
In its letter to state officials in Richmond, VAST charges that the Fairfax County government became a partner in an event which was designed to "gloss over community concerns generated by the many problems and questionable activities associated with the radical 'academy.'"
VAST asks for a full investigation of the county's role in promoting "a very sectarian pep rally for Islam."
"We believe the county government is no longer impartial in carrying out its duties. And some citizens, depending on their religious affiliation, can expect a more favorable outcome from the county's regulatory agencies at the expense of the public trust," the letter says. "We believe this questionable action and others related to the county government's treatment of the Islamic Saudi Academy suggest the strong possibility of systemic corruption in Fairfax County's government."
At the recent planning board hearing, some 600 Muslims turned out to rally behind the Saudi academy and drown out VAST protesters. A Muslim engineer employed by the county testified on behalf of the academy.
The Saudi school's alumni include Omar Abu Ali, an al-Qaida operative convicted of plotting to assassinate President Bush. Ali graduated valedictorian, and the school proudly published another superlative for him in its yearbook: "Voted Most Likely to be a Martyr," a caption under his photo read.
A couple of other academy graduates were arrested in Israel for plotting terrorism.
What's more, the U.S. government has cited the school for using textbooks promoting hate and violence against Jews and Christians. Dawood Abdulrahman, head of the Islamic Studies Department at the academy, maintains that the school recently revised it textbooks to show more tolerance, including removing all references to "jihad."
Abdularahman is an executive board member of Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, the radical Fairfax County mosque that assisted at least two of the Saudi hijackers before they slammed a plane into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. The phone number for the mosque was found in the address book of one of the senior al-Qaida planners of the attacks, who was in Germany at the time.
The hijackers stayed in an apartment complex just across a highway from the Alexandria, Va., campus of the Saudi academy.
The academy's former comptroller, Ismail Elbarasse, was arrested after 9/11 for allegedly casing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland for a possible terrorist attack. Elbarasse is a founding member of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque.