When the Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax, Va., requested to expand the campus, protests about the curriculum came to a head. Why allow such an expansion when the school's books are tainted with hate?
The books are the same as those used in schools in Saudi Arabia: Students are taught to incite violence and cause human rights violations, to be hostile toward non-Muslims, and how to punish people, among other shocking passages.
Under pressure from a congressional report in 2008, the academy changed its textbooks — but inflammatory passages remain. An 11th-grade textbook reads: "Scholars of the People of the Book know that Islam is the true path because they find it in their books, but they shy away out of ignorance and stubbornness. And God knows their deeds and will judge them." The "People of the Book" are Jews and Christians, who are allegedly ignoring the truth of Islam.
Even more horrifying, the books promote child marriage, going so far as to condone forced marriage with a 1-year-old child. In Saudi Arabia, there are many examples of such marriages between children who are prepubescent.
There are over 5 million students in the state schools in Saudi Arabia, not to mention the sizeable quantity of students enrolled in Saudi-supported schools across the world, including the one in Fairfax. What students are taught in school should be a concern for the United States, and stopping the problem at its roots should be a top priority.
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, the school's former valedictorian, was convicted in 2005 of joining al Qaeda and planning to assassinate President George W. Bush. Another graduate of the academy, Raed Abdul-Rahman Al-Saif, was arrested just last month at a Florida airport while trying to board a plane with a concealed butcher knife.
The existence of a Muslim school in the United States should not even be debated. There has been some strong response to the Islamic Saudi Academy, perhaps some of which may be too reactionary.
Generalizing Islam as a fanatical religion that breeds hatred and terrorism is false. Students instead need to be taught Islam without the influence of the Saudi government and its archaic, strict practices.
Achieving a moderate and appropriate curriculum has proved to be an attainable goal. The King Fahd Academy in London, a sister school to the one in Virginia, used to teach from the same controversial textbooks. Over time, the school modernized its curriculum to contain moderate teachings of Islam.
In the United States, students should be able to go to Islamic schools. But getting rid of these toxic textbooks should be part of the package.
Amanda Gramley is an associate researcher at the Institute for Gulf Affairs.