We've written a number of times about Minnesota's Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA), a charter school that appears to be Muslim in all but name, and is closely affiliated with, if not an alter ego of, the radical Muslim American Society. The American Civil Liberties Union is engaged in litigation against TIZA, in which the ACLU alleges that the school unconstitutionally promotes religion at taxpayer expense. That litigation has gotten quite bitter.
Our friend Kathy Kersten has done more than anyone else to shed light on TIZA and its relationship with the Muslim American Society through her columns in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Now, relying on court records, she details allegations of threats made against those who have provided information about the school's operations:
In January, the ACLU sought a protective order, telling the court that intimidation by TiZA was discouraging potential witnesses from appearing. ...
Elmasry is one witness who sought such protection. In January, he testified about TiZA's financial entanglement with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota at a Minnesota Senate subcommittee hearing on charter school lease aid. Shortly thereafter, Elmasry says in an affidavit, he was informed by a friend and TIZA parent that TiZA authorities had called a parent meeting, where they showed a video of Elmasry's testimony. Then, according to the parent's account, Asad Zaman, the school's director and an imam -- or Muslim religious leader -- accused Elmasry of talking to the Minnesota Department of Education and "selling" his "Iman," meaning his Islamic faith, according to Elmasry's affidavit.
Elmasry was frightened, he says. "It is well-known in Islam that a Muslim who rejects his or her faith is committing an act punishable by death," according to his affidavit. "There are many accounts of Muslims taking matters into their own hands and killing people they believe have sold or rejected their Islamic faith or Iman."
TiZA denies that a threat was intended, according to documents filed with the court. "Even if the Court accepts the comment alleged by Elmasry," the school maintains, "such remarks have significance only when issued by a proper Islamic judge, of which Elmasry and Zaman are not."
Well, that's reassuring.
Elmasry is not the only fearful witness. Edwards, who left her job at TiZA in 2009, also hesitates to testify about what she saw and heard during her years there.
During her tenure, she says in an affidavit, she saw "no real distinction" between the operations of TiZA and the Muslim American Society, with which the school shares a building. For years, "I watched [school officials] lash out in order to control those around them, and to retaliate against anyone who spoke poorly of the school, or otherwise challenged their authority." According to her affidavit, Zaman suggested that "we could just kill you" after becoming upset when she "challeng[ed] his authority."
Kathy's conclusion is apt: "we have to pinch ourselves to remember that we're talking here about a Minnesota public school -- financed with our tax dollars."