A former administrative assistant for a publicly funded school in Minnesota – located in the same building as a Muslim mosque and run by a Muslim imam – stated in legal documents that the school director told her, "We could just kill you, yeah tell your husband we'll do his job for him."
Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, or TiZA, in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., which also shares space in a building with the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society, came under state investigation after multiple reports by columnist Katherine Kersten on the situation there.
The charter school for kindergarten through eighth grade is run by executive director Asad Zaman, who is a Muslim religious leader, and shares space in a building with a mosque and MAS. In the school, there are daily breaks for prayer, halal food is served in its cafeteria and Arabic study is mandatory, Kersten said in a 2008 report. And school buses do not take students home until after-school Muslim classes are completed.
A state investigation focused on the Friday prayer events, 30 minutes long and at that time led by adults in the school. The state found that violated the law, and sought changes.
Now the academy is embroiled in a legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota. Last year, the ACLU filed a federal suit claiming that the school impermissibly promotes religion.
According to Kersten's most recent report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, former administrative assistant Janeha Edwards said in an affadvait that she saw "no real distinction" between the operations of the school and the Muslim American Society.
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," she said.
According to the affidavit, Zaman suggested that "we could just kill you" after becoming upset when Edwards "challeng[ed] his authority."
Zaman claimed in an affidavit that he has no recollection of making such a statement.
Likewise, Khalid Elmasry, father of a former student at Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, claims in affidavits that after he criticized the school, the executive director made a statement at a parent meeting that appeared to be "an attempt to incite violence against me and my family."
The ACLU sought a witness protective order in January, telling the court that the academy's intimidation was keeping potential witnesses from testifying. Kersten reports that the court barred witness harassment or intimidation by either party on Feb. 10.
Elmasry sought witness protection because he testified about the school's financial dealings with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota at a Minnesota Senate subcommittee hearing on charter school lease aid in January. Later, Elmasry said a friend and parent of a student at the school told him the school administration called a parent meeting and showed a video of Elmasry's testimony. Elmasry's friend said Zaman accused Elmasry of talking to the Minnesota Department of Education and "selling" his "iman," or his Islamic faith.
In the affidavit, Elmasry explains that he was frightened.
"It is well-known in Islam that a Muslim who rejects his or her faith is committing an act punishable by death," he said. "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."
Kersten reports that Elmasry said he was worried because "the overwhelming majority of TiZA's enrollment is Somali, living in a community that has been troubled with many acts of random violence. I am concerned that Zaman could be exploiting this fact in the hope that word will reach a radical or unstable individual or group within the Twin Cities Muslim community that a Muslim has sold his Iman and is trying to shut down a Muslim school that serves Somalis."
According to court documents, the school denies having made any threats.
"Even if the Court accepts the comment alleged by Elmasry," the school explains, "such remarks have significance only when issued by a proper Islamic judge, of which Elmasry and Zaman are not."
WND reported earlier when members of a TV news crew were attacked while investigating the school's actions.
There also were reports when a substitute teacher at the school said religion appeared to be a significant educational focus. Amanda Getz said her duties included taking students to the bathroom, four at a time, to perform "their ritual washing." She said teachers also "led the kids into the gym, where a man dressed in white with a white cap, who had been at the school all day" led prayer.