Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes and at least one grammar school promoting Islam on the taxpayer's dime. Star Tribune reporter Katherine Kersten first brought the story of the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) to light in a March 9 column.
Named for the Muslim general who conquered Spain, TIZA is a K-8 charter school founded by two leaders of Minnesota's branch of the Muslim American Society, a recognized arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. The institution also shares a building with both the MAS-MN headquarters and a mosque.
While Minnesota mandates that charter schools be non-sectarian, Kersten finds that the academy is steeped in Islam. And the problem goes beyond Islamic classes at day's end:
"A visitor might well mistake Tarek ibn Ziyad for an Islamic school," reported Minnesota Monthly in 2007. "Head scarves are voluntary, but virtually all the girls wear them." The school has a central carpeted prayer space, and "vaguely religious-sounding language" is used.
According to the Pioneer Press, TIZA's student body prays daily and the school's cafeteria serves halal food (permissible under Islamic law). During Ramadan, all students fast from dawn to dusk, according to a parent quoted in the article.
Kersten's follow-up column presents the testimony of substitute teacher Amanda Getz, who worked at the school on March 14. The woman tells of prayers that appeared to be neither voluntary nor student-led — and therefore illegal:
Arriving on a Friday, the Muslim holy day, she says she was told that the day's schedule included a "school assembly" in the gym after lunch.
Before the assembly, she says she was told her duties would include taking her fifth-grade students to the bathroom, four at a time, to perform "their ritual washing."
Afterward, Getz said, "teachers led the kids into the gym, where a man dressed in white with a white cap, who had been at the school all day," was preparing to lead prayer. Beside him, another man "was prostrating himself in prayer on a carpet as the students entered."
Both the ACLU and the state education department are now investigating. Given the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy's intimate ties to MAS, they may soon uncover an Islamist version of the "three Rs": reading, writing, and radicalism.
April 16 , 2008 update: After coming under intense scrutiny for its apparent promotion of Islam, the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) in Minnesota assured station KSTP that it follows all state and federal guidelines. However, the reporter spotted an obvious exception to that claim: despite a Minnesota law requiring schools to fly the American flag when classes are in session, the institution had not been doing so. TIZA's executive director Azad Zaman insisted that he did not know how to operate the flagpole. However, Zaman is a quick study, as the flag was raised a day later.