Nelson Mandela has called education "the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." But such change need not be positive. Textbooks employed by the Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA), a K-12 school near Washington, DC, illustrate how Wahhabi educators seek to change the world — and it is certainly not for the better:
Textbooks at a private Islamic school in northern Virginia teach students that it is permissible for Muslims to kill adulterers and converts from Islam, according to a federal investigation released Wednesday.
Other passages in the school's textbooks state that "the Jews conspired against Islam and its people" and that Muslims are permitted to take the lives and property of those deemed "polytheists."
The passages were found in selected textbooks used during the 2007-08 school year by the Islamic Saudi Academy, which teaches 900 students in grades K-12 at two campuses in Alexandria and Fairfax and receives much of its funding from the Saudi government.
According to the study by the congressionally mandated U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), ISA books also glorify the caliphate, urge Sunnis to turn against Shiites, and portray the Baha'i faith as an effort to undermine Islam from within. And this is after the texts had been edited for objectionable content.
Last October the commission asked that the ISA be shuttered, pending a full review of its curriculum. Not only did the school remain open, but the State Department refused to turn over the texts in use. USCIRF eventually obtained copies of seventeen books through alternate channels.
The secretary of state has authority under the Foreign Missions Act to close the school because it operates as an arm of the Saudi embassy. But that is not going to happen anytime soon. "They told us they would revise the textbooks by the 2008 school year," a State Department spokesman said. "We don't plan to take additional action apart from the discussions that have been going on with the Saudi government."
The Islamic Saudi Academy has found itself in the news before. Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, valedictorian of his 1999 class, is serving a thirty-year prison sentence for providing material support to Al-Qaeda and plotting to assassinate President Bush. In addition, two ISA alumni were kept from entering Israel in December 2001 after being flagged as potential suicide bombers.
As the government wavers, will other ISA graduates make a name for themselves?