State Dept. stands aside on Fairfax County lease to ISAJuly 24, 2008 at 12:36 pm | Posted in Fairfax Board of Supervisors, Islamic Saudi Academy, Islamist Textbooks | 1 Comment
Tags: Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Fairfax County Times, Islamic Saudi Academy, lease on county property to Saudi Embassy, news, State Department
The U.S. State Department has left it up to Fairfax County whether to continue leasing county buildings to the Islamic Saudi Academy, a local Islamic school that has operated in Alexandria and Fairfax for more than 20 years.
Textbooks used by ISA were recently found by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom to promote religious intolerance and violence.
“The [State Department] has not objected to the [Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia] leasing the property in question for the Academy,” reads the letter to Fairfax Board chairman Gerry Connolly on behalf of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
Although the county board voted in May to renew the school’s lease, they reconsidered after the allegations by the USCIRF were released. Since the school is leased through the Saudi Arabian government, Fairfax asked the State Department to weigh in, a request that agency has now denied.
“No authorization from the Department to renew the lease is required,” the federal response reads, putting the ball firmly in Fairfax County’s court.
As of press time, county supervisors had not indicated what their next step might be.
At the academy, school is out for the summer, but the controversy has created a lot of work for school officials, who have worked to create new textbooks without offending passages in time for the coming school year. The new textbooks have been sent out to Islamic studies professors at several American universities for review.
“They’re checking the new books over with this issue in mind,” said ISA Director of Education Rahima Abdullah, referring to the controversial passages.
According to Abdullah, the school is not sure which passages in the old textbooks the USCIRF specifically referred to, but hopes the review will eliminate future problems. Many passages of the school’s old textbooks, which were provided by Saudi Arabia, were not taught at the school, Abdullah said.
The older books included “some extremely troubling passages that do not conform to international human rights norms,” according to USCIRF.
“We don’t teach hate or intolerance,” said Abdullah, whose three children attended the Saudi Academy.
USCIRF Director Judith Ingram said that new books without the controversial language would fix the problem “as long as the new books were publicly available. … They have to be able to be verified.”
The ISA has its hopes set on the upcoming school year, when “the new textbooks will hopefully be ready in time” and the school won’t have to deal with the protesters who marched outside its gates at the close of the last school year, while students were taking their final exams.