Citizen Resistance

History of Citizens Resisting the Islamic Saudi Academy in Maryland and Virginia – 1988 to 2007

In 1994, the Islamic Saudi  Academy tried to expand in Maryland, Poolesville – Montgomery County. Then the Saudi Embassy tried again in Loudoun County, Virginia and again the citizens rejected it. People have a long history of organizing to oppose this ISA and that is something we should all know about. It’s the history of a citizen resistance to a Wahhabi-doctrinal, extremist Saudi-funded international effort (there are some 20 of these academies internationally) – across a generation – 20 years now – and something to be proud of. That history is forgotten by the mainstream media, and most of us don’t know it. Some of the opposition was “Not in my backyard” concerns ( NIMBY) but some was alo opposition to the radical, apartheid textbooks and the Saudi’s constant purchase of influence – the story of corruption in Loudoun county alone is worth a movie.  The size of the planned enclave  for Loudoun was breathtaking.

It’s an important history – it shows that citizens have succeeded before in stopping the spread of extremist Islamist schools.


  1. Saudi Academy To Fund Fairfax School Face Lift
  2. Plans for Saudi School, Mosque Stirs Controversy in Poolesville
  3. Battle Lines in Poolesville Over Site for Saudi School; Annexation Bid Triggers Rumors and Rancor
  4. Battle lines in Poolesville over site for Saudi school
  5. Poolesville Voters Reject Annexation Plan; Saudi Proposal Defeated In Controversy Tinged With Charges of Racism
  6. Saudi School Effort Turns To Loudoun; Divisive Bid to Build In Montgomery Ends
  7. Opinions Varied On Saudi School; Economic, Cultural Impact Debated
  8. Warnings and Welcomes: Muslim School Plan Divides Loudoun
  9. Reading, Writing, Religion; Saudi Academy Sees Its Mission as Education, Not Politics
  10. Saudi School Issue Draws Crows; Land-Use, Security Concerns Voiced in Meeting With Developer
  11. The Proposed Saudi School, In Particulars; Questions — and Answers
  12. Strong Feelings On Saudi School; Taxes, Religion Dominate Meeting
  13. Saudi School: For Every View, There’s a Petition
  14. Emotions Run High At Academy Hearing; Foes, Supporters Pack Commission Session
  15. In Ashburn, It’s Church Vs. School; Pastor Rallies Flock Against Saudi Plan
  16. School Foes Undeterred By Setback; Group Plans Fight Beyond Board Vote
  17. Strong Debate At Hearig on Islamic School; Hundreds Show Up At Loudoun Meeting
  18. Board Sets March 4 for Vote on Saudi School
  19. Loudoun Supervisors Approve Islamic Saudi Academy; Board Members Call for healing after divisive public debate
  20. Saudi School Foes Vow Recall Effort; Three Supervisors Are Likely Targets
  21. Zoning Panel Rejects Bid to Block Saudi School
  22. FBI Terror Probes Focus on U.S. Muslims; Expanded Investigations, New Tactics Stir Allegations of Persecution
  23. Opening of Va. Muslim Academy Delayed; 2003 Is Target Date For Loudoun School
  24. Where Two Worlds Collide; Muslim Schools Face Tension of Islamic, U.S. Views
  25. Islamic Academies Adopt a U.S. Institution; With Formation of PTAs, Parents From Diverse Backgrounds Gain a Voice
  26. Israel Blocked Entry Of Two N.Va. Men; FBI Says Note Implied Suicide Mission
  27. Opening Date for Islamic School Still Uncertain
  28. Islamic Academy Given Go-Ahead in Loudoun
  29. Va. Man’s Months in Saudi Prison Go Unexplained
  30. No Islamic Campus in Loudoun; Saudi Academy Sells Land Instead of Establishing Third School
  31. Va. Family Defends Video of Bay Bridge; Tape Led to Search, Man’s Detention
  32. Terrorist Plot to Kill Bush Alleged; Suspect, a Va. Man, Was Held by Saudis Nearly Two Years
  33. Teaching Hate
  34. Experts Urge Science, Tech School for Ashburn Site; Business Role Envisioned For Ex-Saudi Property
  35. Work Starts on Islamic High School; Nation’s Reaction to 9/11 Spurred Annapolis Group’s Idea for Expanded Mission
  36. Supervisor Voted on Issue in Which Friend Had Interest
  37. Loudoun Land Deals Subject of U.S. Probe; County Officials’ Ties to Developers Under Investigation
  38. FBI Meets With Loudoun Officials, Staff; Probe Into Possible Corruption Includes County’s $13.5 Million Land Purchase
  39. U.S. Prodded to Shut Fairfax Saudi School; Federal Panel Wonders Whether Religious Intolerance Is Being Fostered
  40. U.S. ‘Studying’ Islamic School Report; Officials Have Not Talked to Saudis Since Panel Urged Shutdown
  41. School Officials Say Panel’s Call for Closure Hurt Image

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Saudi Academy To Fund Fairfax School Face Lift
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext) – Washington, D.C.
Author: Virginia Mansfield
Date: Aug 4, 1988
Start Page: v.03
Text Word Count: 446

The private Islamic Saudi Academy will fund a $5 million face lift of the long-vacant Mount Vernon High School in southern Fairfax County in exchange for a five-year rent-free lease of the Rte. 1 property.

The plan, unanimously endorsed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Monday, also requires the Planning Commission to expedite hearing the academy’s application for a special use permit that would allow a private business to operate in the county-owned building. The board said the Planning Commission must hear the case by Oct. 31. The lease would take effect on Jan. 1, 1989.

The 600-student academy will be able to start the repair work immediately, according to Larry Spain, director of facilities management for the county. The agreement also permits the school to expand to 1,120 students in the next five years, meeting the school’s long-range plans.

“The county will still be required to approve the contractors, the {repair} plans and the work,” Spain said. He added that the county will retain use of the school’s gymnasium, which the county recently renovated for $110,000.

The agreement allows the county to use the auditorium and other areas of the school when the academy is not using them “as long as it does not interfere with normal operations of the school,” Spain explained.

The former high school, which was named Walt Whitman Intermediate School from 1973 to 1985, has been a financial burden on the county for years. Last year a citizens task force established by the Board of Supervisors to study the future of the building recommended that the county pay for the repairs and convert it into a multi-use community center.

The school is situated about two miles north of Fort Belvoir on Rte. 1.

Many officials said that the county did not have the estimated $6 million to $7 million for the needed repairs. Spain said the $5 million lease agreement does not include $2 million that would have gone to the installation of air conditioning.

The Islamic Saudi Academy is a private school for 590 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The school has been operating for two years in the county-owned Dunn Loring School at 2334 Gallows Rd. When the academy’s lease there expired this year, the county said it needed the Dunn Loring School to hold special education classes.

“Less than half our students are children of diplomats and about one-third are Americans,” said academy director Saad Al-Adwani. “Our students represent 26 nationalities.”

There has been no opposition to the renovation from residents in the neighborhoods near the school. Dunn Loring residents have said the academy was a good neighbor that they did not want to see leave.

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The big push for the Loudoun county school started in 1994, just when the 5 year free lease (well, improvements-based lease) was due to change over presumably to some kind of other arrangement. Here is a 1994 article on the first meetings for that school which would eventually be approved many years later after a huge struggle, but then never built.Plans for Saudi School, Mosque Stirs Controversy in Poolesville
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext) – Washington, D.C.
Author: Louis Aguilar
Date: Oct 26, 1994
Start Page: b.03
Section: METRO
Text Word Count: 522

The plans of a rural town in western Montgomery County to extend its borders to absorb a proposed Saudi Arabian school and mosque have sparked a fierce debate over how to preserve agricultural land and keep development at bay.

On Monday night, more than 1,100 people crammed into the Poolesville Middle-Senior High School auditorium for a public hearing by the town’s five elected commissioners about the proposed annexation of 525 acres just south of town. About 250 showed up for a hearing last night.

The Saudis’ attorneys said the Poolesville annexation would guarantee that the school will never exceed the light-density limits for agricultural preserve areas that now apply to much of the region. Approving the annexation, they argued, would keep the surrounding area bucolic.

Some of the opposition to the project is fueled by xenophobia, say school supporters.

“Fear of the perceived unknown and difference in culture is clearly a factor in all of this,” said Philip Eardle, a supporter of the academy.

At last night’s hearing, Poolesville resident Jeff Meyer wore a sweater with the colors of the United States flag. In opposing the annexation, Meyer said that the student body would be “from all over other countries and none would be American.”

Though much of the cost of the facility would be paid for by the Saudi government, school officials say that numerous students at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Mount Vernon are children of U.S. citizens. Others are children of diplomats and businessmen from Muslim countries. The school in Poolesville would replace the much smaller Virginia facility.

The Saudis want to build a modern educational and religious complex on the land, an old polo ground they bought for about $3 million.

The Saudis proposed the annexation plan after concluding it would be easier to obtain environmental permits from the town than from the county regulatory bureaucracy.

To sweeten the deal, they offered to build a $1.8 million sewage treatment plant and spend $3.2 million to lay a water line from the Potomac River to Poolesville, which now relies on wells and had to ration water last year. The Saudis would allow the town to use both the sewage treatment plant and the pipeline.

There are radically different interpretations of what the proposal means. Residents, county officials and environmentalists argue that the school will ruin a way of life and turn a rural area into a suburban one. Eventually, residents fear, they will foot the bill for the new sewage plant.

“The Poolesville taxpayer is clearly at risk and will have to pay again and again,” said Conrad Potemra, a resident.

On Monday, Montgomery Planning Board Chairman William H. Hussmann blasted the proposal, saying it would open the floodgates for development of county land now preserved for farming.

The town commissioners will vote on the proposal next week, but that isn’t likely to end the debate. Observers expect the commissioners to approve the project – and residents to try to gather 600 signatures for a referendum to reverse their action.

Academy attorneys said the school would be built even if annexation fails because of federal laws assuring religious freedom.

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Battle Lines in Poolesville Over Site for Saudi School; Annexation Bid Triggers Rumors and Rancor
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext) – Washington, D.C.
Author: Louis Aguilar
Date: Jan 22, 1995
Start Page: b.01
Section: METRO
Text Word Count: 1306

An article in Sunday’s Metro section about the Saudi mosque in Poolesville should have said that resident Caroline Taylor Goldman is opposed to the projects because of environmental and zoning concerns. (Published 1/27/95)

To John Stringer, it is clear why the proposed Islamic Saudi Academy should not be allowed in his town in rural western Montgomery County.

The Muslim school financed by the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not only a threat to the area’s prized open space, it could harbor Middle Eastern terrorists, Stringer says.

“The Saudis are one of the most intolerant, bigoted kingdoms in the Middle East,” said the retired spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “The Saudis should clean up their own palace before they screw up ours.”

Stringer makes such incendiary observations matter-of-factly, the same way supporters of the Saudi plan call their opponents bigoted rednecks. The same way townspeople offhandedly toss around the names of people they suspect arranged for someone to aim shotgun blasts into an anti-Saudi activist’s home.

Meanwhile, angry opponents of the Saudis’ proposal are demanding the resignation of local PTA board members for accepting a $50,000 Saudi gift that will finance a computer lab in the local elementary school.

Since last year, when the Saudis announced their plan to buy an old equestrian facility that would then be annexed by the town of 4,100, longtime friendships have been severed, political careers have been derailed, and character assassination has become routine.

The proposal has caused so much rancor and tension that some Poolesville residents have changed the way they go about their daily lives. They leave town to buy groceries. They’ve stopped dining at certain local restaurants. They have withdrawn from normal life to avoid running into people with whom they disagree.

Some residents say that to preserve Poolesville’s basic social fabric, social gatherings, church events and high school sports contests have been ruled off-limits for the political debate.

But that hasn’t stopped the backbiting.

“This is the way many people are going to remember each other for years to come – by which way you stood on this issue,” said pro-Saudi resident Edward Kuhlman. “Either you stood on the side of fact and reason and openness and supported the Saudis, or you believed the lies.”

The voters remembered Kuhlman in November, when anti-Saudis unseated him from Poolesville’s town commission.

“I’ve lost friends I’ve had for years over this,” Kuhlman said. “There is this one woman, I’ve known her for quite some time. I can’t even look her in the face now because of the words she said to me.”

On the former horse farm and polo ground, the Saudis plan to build a school with a Muslim-oriented curriculum for children from kindergarten through high school to replace the well-regarded academy they now run in Mount Vernon.

The school would draw 1,800 students and 200 visiting scholars. It would require new roads to allow access to 100 buses and other school vehicles. The students would be the children of diplomats and affluent business executives from 32 countries.

The Saudis have tried to make Poolesville residents view the project as not only a cultural center but also a way to snare a $5 million “gesture of goodwill” from the Saudis if the town will annex the property. Annexation would speed regulatory and zoning processes that would otherwise be run by a deliberate county bureaucracy.

The Saudi millions would pay for new water wells, a new sewage treatment plant and a possible water pipeline to the Potomac River – all of which would be shared with the people of Poolesville, according to the annexation agreement.

Now there is talk of the Saudis building a new hospital clinic.

Clyde “Rocky” Sorrell, the Saudis’ heavy-hitting Bethesda attorney, is trying to keep his clients away from the personal rancor. “The intention has always been to be good neighbors and establish good relations with surrounding communities, just as in Mount Vernon,” Sorrell said. “We saw ways we could assist the town of Poolesville in some of its concerns regarding its future. That is the motivation” of the gifts, he said.

“People are reacting to the fear of the unknown,” he said.

On Feb. 11, Poolesville voters will cast ballots on whether to absorb the Saudi property into the town. The election itself is a backlash against action taken by the town commissioners in November. Dissenting residents quickly gathered signatures of more than half of the town’s registered voters to force a referendum.

Not surprisingly, the commissioners said the petitions had technical errors. So the opponents went out and gathered even more signatures. Now, some Saudi supporters allege that residents were coerced into signing them, but, like so many of the rumors, there is no proof of that.

Caroline Taylor Goldman, one of the leaders of a group called For a Rural Montgomery (FARM), is accused by the pro-Saudis of being an “outsider” and a “newcomer.” She is a National Wildlife Federation conservationist who has lived in the area for seven years. She and other FARM leaders want to distance themselves from the xenophobic sentiments that are bandied about. They say they have been focusing on the technical details of the school development proposal, and they don’t want to be painted as bigots.

“This is a huge development involving literally thousands of people,” said Dolores Milmoe, another FARM leader. “It is so rushed. The basic environmental and growth issues haven’t been answered. That’s what we are fighting. You tell us how to stop those wild remarks people make about the Saudis. We certainly don’t condone them.”

Taylor Goldman said the debate has created “a weird period in my life. I feel like I have been marked … as a troublemaker.”

That’s what makes her wonder who fired a shotgun through her bedroom window last summer. Police said they know of no suspects.

“It happens the day after my name appears in a local paper saying that I’m opposed to annexation,” Taylor Goldman said. “In the back of my mind, I keep thinking it’s a heck of a coincidence. I know it sounds like paranoia, but still….”

Robert Ladd, a 27-year resident of Poolesville, has spoken out repeatedly in favor of the Saudi annexation. The horse breeder has been shouted down at public meetings, targeted for hate mail and subjected to unflattering rumors.

“The Saudis are bringing to this town tremendous opportunities we have never encountered before,” he said. “We gain a powerful ally that will keep unwanted county developments away from our town.” He and other annexation supporters point to the county incinerator and a police firing range built near the town, and he said he worries that the county might want to put its new jail out their way.

“I would say there is a 5 to 10 percent bigotry factor at work among the residents,” said Conrad Potemra, who opposes annexation. “I’m worried about my taxes and protecting my way of life. That’s what this is really about.”

Things are most uncomfortable at town commission meetings. Jeff Meyers once wore a U.S. flag sweater to a meeting and objected to the idea that many of the Saudi academy’s students would not be American. Others have howled about the 1973 Arab oil embargo and Middle Eastern terrorism. James Wilkins has suggested that “infuriated Arab youth” will shoot at low-flying aircraft landing and departing from Dulles International Airport.

“Terrorists are trying to infiltrate businesses and education facilities,” Stringer said. “This academy brings us close to danger.”

The Poolesville residents may vote down the annexation, but the Saudis say they will build the academy anyway, under the county’s supervision, Sorrell said.

Already, some county officials, who would then play a greater role in setting the terms for the development, have said they are preparing to resist.

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Battle lines in Poolesville over site for Saudi school
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Aguilar, Louis
Date: Jan 22, 1995
Start Page: B1

Since Saudi Arabia announced a plan to buy an old equestrian facility that would then be annexed by Poolesville MD, opponents have demanded the resignation of local PTA board members for accepting a $50,000 Saudi gift, saying the Islamic Saudi Academy would take up prized open space.

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Poolesville Voters Reject Annexation Plan; Saudi Proposal Defeated In Controversy Tinged With Charges of Racism
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext) – Washington, D.C.
Author: Louis Aguilar
Date: Feb 12, 1995
Start Page: B.01
Section: METRO
Text Word Count: 988

Poolesville voters yesterday rejected a controversial annexation proposal that has bitterly divided the western Montgomery County area for months. The proposal would have put regulation of a planned Islamic school complex and other open lands under the town’s control.

The annexation area that included the Saudi Islamic Academy was disapproved by 61 percent of the roughly 1,600 voters who turned out, while a second, less controversial parcel was rejected by 56 percent.

The decision means that Montgomery County will maintain its environmental and growth management of 1,177 acres south of Poolesville, land that now is considered protected open space as part of the county’s agricultural preserve program.

Elections officials reported 68 percent turnout for the special election. Although there were many anti-Saudi remarks and incidents during the campaign, victorious opponents said last night that bigotry had nothing to do with the outcome.

“I think we won by a large majority because I think that most people really saw that this was about land,” said Caroline Taylor Goldman, a conservationist who led the opposition because she lives near annexation land. She was not eligible to vote yesterday. “They wanted to keep this area as a small town in the hands of the county. I think that the large majority shows that race played a very small factor.

“To the students, staff and parents of the Islamic Saudi Academy, I want to stress that none of us got into this as a criticism of their school,” Goldman said. “We would like to work with them to find an alternate site in Montgomery County.”

Other annexation opponents were effusive. At a celebration attended by about 100 people last night, Town Commissioner Roy Johnson, who campaigned in November on his opposition to annexation, was gleeful.

“We beat big money!” he exclaimed, referring to the Saudis’ offer to spend more than $5 million on water and sewer facilities and other amenities that would benefit the town. “I don’t think we lost anything in this vote.”

Academy consultant Philip Erdle said he was not alarmed by the loss.

“I am somewhat disappointed, but the truth of the matter is we’re going to be here anyway,” he said. “In fact, I see this as somewhat of a positive because throughout this whole campaign we’ve met a lot of good people and we know there is a solid core of good people who support the academy. Really, I feel sorry for the town, because they lost a lot of good things that could have happened.”

But fellow annexation supporter Kelly Burk despaired over the tactics he said were used by the other side.

“They raised a lot of fears, and they said a lot of incredible things, and we can never really recover from that,” he said. “I’m afraid that we will be remembered as a town that chose emotion rather than fact, and that hate and bigotry was allowed to become an undercurrent in this town for so long. I do not like the feelings that I have right now.”

Although it won’t be part of Poolesville, the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia nonetheless plans to build its new home for the academy on land once used as a ranch and polo facility. New roads would have to be built for the 2,000 students and 200 religious scholars who would work on the campus. The school now is in cramped quarters in Mount Vernon.

Had the Saudi land been annexed, the school pledged to funnel millions of dollars in aid to Poolesville for improvements to water and sewer facilities that could make further development possible in areas that now have no infrastructure.

The Saudis already had donated $55,000 to Poolesville Elementary School for new computers, a gift that set off a storm of criticism of the PTA officials who accepted it. The school isn’t sure whether it will take the money.

Recently, Saudi officials told Shady Grove Adventist Hospital that the kingdom is interested in building a medical clinic in Poolesville to serve its campus and the town.

Annexation would have allowed the Saudis to sidestep possibly lengthy regulatory review and proceedings that might be imposed on them by the county. If the land had been annexed, regulatory decisions would have been made by unpaid town officials. Critics said the deal had loopholes that could have been exploited by developers and the Saudis.

William Hussmann, chairman of the Montgomery County Planning Board, said the annexation would have been a dangerous precedent that would have disrupted long-standing county plans to keep the area around Poolesville undeveloped.

Lewis Helm, a Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission member, said the real price tag for the Saudis’ utility improvements is three times as much as the $5 million the kingdom offered.

“I think the people of Poolesville really made a wise choice,” Helm said. “As for the Saudis, who are continuing to say they will build the academy anyway, that really remains to be seen. It’s just too early to say if that is inevitable or not.”

Many in Poolesville also wrestled with mistrust of county officials, saying they feared the officials would have allowed undesirable facilities to be built near Poolesville.

Despite the important growth issues, the debate has at times been overshadowed by anti-Saudi sentiment. Last week, some residents found copies of anti-Islamic literature in their mailboxes.

“It’s made me realize I live in a town that has more bigotry than I liked to admit,” said Robert Cissel, an annexation supporter who has lived in Poolesville for more than 20 years.

Cissel said he was appalled to learn his two children at Poolesville Junior-Senior High School were being exposed to racist slurs about Saudis by other students.

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Saudi School Effort Turns To Loudoun; Divisive Bid to Build In Montgomery Ends
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Peter Pae
Date: Nov 9, 1997
Start Page: B.01
Section: METRO
Text Word Count: 957

The government of Saudi Arabia, blocked from building an Islamic school in Montgomery County, shifted its efforts to Loudoun County, where it has applied to construct a nearly 1 million-square-foot complex for 3,500 students.

The move effectively ends the Saudi government’s three-year quest to build a mosque and academic complex in Poolesville, which led to acrimonious debate and charges of discrimination.

Officials with the Islamic Saudi Academy, which is financed by the Saudi government, said Friday that they now want to build a school complex on 100 acres of undeveloped land just north of Dulles International Airport. The 946,764-square-foot complex would replace the academy they now operate in Mount Vernon.

“After the experience with Poolesville, they were looking for a place with no zoning hassles,” said Robert M. Gordon, a local land-use lawyer representing the school.

If approved by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, the school would be the largest private Islamic academic institution in the country, Saudi representatives said. It would include educational facilities for children in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The proposal also reflects the growing Muslim community in the Washington area, which has in recent years increasingly turned to private Islamic schools as a solution to the problem of educating their children in a non-Islamic culture. According to the American Muslim Council, there are about 200,000 Muslims in the Washington region.

Loudoun board Chairman Dale Polen Myers (R-At Large), who was given a briefing on the plan Friday, applauded the proposal, saying it could be an “exciting complement” to the growing communities in eastern Loudoun. The academic complex would be developed near the two large planned residential communities of Ashburn Village and Ashburn Farm, which have about 10,000 residents.

“It looks like it can be very nice,” Myers said, noting that the academy would be located on land currently zoned for warehouses. “The big thing that people want to know is the scale of it, which is not massive and overwhelming to the community as a warehouse complex would be. I think it’s definitely a feather in our caps.”

Many other county officials and residents were unaware of the Saudi proposal, but some officials predicted the plan would not encounter the opposition it received from Poolesville. There, the debate severed longtime friendships, ruined political careers and led to charges of bigotry and cultural intolerance.

“I don’t want to prejudge anything,” said Loudoun Supervisor David G. McWatters (R-Broad Run), “but they certainly will not receive the kind of treatment they received in Poolesville. It sounds exciting to me. I look forward to looking at the whole thing.”

The Montgomery controversy was sparked in 1994, when Saudi representatives asked Poolesville officials to annex the property it wanted to build on in an attempt to avoid Montgomery County’s lengthy land-use review process. The town’s commissioners agreed, but residents rejected the plan in a referendum a year later.

The Saudi government held onto the 514-acre tract until it decided in the spring to begin looking elsewhere. The land, which was once a horse farm and a polo ground, became controversial again when neighbors began to complain that the site was being used for too many soccer tournaments, drawing thousands of participants and fans.

Because the Saudi government put the tract up for sale months ago, news of the decision to relocate the academy did not come as a surprise to Poolesville residents.

“It never made sense to a lot of us why they would want to come all the way out here,” said Poolesville Commissioner Roy E. Johnson. “Loudoun County seems like a good choice.”

Saudi representatives played down the controversy in Poolesville and said they were under pressure to find a new site since the current school facility in Fairfax County is getting crowded. About 1,200 students attend the school, but there are nearly 1,000 on the waiting list, school officials said. In addition to a Virginia-certified curriculum, the students are taught Islamic studies and traditions.

“We have outgrown our current location, and we need to provide a new home for the children to pursue their education,” said Anthony Nozzoli, the school’s project manager. “We looked at several sites, and we wanted a site that conforms fully with zoning ordinances so that we wouldn’t upset anyone in the community.”

Under the proposal, the private school would resemble a small college campus, with separate buildings for elementary, middle and high schools that are connected by enclosed walkways. There would be a three-story dormitory for 800 students.

The campus would have tennis courts, a gymnasium and seven soccer, lacrosse and softball fields, one of which would be surrounded by a running track. A mosque would be built at the center of the complex, with residential housing for senior staff and the headmaster nearby.

In addition to an expected enrollment of 3,500 students, the complex would have 275 staff and faculty members. Nozzoli said school construction is anticipated to cost about $50 million and would be complete by 1999, when the lease on the current school location expires. The project is being financed by the Saudi government, he said.

Hoping to avoid controversy faced in Poolesville, Saudi representatives said they will hold town meetings with residents next month.

Anticipating potential concerns, school officials already were arguing that the complex would generate far less traffic than if the land was developed as zoned.

About 90 percent of the students would be transported by the 70 buses owned by the school, school officials said, compared with the 4,000 vehicles that a warehouse development would generate.

“We wanted to definitely comply with county ordinances and have a minimal impact on traffic and noise, and I think we will achieve that with our proposal,” Nozzoli said.

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Opinions Varied On Saudi School; Economic, Cultural Impact Debated
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Susan Saulny; Peter Pae
Date: Nov 13, 1997
Start Page: V.01
Section: 8
Text Word Count: 1000

The Saudi government’s proposal to build a large, private Islamic school near Ashburn Village is drawing both praise and harsh criticism from residents who would live near the 3,500-student campus.

As news of the proposed Islamic Saudi Academy spread through Ashburn Village this week, men at a local eatery toasted the school and what they called “the economic boom it could bring,” while other residents worried about the possible loss of green space, the school’s size and its impact on their property values.

The government of Saudi Arabia has applied to build a complex of nearly 1 million square feet on 101 acres on Route 640 just south of Ashburn Village. If approved by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, the school would be the largest private Islamic academic institution in the country, Saudi representatives said. It would replace the academy they now operate in the Mount Vernon section of Fairfax County.

Some residents decried the Saudis’ choice of the eastern Loudoun property, echoing sentiments raised in Montgomery County, where the Saudi government lost a three-year quest to build the academy just outside Poolesville. There, the proposal prompted bitter debate and led to charges of cultural intolerance.

“It’s out of place. I don’t understand why a Saudi Arabian school would be built here — that type of nationality should probably have its base closer to the city,” said Elaine Poisant, an Ashburn Village resident. “I don’t think I know enough about their culture, and what I do know — the way they treat their women — that’s what they would be teaching? That’s not a part of our culture.”

But such comments were chided by other residents who said sentiments such as that don’t belong in Loudoun.

“They’re going to have a better chance here than in Poolesville. They’re really rural farm people over there,” said Rick LaRue, a postal worker, over dinner at the Ashburn Pub. “Here, we’re all sort of settlers. Nobody’s really from here, born and raised. We’re more urban, and I don’t think there’s a lot of anti-Arab sentiment.”

LaRue’s friend, pub manager Tor Cristofano, added: “Me, I say the more the merrier. Another school means more shops, more jobs. . . . It could face some opposition, but I hope it doesn’t. It’s like throwing money into the economy.”

After failing to win approval in Poolesville, academy officials said they looked in Prince William County before choosing Loudoun, where the school would be close to George Washington University’s Virginia campus and technology firms along routes 28 and 7.

School officials said they were under pressure to find a new site because the Fairfax County facility is getting crowded: About 1,200 students attend the school — many the children of diplomats or Saudi business executives and about half American-born — and nearly 1,000 are on the waiting list. The school is open to anyone, and students pay no tuition. The school replaces local and state curricula with lessons in Arabic and Islamic studies, emphasizing science and technology.

Under preliminary plans submitted to the county, the school would resemble a small college campus, with separate buildings for elementary, middle and high schools connected by enclosed walkways. Over the long term, a dormitory for 800 students is contemplated for those who may want to board during the week.

The $50 million campus, to be financed by the Saudi government, would have tennis courts, a gymnasium, a running track and seven soccer, lacrosse and softball fields. A 5,700-square-foot prayer hall for students would be built at the center of the complex, with housing for senior staff members and the headmaster nearby.

Most of the buildings would be three stories high, rising about 45 feet. The tallest structure would be a minaret next to the domed worship hall; it would rise to about 75 feet, within the county’s 100-foot restriction.

The complex would be set back about 400 to 500 feet from Route 640 in an effort to minimize its visibility to nearby houses, school officials said. Seventy percent of the property would be set aside for open space and greenery.

The facility will have “some elements of Islamic design but not something that will stand out from the community,” said Robert M. Gordon, a Leesburg land use lawyer who is representing the Saudi government on the project proposal. “We want it to blend in . . . as much as possible.”

Academy representatives said the school would generate significantly less traffic than if the land were developed into warehouses, or offices and manufacturing facilities, as zoned.

According to traffic studies completed for the academy, the school would generate 4,153 vehicle trips a day, compared with 12,884 vehicle trips for office or warehouse development.

More than 90 percent of the students are expected to travel in school-owned buses, arriving by 7:45 a.m. and departing at 3:30 p.m., academy officials said. Most of the buses would be going against rush-hour traffic, they noted, since most students live in McLean, Potomac and Alexandria.

“More important than obtaining county approval is being welcomed by our new neighbors,” said Anthony Nozzoli, the school’s project manager. “That’s why we picked the site, so we can continue to be excellent neighbors, as we have been for 14 years in Fairfax.”

Nevertheless, some residents said the size of the proposed plan would disrupt the carefully planned atmosphere of Ashburn Village and surrounding neighborhoods and lead to cultural barriers.

“I’d rather see them . . . living and being educated with everyone,” said Mary Jane Korrigan, a dental hygienist who lives within a few hundred yards of the property. The proposed school “is too segregated . . . and it’s a loss for all the kids.

“And all the talk is that we’re growing too much, too fast. That {the county} would agree to this is baffling me.”

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Warnings and Welcomes: Muslim School Plan Divides Loudoun
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: David Nakamura
Date: Jan 3, 1998
Start Page: A.01
Section: A SECTION
Text Word Count: 1172

William Groves doesn’t want a big, new Muslim school in Loudoun County, fearing the Saudi government project would attract terrorists to the county. Kathryn Kern-Levine is more worried about what people will think of Loudoun when they hear that kind of talk.

“We don’t want to be exposed to the possible terrorism danger of having a Muslim and Saudi target in our back yards,” Groves and his wife, Annette, wrote in a letter to county planners. The couple, who live in Ashburn Village near the proposed school site, attached a list of reasons to oppose the “Saudi Arabian invasion of Ashburn,” including that “bullets fired by terrorists from within the Saudi training center could reach and kill Loudoun children.”

Kern-Levine, who lives in Leesburg, wants to counter what she says could be devastating publicity from the controversy. She is urging area homeowners to display the Muslim star and crescent in their windows as a sign of welcome for the school, which would teach 3,500 children in kindergarten through 12th grade.

“This is an incident that could really hurt a community,” she said. “I want Muslims who move into Loudoun County not to feel scared.”

The proposal to build a $50 million school on 100 acres north of Dulles International Airport has prompted sharply divided reactions in Loudoun. The Islamic Saudi Academy, financed by the Saudi government, would replace a smaller, crowded facility now operating in Mount Vernon.

Saudi officials, who were unsuccessful in an attempt to build the school in Poolesville, hoped to have an easier time when they turned to Loudoun in November. But in mid-December, an unsigned flier appeared on some doors in the Ashburn Village subdivision, warning homeowners that the school would “bring Muslim and Arab terrorists to Loudoun” and that “thousands of Middle Eastern strangers {would be} roaming our streets while we work.” Since then, Loudoun officials say, they have received several complaints about the school plan.

The proposal by the Saudi government comes at a time of enormous growth and increasing diversity in Loudoun, which is adding 3,000 houses and 7,000 residents each year, mostly in eastern Loudoun, where the Islamic school would be built.

If approved by the County Board of Supervisors, the school would be the largest private Islamic academic institution in the country, Saudi representatives said. It would resemble a small college campus, with separate buildings for elementary, middle and high schools that would be connected by enclosed walkways.

The campus would have tennis courts; a gymnasium; soccer, lacrosse and softball fields; and a three-story dormitory for 800 students. A mosque would be built at the center of the complex. In addition to a Virginia-certified curriculum, students would be taught Islamic studies and traditions.

The proposal reflects the growing Muslim community in the Washington area, which has in recent years increasingly turned to private Islamic schools as a solution to the problem of educating Muslim children in a non-Islamic culture. According to the American Muslim Council, about 200,000 Muslims live in the Washington area. Loudoun already is home to the School of Islamic and Social Sciences, a university of about 50 students in Leesburg devoted to graduate-level study of Islam and Muslim culture.

Much of the rhetoric by opponents of the proposed school has been aimed at Saudi Arabians and others from the Middle East, but Islam is a religion followed by people in many countries, not just the Arab world. The Islamic Saudi Academy’s existing facility has Muslim students whose families come from 35 countries.

It is unclear how many Ashburn residents have received the fliers opposing the school or how many people share such views.

Loudoun Supervisor David G. McWatters (R-Broad Run) said he has received three calls from people who wonder “whether a foreign government was establishing a foothold in Loudoun County.”

“I’m disgusted by that,” McWatters said. “Based on the membership of this board, we’ll only be concerned with land-use issues, not with that type of xenophobia. That’s not our job.” The board will hold a public hearing on the issue Jan. 28.

Matthew Claassen, a board member of Ashburn Village’s homeowners association, said the fliers have sparked debate in the community.

“Much of the opinion is that it’s too bad that this anti-Muslim issue has been raised, because not all of the people in the neighborhood are that way,” Claassen said. “And it would be a shame if the Saudi school is turned down because of racial issues.”

William Groves said in an interview that at least 100 Ashburn residents have been trying to disseminate information aimed at barring the school.

With his letter to the planning commission, Groves attached an 11-page document that he said is being circulated by others in Ashburn. It warns that the school could become a target of anti-Saudi terrorism, endangering Loudoun residents. It also urges opposition to the school on grounds that “it will encourage prejudice against women and girls” and “will interfere in the development of American values in Ashburn’s children.”

Said Groves: “I don’t really know who’s behind it all. I just know there’s a lot of people doing it. . . . We have no agenda other than that and no aspirations other than trying to stop this thing.”

Robert M. Gordon, a Leesburg land-use lawyer who is representing the Saudi government on the proposed project, said such fears are unfounded.

“Let’s bear in mind what we’re talking about here: a school for children, not a terrorist training organization,” Gordon said. “The school has a favorable reputation . . . at its existing location.”

Susan Parrott, an Ashburn resident with three children, said talk of terrorists must stop. “We’re not going to get anywhere if we don’t stop the extremism and intolerance,” she said.

Others said the anti-Saudi rhetoric has overshadowed more legitimate concerns about the school, such as the traffic congestion it might create. Robert Muir, president of the Ashburn Village homeowners association, said many residents are concerned that the school would not be taxed, costing the county as much as $90,000 a year. On the flip side, the county would save money if children left the public schools and enrolled in the Islamic school.

The Saudi government’s attempt to build the school in Poolesville was met with heavy resistance in part because of concerns about growth, although the ensuing debate led to charges of bigotry and cultural intolerance.

Kareema Altomare, a Muslim who lives in Leesburg, said the statements on the flier distributed in Ashburn Village are “not only unfounded but also inflammatory and false.”

The school “is there to serve the educational needs, not political needs,” she said. “Northern Virginia has one of the largest concentrations of Muslim citizens in the country. And most of them are American citizens. The need for a school like that is for children to learn about Arabic, and so on.”

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Reading, Writing, Religion; Saudi Academy Sees Its Mission as Education, Not Politics
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Jennifer Lenhart
Date: Jan 11, 1998
Start Page: V.01
Section: 8
Text Word Count: 1292

The halls of the Islamic Saudi Academy on Route 1 in Alexandria are lined with bright green lockers and giggling, fresh-faced students.

Girls wearing the school uniform — plaid skirts, matching sweaters or blouses, dark tights — complain to each other that the full skirts make them look fat. “They grow on you,” Hala Alharithy, 17, reassures a friend.

The traditional veil worn by Muslum women is optional, and most girls opt out. As fashion statements, they favor mod black boots.

In a computer lab — one for girls, one for boys — students busily map out scale models of their classroom. In a science lab, they study the oceans. Bulletin boards, all of them conceived and decorated by students, are everywhere. The one outside the library charges them to “fall into a new book” and displays the covers of “Surviving Homework: Tips for Teens,” “American Indian Children of the Past” and “Fantastic Cutaway Books of Giant Machines.”

The library, with its 12,500 volumes in English and Arabic, is one of the few school facilities that is shared by girls and boys.

These students, huddling over computer terminals to do their homework, are at the heart of a controversy miles away in Loudoun County.

A proposal to move the school to a site near Ashburn Village and expand it to 3,500 students from kindergarten through 12th grade has been greeted warmly by county officials.

But an anti-Muslim flier sent to some homes in the neighborhood warned of a “Saudi Invasion,” and some neighbors raised other objections, including lost revenue from a tax-exempt school and traffic congestion.

Even before the Planning Commission takes up the proposal at its Jan. 21 meeting, the issue has drawn enough attention that President Clinton mentioned it at a fund-raiser Thursday in remarks about his race initiative and efforts to increase tolerance among cultures. Former congressman and Democratic presidential candidate George S. McGovern has written to the chairman of the County Board of Supervisors urging acceptance of diversity.

For students and teachers at the academy, however, the initial issue is space. Books and supplies already are crammed into every available space in its 58 classrooms, and more than 1,700 public school children have applied to join the 1,200 students enrolled here.

Many of the students are the children of diplomats or professionals with roots in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and other countries. Almost all of the students are Muslim, and about 60 percent are U.S. citizens.

The Saudi government, which pays their tuition, first proposed building a bigger school in Poolesville, but its annexation request was turned down. Its Loudoun County proposal calls for a 1 million-square-foot facility on Farmwell Road on property zoned for warehouse and office use.

In the seventh-grade honors classroom at the old colonial-style school in Alexandria, nine boys sit attentively, backpacks at their sneaker-clad feet. It is early afternoon during the month of Ramadan — a time of prayer and daylight fasting observed by Muslims — and school will let out 90 minutes early. But the boys remain intent on their studies — a reader’s theater project.

Teacher Barbara Blair, who lives in Leesburg, said her charges love the performance aspect. When she asks for a volunteer to read, all nine boys raise their hands. In this group, three children are trilingual, and many have lived in several countries other than the United States.

Mostafa AbdelKariem, 12, an American citizen who was born in Tokyo, has lived in Egypt and now lives in Springfield, reads aloud in English for a few minutes from a magical tale with words kids like to use, such as “gross.” Mostafa rolls the word out of his mouth, seeming to enjoy it.

He is also learning Arabic and studying Islam; like English, they are mandatory subjects. Except for Arabic, the curriculum is taught in English.

“Two languages are going to be very useful in the future,” Mostafa observed after class. “It’ll really help for college.”

At 12:40 p.m., a low chanting call to prayer goes out over the loudspeaker. Girls and boys pray twice daily at separate times in the low-ceilinged mosque in an adjacent building.

Sulaiman N. Al-Fraih, the principal of the boys’ school, said many students and their parents choose the academy for cultural enrichment and academic excellence. It offers the standard Virginia curriculum and five advanced placement courses.

“The school mission is to provide these kids with the best quality of education we could ever offer,” says Al-Fraih, 50, who has a master’s in education from Indiana University and a penchant for fiddling with his silver and black prayer beads, called sabaha, which he carries in his pants pocket.

“We believe strongly that interaction between cultures is good for our children. We are not here to convert people to Islam. We are not a missionary here.”

Saad H. Al-Adwani, the academy’s director general, said he hoped to be able to invite the still-unidentified authors of the Ashburn Village flier to see the school for themselves.

“Accusing us, saying we’re going to be terrorists . . . that’s really unexpected and unacceptable,” Al-Adwani said. “We have been here 14 years, and we have an excellent relationship with the community. We are helping the community, not hurting them.”

In this multiethnic section of Alexandria about four miles from Fort Belvoir, positive comments about the school abound.

Enoch Mensah, 50, raked his lawn and pondered the school’s history in the area. “I haven’t heard any derogatory statements about them, and I’ve been here 17 years,” Mensah said. “I think they helped the economy in the neighborhood.”

The principal of the girls’ school, Monerah M. Al-Angary, does not understand the fuss generated by the school’s proposals in Poolesville and Loudoun. “What did we do?,” Al-Angary asked. “You cannot generalize people. We as a group are very peaceful. We have students from 35 nationalities, and we all live in peace. I wish the world could learn a lesson from ISA.”

Al-Angary, who likes to brag about her students’ achievements, takes particular exception to the flier’s charge that Muslim women are subjugated. “My girls just went to the model United Nations at Harvard two weeks ago, and I have girls who have already been admitted to Johns Hopkins” for next fall, she said. “Ninety-nine percent go to colleges in the United States,” and most are guided toward careers.

On this Wednesday afternoon, a girls’ social studies class is taking up Napoleon III and his decision to send the ill-fated Maximilian, archduke of Austria, to Mexico. A copy of the Declaration of Independence hangs on the wall.

“What did Napoleon tell Maximilian?” asked Delores Rader, one of 122 American teachers on a faculty of 166.

“Napoleon told him that he was going to be emperor,” a student said.

“And what happened?”

Another student responded: “He wasn’t made emperor, and he was executed.”

“Good,” said Rader, adding that Maximilian’s wife pleaded with the heads of European nations to try to save her husband from his fate and later went into seclusion.

Some women, Rader said, went into seclusion in convents because they were Catholic.

“You really can’t walk the halls of this school and say it’s different from any other school,” said Becky Hendon, 45, the chairman of the English department and a Fairfax resident. “The kids are teenagers.”

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Saudi School Issue Draws Crowd; Land-Use, Security Concerns Voiced in Meeting With Developer
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Jennifer Lenhart; Peter Pae
Date: Jan 15, 1998
Start Page: V.03
Section: 8
Text Word Count: 877

Several Loudoun County residents, notebooks in hand, came to a community gathering Tuesday night to raise land-use concerns with developers of the Islamic Saudi Academy’s proposed new school in Ashburn.

The school’s plans to build a 1 million-square-foot facility for 3,500 students, they said, are too expansive for a small community and would generate too much noise and traffic without generating any tax revenue.

But their questions about the project were outnumbered by other residents’ strongly worded accusations about the school, among them that security guards at its Fairfax County campus carry automatic weapons and that underground bunkers will be built at the new site.

“It’s no longer a land-use issue, it’s a rumor mill,” Janet Castrovinci, an Ashburn Farm resident, said in an interview during the meeting. “I wonder if there would be this much uproar if it was a Catholic school.”

Representatives of Loudoun Crest Inc., the developer of the project, denied the allegations and struggled to focus the meeting on specifics of the $50 million project.

“Ordinarily, this would be pretty dry and technical, in that we would provide details of our plans,” Robert Gordon told about 80 people at Dominion Trail Elementary School in Ashburn Village. “But there has been a lot of publicity and misinformation being disseminated. This is not a terrorist training academy. It’s an established, well-regarded magnet school.”

Many residents were not satisfied with the denials.

“I think that the issue no one wants to talk about is the security issue,” said Tom Murphy, 32, of the Belmont Forest subdivision. “Unfortunately, this community sees the school as a target. If they’ve got to have security at the school, what are they guarding against?”

Dale Polen Myers (R-At Large), chairman of the Board of Supervisors, pointed out that unarmed security guards are on duty at all of Loudoun’s public schools.

One resident asked a representative of the security firm to explain a weapons permit sought by the school and was told later that the permit had been issued to a guard for a Saudi dignitary who visited the school in 1991.

The Saudi government has proposed moving the school from the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County, where 1,200 students are enrolled, to Route 640 south of Ashburn Village. In addition to classrooms, the new school would have a domed worship center, athletic fields and 66 open acres. Two years ago, the school lost its bid to move to Poolesville in Montgomery County when the town refused to annex its site.

In Loudoun, Gordon said, the school complies with current light-industrial zoning on the property but would need a special exception for the worship center.

Farmwell Hunt resident Scott Biller said he would not take a position on the school until he knew more about noise, buffers and the routes that would be used by its buses.

Several residents raised concerns about the size of the school, saying it may be too large and too close to homes. Saudi representatives have said that it would be the largest private Islamic school in the country.

“It’s too big a project for this community to really swallow,” said Robert Ferrari, 38, a Farmwell Hunt resident. “We’re a small community here, and to put this in would be overwhelming.”

An Ashburn resident said she favored building something that would generate much-needed tax revenue. The 100-acre site now generates $30,000 in annual taxes, county officials said, and the school would be exempt from local real estate taxes.

“I don’t want the school in our community. It’s going to generate a lot of traffic,” said Erma McDonough, 33, who runs a hair salon in Ashburn Village. “Also the money. Our taxes are going up every year. Why not bring in a company that will create a lot of jobs?”

The meeting at Dominion Trail was one of several the developer is holding with neighbors of the site. In recent weeks, the school proposal has become controversial in the wake of a flier left at some homes in Ashburn Village calling the school a “Saudi invasion.” County officials also have received letters and telephone calls that Supervisor David G. McWatters (R-Broad Run) described as xenophobic.

Those attending Tuesday’s meeting included a Leesburg family with two children enrolled at the Fairfax school and an educator who called the school “a godsend.”

Other residents were supportive. “Loudoun has to say it’s ready for diversity, that it’s ready for the coming century,” said Anthony DeLorenzo, 50, of Alexandras Grove.

More informational meetings on the school are planned Jan. 19 at Farmwell Station Middle School; Jan. 21 at a briefing before the county Planning Commission; Jan. 22 at Broad Run High School in a town hall meeting with county officials; and Jan. 28 at a public hearing before the Planning Commission.

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The Proposed Saudi School, In Particulars; Questions — and Answers
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Date: Jan 22, 1998
Start Page: V.03
Section: 8
Text Word Count: 1718

At recent community meetings, these were the questions most asked about the Islamic Saudi Academy’s proposal to build an Ashburn campus for 3,500 students. Answers were provided by Robert M. Gordon, the developer’s Leesburg attorney, academy administrators and Loudoun County planning officials.

Why was Loudoun County chosen?

The academy chose Loudoun for the same reason that many businesses choose Loudoun; namely, Loudoun has large quantities of industrially zoned land with public water and sewer available and road infrastructure in place to support a campus-type facility. Land prices are more reasonable, and large tracts more available, than in other, closer locations.

In addition, there were some special considerations. First, Loudoun is a very progressive jurisdiction and markets itself as a location for international trade and business. Second, the area around Dulles International Airport has been planned and zoned for decades with large projects in mind, so that a large school on 100 acres is not only completely consistent with the existing planning and zoning but actually represents a substantial diminution from what could be built by right.

Finally, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has taken a number of actions in recent years that support parochial schools in the immediate vicinity of the proposed academy, including the approval of the Christian Fellowship Church and school in the Beaumeade Corporate Park and St. Theresa’s Catholic Church and school near Ashburn Farm.

How would the school benefit the county?

The tangible benefits include 1) a world-class, attractively landscaped campus with extensive open space and masonry construction, rather than the metal or poured concrete buildings that could be built on the land by right; 2) substantial road improvements and Little League fields for the use of county residents; and 3) an education for numerous Loudoun County residents who otherwise would attend public schools at public expense.

The intangible benefits include cultural diversity, enhancement of educational facilities and a commitment to foreign language studies and high technology training, all of which would enrich the county culturally and are extremely attractive to employers, particularly international businesses, considering a Loudoun County location.

What structures does the plan include?

The special exception plat shows all improvements that are ever contemplated for this site. They include buildings for an elementary school, a middle school and a high school, with gymnasiums, libraries, cafeterias, an auditorium and a place of worship for students. The place of worship serves only the school and is not a mosque open to the public.

The plans also show a dormitory and some accessory residences so that key faculty members can live on site. There are some supportive structures, such as a bus maintenance facility and a central mechanical building.

All of these buildings would be two or three stories high, not to exceed 45 feet, with two exceptions. The two exceptions are a single dome on one of the central buildings that would not exceed 65 feet and a single minaret near one of the central buildings that would not exceed 85 feet.

When would the dormitory be built? Who would stay there?

The dormitory, which would accommodate 800 students, would be built in a future phase of construction if and when school administrators determine that a need exists that would justify the expense. It would be occupied by middle and high school students, like many boarding schools across the country.

Would the athletic fields be available to the public?

The proposal includes two Little League fields at the western end of the site, to be built at the academy’s expense and dedicated with about eight acres of land to Loudoun County for public use. The remainder of the playing fields on site (baseball, soccer and lacrosse fields, with a track) would be owned by the academy but undoubtedly would be available for Loudoun youth soccer and other league play on a scheduled basis.

What buffers would there be between the school and surrounding property?

The school will be set back 300 to 600 feet from Farmwell Road. The existing trees that buffer the northwestern portion of the site will be retained.

The balance of the site will be extensively landscaped. There will be no fences around the school. It will have an open campus layout.

Has a traffic study been done?

A traffic study has been done by Wells & Associates, a well-known transportation engineering firm, and reviewed and accepted as valid by Loudoun County’s transportation planning staff. It demonstrates that the school will generate about one-third of the average daily traffic that would be generated by “by-right” industrial development. In other words, there is a two-thirds reduction in traffic.

The study also confirms similar reductions in morning and evening “peak hour” traffic.

How many buses would be used? What routes would they travel?

The academy owns and operates about 65 buses, many of which are equivalent in size to a van. The academy buses 98 percent of its students now and would commit to the county that a minimum of 90 percent of its students would arrive and depart by bus. Because the school plans to replace most of the smallest buses with 46-seat and 60-seat buses, an ultimate fleet of 95 buses in contemplated.

We expect that the majority (about 75 percent) would travel the Dulles Greenway to the Route 772 (Ryan Road) interchange, then the realigned Ryan Road to Waxpool Road (Route 625). The school will build a four-lane segment of Waxpool Road connecting it to the site. Some portion (about 25 percent) of the traffic is projected to use Route 7, Route 28, Route 625 and Farmwell Road. About 5 percent would use local roads such as Ashburn Village Boulevard. The bus traffic generated by the school will be the opposite of most rush-hour traffic.

How many security guards would be on duty? Would they be armed?

The academy uses Vance International, a well-known security company, to register visitors and provide security for the existing school. These personnel are not and never have been armed. The academy sees no need to change this long-standing policy. The precise number of security personnel on duty at the site has not been determined, but because there are three road entrances to the property, a minimum of three security personnel would be needed, and there would probably be a total of six on duty during the day, with a lesser number of night watchmen. Never in the 14-year history of the academy has an incident occurred on campus that has required the police to be called.

There is a rumor in the neighborhood that an underground bunker is planned.

The rumor is not true.

How often would the call to prayer go out? Would it be broadcast outside?

At the current campus, students are called to prayer once a day, at midday. There will be no broadcast for prayer outside, and certainly no call for prayer will be audible beyond the school grounds.

Who attends the school, and where do they live? How many students are from Loudoun?

About 55 percent of the students are U.S. citizens. Some 28 nations are represented in the school population. Most students live in Northern Virginia, with concentrations in Falls Church, Vienna, Alexandria, McLean, Annandale, Fairfax, Springfield, Burke and Herndon/Reston. There are 13 students from the District and 86 from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Nine Loudoun students are enrolled. We expect that several hundred of the students will be from Loudoun in a year’s time.

Are all the students Muslim? Must students be Muslim to attend?

Not all students are Muslim. Students need not be Muslim to attend.

What is the curriculum? What percentage is devoted to the teaching of Islam?

The academy seeks to provide students with a balanced and thorough education in English and Arabic, which will enable them to enter U.S., Saudi Arabian or other colleges and universities.

The school day consists of seven periods, with one instructional period of Arabic and one devoted to Islamic studies. The balance of the day is spent learning the English curriculum, which is a modified version of the Fairfax County public school program of studies. It incorporates the new Virginia Standards of Learning. All teachers responsible for the English curriculum are required to hold a Virginia or Maryland teacher’s certificate.

How many people would the school hire, and how many would be hired from Loudoun?

Based on an ultimate enrollment of 3,500, which would take a number of years to achieve, we project hiring at least 300 additional full-time employees, including teachers and administrative personnel. The academy will give first preference to qualified candidates in the immediate vicinity. All part-time and substitute teachers would preferably come from the area.

What uses are allowed on the land? Would the site have to be rezoned?

The land is zoned for planned development-industrial park, which allows by right warehouses, manufacturing and flexible industrial facilities, distribution centers, printing services and commuter parking lots. A school is a permissible special use in this category, and rezoning would not be required.

Would the school be tax-exempt?


How much tax revenue does the site generate now? How much would it generate with other commercial uses?

It now generates about $30,000 in taxes annually. Given the variety of uses allowed on the site, county officials said they could not estimate potential tax revenue.

What approvals does the school need? What happens next?

A private school is considered a special use, and any proposal to build one requires public hearings and review by the Loudoun County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

A public hearing is scheduled Jan. 28 before the Planning Commission. A public hearing before the Board of Supervisors is tentatively scheduled March 4; the supervisors normally would vote on the application two weeks after the public hearing. If they approve it, the developer must then submit a site plan for review by the county’s building and development department. The entire process typically takes three to six months.

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Strong Feelings On Saudi School; Taxes, Religion Dominate Meeting
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Jennifer Lenhart
Date: Jan 25, 1998
Start Page: V.01
Section: 8
Text Word Count: 1184

The question-and-answer period of Thursday night’s town meeting on a proposed Saudi school had just begun when a man in a black suit walked to the microphone at Broad Run High School and spoke the night’s first — but by no means last — fighting words.

He was standing before the largest audience yet — about 300 people — in a series of gatherings on the Islamic Saudi Academy’s proposal to move from the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County to Farmwell Road near Ashburn.

“Islam deals with persecution of people,” Wayde York began. But he was interrupted by Loudoun County Supervisor Lawrence S. Beerman II (R-Dulles), who told him that the session was for questions about the academy’s plans for a 3,500-student facility and that comments could be aired at a public hearing Jan. 28.

As York, an Ashburn Farm resident and member of Christian Fellowship Church, walked back to his seat, people in the crowded auditorium shouted, “Let him finish!” and “We want to hear what he has to say!”

The exchange typified the meeting’s mood. When they were dissatisfied with the official answers — especially about the school’s tax-exempt status — audience members shot back revival-style responses from their seats.

School officials said they would not consider giving up exemption and paying taxes, prompting one man to shout: “Then don’t come! Go back!”

Three uniformed Loudoun County sheriff’s deputies, asked to attend by the Board of Supervisors, stood watchfully at the back of the auditorium, moving forward a little each time the noise level rose.

“My understanding of the Islamic church,” York resumed, “is it’s noninclusive and that people of other faiths are persecuted. . . . Is that part of the curriculum and part of what the children at the school will learn?”

Lawrence Lengel, vice principal of the boys school at the academy, said that the school does not discriminate and that it has one or two Christian students who study Islam with their Muslim classmates, but who are not required to pray.

If a “meaningful number of Christians” enrolled, Lengel said, a general course of religious studies, rather than Islamic studies, might be included for them.

Someone else asked whether private cars bringing students to the Fairfax school are inspected for bombs. “I was just told this last week by a parent who says she doesn’t like to go through the hassle,” a man insisted.

“No, it’s not true,” Lengel said. “Cars that come to the school aren’t searched for bombs, I’m sorry to say. No, I’m glad to say that.”

In an interview Friday, however, school officials said cars arriving at the school’s smaller Alexandria campus for 200 pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade students are inspected for bombs, with mirrors attached to long poles that are slipped underneath entering cars. Lengel said cars at the Loudoun school would not be inspected.

“It’s not done here” at the larger campus for 1,200 students in grades 2 through 12, he said, “and I assume if we go out there, it would not be done there.”

But questioners at the meeting said they were less concerned about specific security measures than about the perceived dangers that made them necessary. School officials noted that pop-up barriers at the three driveway entrances had been removed from their plans, but audience members wanted to know why they had been included in the first place.

The architect, Alan L. Hansen, pointed out that America Online’s facility in Dulles is equipped with such barricades. They were included in the preliminary school design, he said, “to prevent people from coming in at night and doing 360s on the lawn.” He drew grumbles and murmurs of, “He’s dancing around it.”

But the most popular topic among the several dozen questioners was taxes.

“This whole issue comes down to the tax-exempt status,” said Jim Caldwell, of Broadlands, echoing the comments of many others. “I think we need to do better than extrapolations that you’re going to save Loudoun County some money” by educating a small percentage of Loudoun students and building athletic fields that could be used after hours and on weekends by county residents.

The 102-acre parcel brings in about $30,000 in annual taxes, county officials said. Robert M. Gordon, an attorney for the school, acknowledged that commercial development on the site could generate as much as $650,000 annually, depending on what was built.

But to assume that building a private school there means losing revenue, Gordon said, “you would have to assume . . . that someone who would come in and do a development isn’t going to develop because this particular parcel isn’t going to be available.” Brian Cullen, a development consultant working on the project, said Loudoun has a 100-year supply of land like the school’s tract.

Gordon said at least 75 percent of students would arrive by bus, generating one-third of the traffic that would be generated by industrial development on the site.

He also said the school has dropped a proposed 800-student dormitory. The dorm was part of the school’s long-range plan for the campus and one of the plan’s more controversial aspects.

“If we decide there’s a need in the future,” Gordon said, “we’d have to go back and go through the whole public hearing process again.”

The 14-year-old Saudi-funded school has applied for a special exception to build its proposed 1-million-square-foot facility on the site, including a classroom buildings, gymnasiums, some residences for faculty members and a worship center.

County officials said it would be the third special exception granted in the Ashburn area in the last five years for religious institutions.

Like York, who raised the question of religious studies, many members of the audience were members of Christian Fellowship Church, near the academy site. Three years ago, the church received a special exception to build a 1,000-seat church in Beaumeade corporate park. Its pastor, James Ahlemann, said he intended to speak against the Saudi school in his sermon at all four services today.

The sermon that he will deliver to members of his 1,500-family congregation will say, in part: “I cannot support any application for a country to build a school and religious center in the United States of America when that country is killing Christians in their country.

“There is great persecution and killing of Christians by Islamic extremists in our world today, and I must speak out against it.”

Thursday’s meeting lasted two hours, but audience members lingered for an hour or more afterward, discussing the school and debating their neighbors. A public hearing before the county Planning Commission is scheduled Jan. 28. A hearing before the Board of Supervisors is tentatively scheduled March 4.

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Saudi School: For Every View, There’s a Petition
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Jennifer Lenhart; Maria Glod
Date: Jan 29, 1998
Start Page: V.02
Section: 8
Text Word Count: 811

The Saudi government’s proposal to build a school in Ashburn for 3,500 students has produced a flurry of petitions.

Neighbors of the site of the proposed school on Farmwell Road collected signatures against the project last week outside a town meeting at Broad Run High School and said they would continue the effort at supermarkets during the weekend. People leaving the auditorium were invited to register their opposition “based on land-use issues only” — not on cultural or religious grounds.

Meanwhile, Mainstream Loudoun, the NAACP, Unitarian-Universalists of Loudoun and Sterling and others are circulating a “petition supporting reason and tolerance.” Local Quakers have joined the effort, along with members of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee, the area’s Baha’i community and the League of Women Voters.

S. Ann Robinson, a community activist, said “embarrassment” over the uproar against the school was her impetus to coordinate the drive of those groups.

Like the other petition, this one urges the County Board of Supervisors to base its decision on the school on land-use issues only. It goes on to tell the board, “We stand with you in your decision to disregard prejudice.”

Rather than adding their signatures to a list of many, signers send individual forms, by e-mail or regular mail, to the county government building, where the planning staff said no one has counted the signatures on any petitions.

Youngsters Push for Skate Park

Speaking of petitions, young Jim Gassler and Drew Blahuta, of Ashburn Village, seem to have caught on early to the way the county’s political world operates. The 12-year-olds have started a petition drive of their own, and they make their appeal wearing gleaming in-line skates and helmets.

The boys, seventh-graders at Farmwell Station Middle School, are asking people to support a skating and skateboard park for youngsters right in Ashburn Village — because the nearest park is “like, a half-hour drive away,” Jim said.

The boys started seeking the help of sympathetic adults earlier this month. They let it be known that without a park, they will keep causing traffic headaches in local supermarket parking lots.

“It’s going good,” said Jim, all business as he assessed the community’s support. “We have around 250 to 300 signatures now, and soon we’re going to go to one of the meetings of the homeowners board and propose the idea to them.”

Community manager Larry T. Butler said he’s not certain there is a future for a skate park in Ashburn, which is a private community run by a homeowners association. Skate parks, he said, often are built and operated by counties because the parks tend to attract users from a larger region.

But Jim has his supporters to think about. “I know a lot of people that like to skate at my school, and they’re always, like, I wish I had a place to skate.”

Purcellville’s Police Concerns

Purcellville police officials are preparing for the more than 10,000 visitors expected at this summer’s Greater Loudoun Babe Ruth World Series.

In more mundane matters, they’re also planning a crackdown on residents who don’t have current town decals on their cars. And they are considering complaints that some officers spend too much of their patrol time at convenience stores or the local fire station.

That’s how the conversation went at a meeting Tuesday with members of the Town Council’s Public Safety Committee and its police officers. Purcellville, with a population of about 2,600, covers about 2 square miles and has six full-time officers and one part-time officer.

“We just wanted to come in and brainstorm,” council member Paul Arbogast said. “We want them to understand us, and we want to understand them.”

Traffic concerns, including speeders and residents whose cars aren’t properly registered, took up much of the discussion and led to a decision to conduct regular traffic safety checkpoints.

Noting that many enforcement techniques require at least two officers — in a town that often has only one on duty — police said they hope to step up use of a digital board (no manpower required) designed to deter lead-footed drivers by displaying the speed of each passing car.

Out-of-Town Water Rates to Rise

The Leesburg Town Council on Tuesday approved a gradual rate increase that eventually will raise water and sewer fees by 42 percent for service outside the city limits.

For out-of-town premises that use water and sewer lines, the initial new rate for use of the sewer system is $3.69 per 1,000 gallons. For those that use only the sewer system, the new rate is $68 every three months.

Water rates, based on quarterly meter readings to the nearest 1,000 gallons, remain $2.67 inside town but rise to $3.07 outside town.

The rates for out-of-town use will increase by an additional 14 percent on July 1, 1998, and another 14 percent on July 1, 2000.

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Emotions Run High At Academy Hearing; Foes, Supporters Pack Commission Session
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Jennifer Lenhart; Justin Blum
Date: Feb 1, 1998
Start Page: V.01
Section: 8
Text Word Count: 1025

Opponents of a proposal to build the Saudi Islamic Academy near Ashburn warned against welcoming a school run by a repressive Arab regime.

Supporters, emerging in large numbers for the first time since the school was proposed last fall, warned that rejecting it would give the county a reputation for bigotry.

Wednesday’s public hearing before the Loudoun County Planning Commission was an emotional, four-hour event. And most of the concerns raised on both sides had little to do with the commissioners’ job: deciding whether the school meets land-use regulations.

“Let’s debate the land-use issues before us,” Commissioner C. Terry Titus urged the other members at the end of the night. But the speakers had other things on their minds.

Leesburg resident Virginia Welch appeared in a long black veil — “soon becoming the only clothing allowed by the Islamic police,” she said — and distributed copies of a State Department report citing human rights violations and repression of Christianity in Saudi Arabia, including the alleged confiscation of Bibles.

The crowd applauded Patricia Roush, of San Francisco, who said her two daughters were kidnapped by her Saudi ex-husband. “No approval for the Saudi academy unless my daughters are freed!” she shouted. “This . . . is not an isolated personal family matter. . . . There are thousands of American-born children of American mothers that remain hostage in that desert.”

Petition drives and other efforts against the proposed 3,500-student school have gathered steam steadily in Ashburn and surrounding neighborhoods after a series of information sessions about the school. The hearing Wednesday marked the first time that backers of the school went on the offensive.

“Some of the rhetoric directed against the school betrays an unfortunate prejudice against Islam and an ethnic bias that assumes, wrongly, that all Arabs are terrorists,” said James Stafford, speaking for the Unitarian-Universalists of Sterling. “I urge all of you to consider not the loudest, most hysterical and fanatical voices, but the voices of reason.”

Kathryn Kern-Levin, of Leesburg, who has joined a petition drive “supporting reason and tolerance,” told the commissioners: “I have to ask myself, `In what kind of community am I raising my son?’ ”

But harsh rhetoric was not limited to the opponents.

“I speak in support of the Saudi school,” said Anton Chaitkin, of Leesburg, who identified himself as a “political associate” of Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. “This county is under siege from the new Klu Klux Klan, who use a masquerade of Christianity to cover their treachery, just like the old Klan. Their lies and intimidation, if successful, would make this county a source of shame and dishonor for the United States throughout the world.”

The school requires county approval because its 100-acre site on Farmwell Road is zoned for an industrial park. County zoning rules allow schools in industrially zoned areas if they are granted special exceptions by the Board of Supervisors.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to meet again Wednesday to decide on its recommendation to the board, which has scheduled a public hearing on the issue Feb. 17.

At the Ashburn forums last month, residents had a chance to question school officials about the project, and many questioners registered their concerns about the school’s tax-exempt status, security at the campus, traffic and the teachings of Islam, which are in addition to the standard Virginia curriculum.

Wednesday’s public hearing was the first official chance for residents to make their views known. The crowd filled all 200 seats in the board chambers and at one point stood two deep along the walls. In the lobby, about two dozen people who couldn’t find a place to sit or stand watched the hearing on closed-circuit television. Others recorded their comments on tapes provided by the commission and left.

School supporters, mostly quiet until the hearing, suggested that opponents were masking the real reasons for their objections — a fear of cultural and religious diversity.

Chip Cotton, of Ashburn Village, said opponents’ safety concerns are real. “We all know they’re checking for bombs {under cars at the school’s preschool campus in Alexandria}, and that’s sad,” he said. “The school poses a serious and very dangerous safety threat for the residents surrounding it.”

In response to critics who said the school would enroll few Loudoun children, Robert M. Gordon, the attorney for the school, said that within several years of the school’s opening, 200 slots would be set aside for local residents.

Khalid Almufti, of Cascades, said he had already filled out an application for his 5-month-old son, Walid. Almufti said there was no other place for him to learn Arabic.

“I want to ask you to give my son this opportunity,” Almufti told commissioners. “It will make you so proud.”

Gordon told the crowd he was “really gratified by the outpouring of the people of Loudoun County speaking on behalf of the school.”

The day of the meeting, however, residents of Ashburn and other areas of the county received a postcard in the mail from the Rev. James Ahlemann, of Christian Fellowship Church. The mailing invited them to come to one of three services today to hear his sermons on “Why I must oppose the construction of the Saudi Islamic Academy in Loudoun County.”

The postcard said the school is a “sanctity of life issue.” Many opponents at the hearing said it should not be allowed because of the way Saudis treat women, Christians and Jews.

At least one new argument against the school emerged at the hearing.

Maureen Rind, of Ashburn Farm, said that the school shouldn’t be built until county officials investigate what she said appeared to be two-foot high “Indian mounds.” She handed out computer-generated diagrams showing eight ovals on the site, one for each mound. Spectators applauded when she was done.

But the origin of the mounds was later unmasked.

“They’re earthen mounds that I actually constructed in the early ’90s for greens for a driving range,” Steven J. DeLong, vice president of Chantilly-based Cavalier Land Development Corp., said Thursday. “Because of the recession, we didn’t move forward with the driving range.”

But the argument “was pretty humorous,” DeLong said. “I had a big chuckle.”

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In Ashburn, It’s Church Vs. School; Pastor Rallies Flock Against Saudi Plan
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Jennifer Lenhart
Date: Feb 5, 1998
Start Page: V.03 Section: 8
Text Word Count: 1060

Against the backdrop of an American flag, the pastor of Christian Fellowship Church in Ashburn staged an “I Love America!” rally Sunday, urging his congregation to speak out against the proposed Saudi school near Ashburn.

The Rev. James Ahlemann, who founded his nondenominational church in Fairfax in 1971, began his sermon at the 11:15 a.m. service by telling hundreds of worshipers not to be silenced by the “sin of fear.”
Don’t be “sucked under by this sin,” he said, calling on church members to oppose the relocation of the Islamic Saudi Academy from the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County to a 102-acre site on Farmwell Road.

“So many people say, `I won’t speak up, I won’t take a stand because I don’t know what others will say,’ ” Ahlemann told about 600 people at the last of three services Sunday morning. The program included a list of recommended actions, including writing to the County Board of Supervisors.

Ahlemann said he mailed 57,000 postcards to Loudoun County residents the week before the rally, previewing his sermon. But he estimated that attendance was fairly typical — about 2,500 to 3,000 people, including children in Sunday school. The cards, featuring his picture, were mailed free because the church is a nonprofit religious organization.

The day after Ahlemann’s sermons, the senior pastor of another church revealed his intentions to offer a counter-sermon this Sunday. In a letter to county Supervisor David G. McWatters (R-Broad Run), Arlie Whitlow, of Community Church in Sterling, said: “Discussion and debates are good for us . . . but we can cross a line, and I fear we are possibly at that point. Some of my fellow Christians even worry me.”

Whitlow invited McWatters to hear his sermon on “Islam, Jefferson and Jesus,” at the 8 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. service this Sunday, adding that “it will be a message on reconciliation and tolerance, and I will deal with the Saudi application” for approval of the Ashburn site.

Ahlemann also invited Loudoun religious leaders to a forum at his church Tuesday night. None attended, but a handful of Saudi school supporters showed up to take issue with Ahlemann.

“You have pinpointed very clearly that Saudi Arabia is your enemy,” said S. Ann Robinson, who is coordinating a petition drive in support of the school. “What does the Bible say about enemies? It says to love your enemy.”

Christian Fellowship members who have spoken against the Saudi school at recent meetings have cited Saudi Arabia’s lack of religious freedom. Ahlemann said in a recent interview that he also opposes the Saudi government-funded school, for 3,500 students in kindergarten through grade 12, on “sanctity of life” grounds.

He expounded on that theme Sunday, telling the crowd that if they oppose abortion because it is a “sanctity of life” issue, then they should oppose the Saudi school for the same reason.

“Saudi Arabia . . . is a nation that has a background of killing and imprisoning those who do not share the faith of Islam,” he told the congregation Sunday. “They are proposing a school. It would be the largest {Saudi school} in our country. It is being built by a government. I am against their right to do this when they are killing Christians.”

The Saudi school wants to move to Loudoun because it has outgrown its Mount Vernon facility. School officials have asked for a special exception to build on an industrially zoned site. Ahlemann said he moved his congregation to Loudoun three years ago because it had outgrown its space in Fairfax. He received a special exception to build on the commercially zoned site.

At mid-morning Sunday, the church’s 22-acre property was bustling. Children arrived for Sunday school in Christian Fellowship’s red-and-white buses, Loudoun County sheriff’s deputies directed traffic that had backed up on Waxpool Road and opponents of the Saudi school stood at the church doors collecting signatures for petitions against the school. They found sympathizers, but many of them weren’t residents of Loudoun, so they couldn’t sign petitions.

Christian Fellowship’s 150,000-square-foot complex is still a work in progress. Until its sanctuary is completed, services are held in a cold warehouse with concrete slab floors, exposed steel buttresses, 2,000 fold-up seats — hundreds of them rentals.

Several dozen robed choir members stood on a makeshift stage bedecked with American flags and bunting and sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and “God Bless America” as audience members stood and joined in. A soloist sang “God Will Make a Way,” which the pastor said was for those going through “rough times.”

Afterward, the Virginia chairman of Concerned Women for America — a group that claims 600,000 members opposed to “the radical feminist agenda” — introduced Ahlemann and presented him with an appreciation award for his work. Ahlemann, who received a standing ovation, said later that the presentation was made at all three services.

After ushers passed yellow buckets down the aisles to collect money for the rental chairs and the church’s mission in the District, Ahlemann gave his sermon.

He described overhearing someone say that the pastor had “verbally attacked” the Saudis. “I didn’t,” Ahlemann told church members. “I just stood up for the sanctity of life. I’m opposed to the religious persecution that’s taking place in the world.”

Ahlemann praised the diversity of his 1,500-family congregation. “I love all colors and shades of people. I have the privilege of ministering to people of diverse backgrounds,” he said.

“You perhaps have Muslim friends and neighbors, and there are perhaps members of your family who follow the teachings of Islam,” he said later. “These are wonderful people. I am not speaking against them.”

Ahlemann told the congregation to bear in mind that the school would be “a mile from our front door” and “five times larger” than the Christian Fellowship facility.

Churchgoers interviewed after the service generally praised the sermon. “I think churches need to take a stand,” said Carin Bednar, 24, of Herndon.

“I absolutely have no problem with his sermon,” said Kristin Layton, 17, of Sterling, who said she is schooled at home. “It’s inappropriate to build the school, simply because it’s being built by the Saudi government.”

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School Foes Undeterred By Setback; Group Plans Fight Beyond Board Vote
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Justin Blum
Date: Feb 15, 1998
Start Page: V.01
Section: 8
Text Word Count: 650

After the Loudoun Planning Commission’s unanimous recommendation last week of a Saudi school near Ashburn, the largest residents group opposing the school said it has shifted strategies and is looking for ways to derail the project if it is approved by the Board of Supervisors.
Members of Concerned About Loudoun’s Future (CALF) said they have little hope of persuading the Board of Supervisors to reject the $50 million school on Farmwell Road.

“We believe the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors will approve the Saudi Academy no matter what the citizens want,” said Sandra Elam, 37, of Leesburg, a spokeswoman for the group, which says it has about 100 members. “We know the Board of Supervisors — we know what they’re going to do.”

A public hearing before the board is scheduled Tuesday. Supervisors have not disclosed their positions on the 3,500-student Saudi Islamic Academy or said when they will vote on it. However, several have said they will decide based solely on land use, as state and local regulations require.

Opponents have raised few land-use questions. Instead, they have argued that the property should not be used for a tax-exempt enterprise. They have argued that the school is a security threat because it could attract terrorists. And they have argued that the Saudi government, which is financing the project, should not be allowed to build in Loudoun because of the regime’s human rights record.

For the opposition, Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting underscored the difficulty their line of argument faces. Commissioners said that they shared many of the residents’ concerns but that they had little choice but to recommend the school, which would include kindergarten through 12th grade.

Commissioner Bernard J. Way said that despite his concerns about human rights abuses by the Saudi government, the issue could not be considered in approving the project.

“While I empathize with the human rights issues,” Way said, “I find it’s impossible for me to vote against this application.” From a land-use perspective, he added, “I’ve never seen a more clean application.”
As it becomes increasingly clear that the political issues important to many opponents are playing little role in the decisionmaking process at the county level, CALF members said they are looking beyond the board vote.

Meanwhile, CALF filed court papers Monday to force a voter referendum, although the county attorney has said there is no provision in state law for any advisory referendum or a binding referendum on a development issue. CALF says it also is consulting lawyers about potential challenges in court.

Yet there is disagreement in the group about how to proceed. Glynn James, 51, of Farmwell Hunt, said some group members have concluded that the school’s application for a special land-use permit isn’t the kind of issue normally placed on the ballot.

“I frankly think that the referendum is not going to work because I don’t think this is a referendable item,” James said.

The school is an approved use under the site’s industrial zoning, but it requires a special exception from the board. Supervisors have said they would consider many of the same issues on which the commissioners based their favorable recommendation — whether the school conforms with land-use plans and how it would affect traffic.

The supervisors could vote as early as Tuesday night, after the public hearing. The vote could come at the next day’s board meeting or be delayed until a future meeting.

“I have tried to ignore this rhetoric and focus on the key land-use issues,” said Supervisor James G. Burton (I-Mercer). But, he added, “I haven’t seen a show-stopper from a land-use standpoint.”
Staff writer Jennifer Lenhart contributed to this report.

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Strong Debate At Hearing on Islamic School; Hundreds Show Up At Loudoun Meeting
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Justin Blum; Jennifer Lenhart
Date: Feb 18, 1998
Start Page: B.04
Section: METRO
Text Word Count: 516

The proposed Islamic Saudi Academy in Loudoun County sparked impassioned debate last night as hundreds of residents packed a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors to express support for or concern about the 3,500-student school.

A number of speakers denounced the school, which would be financed by the government of Saudi Arabia, saying the regime’s human rights record should preclude it from building in the county. They also said the school could attract terrorists and pose a public safety threat.

Asserting that “the Saudis execute their own people who convert from Islam,” Virginia Welch, 42, of Leesburg, told the board, “We are deeply offended at the injustice of the request. . . . On behalf of common sense, I urge you to do the right thing.”

Supporters of the kindergarten- through 12th-grade school said its construction would add to the county’s diversity and expressed concern about the message that would be sent if the school is rejected.

“I live in Bigotsville, formerly Ashburn,” said Ray Chamberlain, 62. “This issue has drawn a great deal of rhetoric, much of which embarrasses me as an American.”

Last night’s hearing, which lasted six hours and attracted 100 speakers, was the only public forum before the Board of Supervisors. The board decided at the meeting to take a final vote on the $50 million project on March 4. The board’s approval is necessary because the school is not automatically allowed under current zoning.

The school would be built on 100 acres north of Dulles International Airport. The campus-style facility in Loudoun would replace a 1,200-student school in Mount Vernon, which the Saudi government says it has outgrown.

Loudoun County staff and the Planning Commission have recommended approval of the facility. Several members of the board have said they would only consider land use issues when deciding whether to allow the school — even though residents have focused on unrelated issues.

So last night in Leesburg, some of the opponents took aim at building and zoning regulations. Tony Queern, 51, of Ashburn, displayed photographs of permit signs and said they were not posted properly.
“We believe the notice signs were posted too late,” he said.

George Jatras, 66, of Sterling, urged the board to consider possible terrorist attacks. “I am not concerned about a threat from the school but a threat to the school and community,” Jatras said. “I am concerned there may be factors that provide danger to the local community.”

Among the school supporters who spoke to the board was a former hostage in Lebanon, Joseph Cicippio, 67, of Alexandria. “I was able to forgive,” he said. “I hope everyone else in this room can also forgive. . . . Hate and bitterness should not play any part of this.”

Miles Davis, 38, of Ashburn, said he was embarrassed by the way the community had reacted to the school.

“I moved out here because I expected a certain amount of respect and tolerance,” Davis said. “I am ashamed to see my community on national television and get calls from my parents saying, `What is going on down there?’ ”

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Board Sets March 4 for Vote on Saudi School
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Jennifer Lenhart; Justin Blum
Date: Feb 19, 1998
Start Page: V.02 Section: 8
Text Word Count: 838

At the end of a six-hour public hearing Tuesday night, the Board of Supervisors scheduled a March 4 vote on the proposed Islamic Saudi Academy near Ashburn.

Supervisors could have voted on the $50 million project after the hearing or during yesterday’s board meeting, but some said they wanted to heed the public’s call not to rush the decision.

“I didn’t want anybody out there to think I was ramming this down anyone’s throat,” said Supervisor Lawrence S. Beerman II (R-Dulles) whose district includes the school’s 100-acre site on Farmwell Road. But Beerman added that he was “ready to vote. . . . I’m going to be proud as can be when I drive past that school.”

As the hearing drew to a close about 1 a.m., several supervisors lamented the “ugly” tone of much of the public discussion.

“To me, it’s one of the nastiest issues that I’ve had to deal with,” said Joan G. Rokus (R-Leesburg). “I don’t particularly like that because of the threats to business in this community.”

Supervisor Scott K. York (R-Sterling) said the issue had been debated “more than any issue I’ve seen since I`ve lived in Loudoun County. . . . I’ve seen some ugliness in this community, and that concerns me.”

York said he looked forward to seeing the Saudi school produce graduates who would contribute to the county’s economy and “fill jobs that are being created by the American Onlines and the UUNets.”
“I can tell you, this {school} application meets the intent and the goals of Loudoun County,” York said.

Board Chairman Dale Polen Myers (R-At Large) expressed anger at “personal attacks” by opponents who found they “couldn’t win on land-use issues.”

“How dare you?,” Myers said. “My soul’s not for sale.”

Task Force to Study Impact Fees

The Board of Supervisors yesterday agreed to create a task force to study impact fees that would be charged to developers as a way to finance school construction.

The decision came after the failure of a measure proposed in the General Assembly by Sen. William C. Mims (R-Loudoun) that would have allowed the county to collect as much as $3,000 a house from builders of new developments.

The task force, which will include developers’ representatives and community residents, will help the board draft a proposed ordinance in time for next year’s legislative session, if possible. The legislature must approve an impact fee bill before an ordinance can be adopted.

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Loudoun Supervisors Approve Islamic Saudi Academy; Board members call for healing after divisive public debate
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Date: Mar 5, 1998
Start Page: V.09
Section: 8
Text Word Count: 510


1994-1995: The government of Saudi Arabia asks the Town of Poolesville to annex a 514-acre site in Montgomery County so it can build a new Islamic Saudi Academy. Town officials agree, but residents reject annexation in a referendum.

November 1997: The academy applies for a special exception to build a $50 million campus for 3,500 students on 100 acres zoned for industrial use on Farmwell Road, near Ashburn Village, in Loudoun County.

December 1997: A flier warning of a “Saudi invasion” is left on some doorsteps in Ashburn Village. Although it is not distributed widely, the flier generates heated debate about the school.

January 1998: The developer, Loudoun Crest Inc., and school officials hold community meetings for neighbors of the site. Opponents attend in large numbers, voicing concerns about loss of tax revenue, security and Islam’s intolerance of Christianity.

January-February 1998: The Loudoun County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors hold public hearings on the proposed school. Supporters emerge in large numbers for the first time, saying they fear that “ugly” public debate will mar Loudoun’s reputation and cost the county new business development.

Feb. 11, 1998: The Planning Commission unanimously approves the proposal.

March 4, 1998: The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors votes 7-2 to approve the school’s application, saying it meets all land-use requirements. Opponents say they will pursue several efforts to overturn the decision and will try to recall the three eastern supervisors who voted yes.

Next: Architects and engineers will spend nine months to a year completing detailed plans, which then will be submitted to the county for review. School officials hope to begin construction early in 1999 and open the school to students in the fall of 2000.

How the Supervisors Voted

Dale Polen Myers
Chairman (R)
Voted Yes
“I … hope that the healing starts because, let me tell you, it has been a really nasty process.”

Eleanore C. Towe
(D-Blue Ridge)
Voted Yes
She chose to make no public remarks on her decision.

David G. McWatters
(R-Broad Run)
Voted Yes
“This is not a county of bigots, racists or anti-Muslim fanatics.”

Helen A. Marcum
Voted No
Restrictive school “is neither cohesive nor compatible with the community.”

Lawrence S. Beerman II
Voted Yes
Saudis “have done everything they can to be a good neighbor and I will welcome them.”

Joan G. Rokus
Voted Yes
“… the most publicity and turmoil in our historic county that I can remember.”

Jim Burton
Voted Yes
“Foreign policy is not the business of this board. This is a land-use issue.”

Scott K. York
Voted Yes
“Other churches are going to need to locate in these {commercial} areas because they are growing.”

Steve Whitener
(R-Sugarland Run)
Voted No
School “violates the First Amendment {which} prohibits government-funded religion.”

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Saudi School Foes Vow Recall Effort; Three Supervisors Are Likely Targets
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Justin Blum
Date: Mar 8, 1998
Start Page: V.01
Section: 8
Text Word Count: 797

Opponents of the Islamic Saudi Academy said they plan to circulate petitions to recall one or more of the Loudoun County supervisors who voted to allow construction of the $50 million school near Ashburn.

Sandra Elam, the spokeswoman for Concerned About Loudoun’s Future (CALF), said Thursday that the recall effort likely would target Supervisor Lawrence S. Beerman II (R-Dulles), whose district includes the school site, and the supervisors from two nearby districts — Scott K. York (R-Sterling) and David G. McWatters (R-Broad Run).

“The idea is to remove those politicians who do not serve their constituents,” Elam said. “They are not our rulers, they are our servants.

“They aren’t representing their constituents, and they ignored the zoning ordinance.”

The supervisors on CALF’s tentative list dismissed the recall effort, saying the group would not succeed in removing them from office. They said that they supported the school because it complies with land-use rules and that opponents’ concerns about terrorism and human rights could not be considered land-use issues.

“It’s the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard of,” McWatters said of a recall effort. “It’s a knee-jerk reaction to someone who disagrees with a vote. It’s not going anywhere.”

Board Chairman Dale Polen Myers (R-At Large) likened a recall effort in the Saudi school case to “mob rule.” “People are trying to recall board members simply because they didn’t like how they voted,” she said. “There is no malfeasance of office.”

The Board of Supervisors voted 7 to 2 on Wednesday to approve the school for 3,500 students in kindergarten through 12th grade on Farmwell Road. Supervisors Helen A. Marcum (R-Catoctin) and Steven D. Whitener (R-Sugarland Run) voted against the project, with Myers, Joan G. Rokus (R-Leesburg), Eleanor C. Towe (D-Blue Ridge) and James G. Burton (I-Mercer) joining the three eastern supervisors in voting yes.

The first step in the recall process is gathering enough signatures from registered voters in each of the targeted districts to equal 10 percent of the ballots cast in that district’s last supervisor election. In the Dulles district, 296 signatures would be required; in Sterling, 221 signatures; and in Broad Run, 376 signatures.

A Circuit Court judge then would consider whether there are sufficient grounds to remove a supervisor from office. Under Virginia law, a supervisor may be removed “for neglect of duty, misuse of office or incompetence in the performance of duties” that has “a material adverse effect upon the conduct of office.”

CALF planned to meet over the weekend to hash out an opposition strategy — which group members said probably also would include a legal challenge. Group leaders also said they planned to make a final decision about which supervisors to target.

“There has been some discussion aimed at a single supervisor; some discussion said all three need to go,” said Tony Queern, a founding member of CALF. “Some discussion says all of them {who voted for the school} need to go.”

At Wednesday’s vote, supervisors said debate over the school, which would be financed by the government of Saudi Arabia, had been the most heated in county politics. Hundreds of residents on both sides of the issue testified at public hearings, sent letters, made phone calls and signed petitions.

Besides raising concern that the school would attract terrorists, opponents said the Saudi government should not be allowed to build in the United States because it has a poor human rights record.

Supporters called school foes bigots and said allowing the school was a matter of religious freedom.

Marcum said she voted against the school because it is incompatible with the community. Whitener said the First Amendment prohibits governments from funding a religious school in the United States.

Members of CALF said they agreed with Whitener’s analysis and would consider a legal challenge based on that issue.

Robert M. O’Neil, a professor of law at the University of Virginia, said the First Amendment should not prevent the Saudi government from building a school. “It seems to me the application of the First Amendment is to government in this country — national, state or local,” he said. “Merely approving such a project does not necessarily involve any support by government in this country for a religious institution.”

Successful recall efforts are rare in Virginia, election officials said. In response to a citizen petition last year, a Circuit Court judge ruled that Whitener had not misused his office or neglected his duties after allegations that he had threatened fellow board members.

York said school opponents were incorrect in their assertion that supervisors were not representing their constituents. “I guess the lunacy continues,” York said. “I think they just have a problem with the people that are going to be using the site, and that’s a pretty sad commentary.”

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Zoning Panel Rejects Bid to Block Saudi School
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Justin Blum
Date: May 31, 1998
Start Page: V.03
Text Word Count: 776

A Loudoun zoning appeals panel has upheld county officials’ decision to allow construction of a controversial 3,500-student Muslim school near Ashburn.

In a 5 to 0 vote Thursday night, the Board of Zoning Appeals rejected an argument by two nearby residents who asserted that the Islamic Saudi Academy was a public school and therefore not allowed by land-use rules governing the school site.

After nearly three hours of testimony from the two property owners, other residents and school representatives, the panel concluded that the academy was a private school — upholding the county zoning administrator’s finding.

“I don’t think there’s any question that this is a private school,” said board member Nam M. Joseph Forbes. “I find myself persuaded for many reasons.”

The appellants had argued that the academy should be considered public because it is funded and run by the government of Saudi Arabia. They cited county zoning rules defining a private school as one that does not receive funding from “any government agency.”

The zoning administrator, Melinda M. Artman, said public schools are those run by the Loudoun County School Board. She said the statute’s reference to government means domestic, not foreign, governments.
The property’s industrial zoning allows the Board of Supervisors to approve private schools on the site, which they did in March in a 7 to 2 vote. Public schools, however, cannot be approved on industrially zoned property.

Glynn James and Jay H. Berman, the two property owners who appealed, said they were displeased with the zoning panel’s ruling. James and Berman can appeal Thursday’s decision in Loudoun County Circuit Court, but they said after the vote that they had not decided whether to do so.

“We, of course, are disappointed they did not rule in our favor,” said James, who has served as a leader of a group called Concerned About Loudoun’s Future (CALF), which opposed the school.

The academy was a divisive issue in Loudoun, pitting neighbors against each other and prompting the distribution of fliers warning of terrorists and “Middle Eastern strangers” who would be “roaming our streets while we work.”

Some residents of nearby Ashburn complained that the school would be too big and was an inappropriate use of land, while some supporters said it would be a welcome addition and described the opponents as racist.

The zoning appeal was the best hope of CALF, which has tried to scuttle the project from the outset. After supervisors voted to approve the school, the group announced plans to collect signatures for a recall effort aimed at several board members — an effort that CALF representatives said Thursday had not gone forward.

School supporters said they were thrilled that opponents’ argument against the school was decisively shot down. Anthony Nozzoli, the project manager for the school, said the zoning panel’s decision reaffirmed that Loudoun is not bigoted.

“The Board of Zoning Appeals’ action is another indication that Loudoun is a county of tolerance and dignity,” Nozzoli said. He said the zoning appeal was meritless because the definition of “government” in the zoning rules clearly did not apply to Saudi Arabia. “It’s clear, just looking at the definition of `government,’ Saudi Arabia is not the government, it’s a foreign state.”

Although one speaker at the public hearing referred to safety threats and another criticized xenophobia, Thursday’s discussion mostly focused on whether the school was public or private.

Nellie Mosher, of Ashburn, cited a list of reasons that the school should be considered public: its size, ownership, funding and the fact that its trustees include Saudi officials responsible for education issues.
“It is clear that the Saudi Academy is an extension of the Saudi government,” Mosher said.

Brian Cullen, of Ashburn, who helped the academy select a location for the new school, disputed that analysis, saying that public schools are obligated to educate the public — which the Saudi school does not.

He said the issue was raised by people who wanted to kill the school for other reasons.

“This was a last-ditch effort by people who did not want to see this school built,” Cullen said.

In his appeal, James took issue with a finding by the county’s zoning administrator, who told the appeals board before its vote that the school was classified as private. James said that because the zoning regulations did not specify which government’s schools would be considered public, the rule should apply to all governments.

“Nowhere have I found a definition of private,” James said. “Nowhere have I found a reference limiting the word government to the government of the United States. And nowhere is there a distinction between tax-supported and non-tax-supported.”

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FBI Terror Probes Focus on U.S. Muslims; Expanded Investigations, New Tactics Stir Allegations of Persecution
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: John Mintz; Michael Grunwald
Date: Oct 31, 1998
Start Page: A.01
Section: A SECTION
Text Word Count: 2979
CORRECTIONS: An Oct. 31 article incorrectly reported that federal agents have described Florida Computer Science Professor Sami Al-Arian as an operative for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an alleged terrorist group. An immigration and naturalization service affidavit said a think tank headed by Al-Arian was a “front” that arranged for alleged terrorists to travel to this country on speaking engagements. He denies that. (Published 11/05/98)

In the tidy working-class suburb of Bridgeview, Ill., Mohammad Salah instructed children in the Koran. He prepared the dead for burial at his local mosque. And he observed the solemn Muslim obligation of zakat, giving generously to charity with the conviction that all things belong to God.

But the FBI says Salah’s idea of zakat included nearly $1 million in donations to the Palestinian extremist group Hamas, some of it for Uzis, rifles and other weapons. In their first use of a new law targeting the assets of terrorism supporters, prosecutors have seized Salah’s bank accounts and are trying to take his house — all without a criminal trial.

The Justice Department’s case against Salah is one of the few public signs of a dramatically expanded set of investigations of Muslim Americans suspected of aiding overseas terrorists. Emboldened by tough new anti-terrorism laws and huge increases in anti-terrorism funding, the FBI is scrutinizing at least 20 U.S. groups with suspected links to terrorists, including some tied to Osama bin Laden, the alleged ringleader in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

In the case of Bin Laden, authorities have focused on Wadih el Hage, a Texas man charged in connection with the embassy bombings, as the main cog in a network that allegedly also included a former sergeant in the U.S. Army, Ali A. Mohamed, who was arrested last month in New York. Officials also are scrutinizing the activities of a now-defunct Muslim group in Brooklyn, the Alkifah Refugee Center, some of whose members were convicted of bombing the World Trade Center in 1993.

Grand juries in New York, Chicago and Tampa are investigating other Islamic groups, and the FBI has sharply stepped up its applications for secret wiretaps designed to combat terrorism on U.S. soil. Officials say the heightened vigilance is needed to monitor an expanding number of threats — from a Detroit man who allegedly tried to smuggle high-tech surveillance gear to Middle East terrorists to an American network of Iranian students who allegedly spy for Tehran.

But civil libertarians and Muslim activists say the agency is using its increasing resources to persecute Muslims who support unpopular causes. The expansion of the FBI’s authority has raised constitutional questions among legal scholars, some of whom argue that the measures rob suspects of due process and other rights.

“The FBI is basically saying: `Trust us. We’re hunting down bad guys,’ ” said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who represents groups challenging provisions in a 1996 law barring “material support” to alleged terrorists. “But they’re going way overboard.”

The investigations are drawing on broad powers granted by Congress to fight terrorism after the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings. The new laws give the FBI greater leeway to pursue possible associates of terrorists even when they are not suspected of specific offenses. The statutes also make it a crime to send money to foreign groups the State Department classifies as terrorist, and bolster the government’s ability to use classified information to detain suspected terrorism supporters in immigration cases.

Meanwhile, Congress has boosted the FBI’s counterterrorism budget from $118 million to $286 million since 1995, and the number of FBI employees assigned to anti-terrorism matters has more than doubled, to 2,650. Under FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, counterterrorism, once considered a career dead-end, has become a marquee assignment.

Some U.S. groups are under investigation for financing their overseas allies who provide humanitarian services in addition to their violent activities. Salah, for example, who once served time in an Israeli prison for terrorism, contends that his donations supported hospitals, schools and day-care centers for poverty-stricken Palestinians, and that the FBI is essentially criminalizing private charity. Cole said the provisions would have barred Americans from helping the anti-apartheid African National Congress in the 1980s.

Equally controversial is prosecutors’ increasing use of secret evidence in the deportation of suspected terrorism supporters. Twenty-four suspects are being detained on terrorism-related charges in immigration court, which, unlike other courts, can hold suspects indefinitely and try them using evidence that neither the defendants nor their attorneys can examine.

Lawyers for those under investigation also point to the FBI’s rush for “national security” wiretaps, which agents obtain by citing classified evidence and which require a lower standard of evidence than regular criminal wiretaps. The taps are granted by a special Justice Department court and are intended under the law to respond to imminent threats, not to collect evidence for criminal cases. Attorney General Janet Reno signs off on every wiretap, but officials acknowledge that the distinctions blur in this court, which has rejected only one wiretap request in 20 years.

Officials say not all the FBI’s current cases target Muslims. A Chicago grand jury is examining groups linked to the Puerto Rican independence movement, and a few immigrants sympathetic to Basque and Irish extremist groups have been held on secret evidence.

Still, officials acknowledge that their main focus is on Muslim individuals and groups.

“We have a problem with Islamic terrorism,” said a senior Justice official. “If we had a problem with Latvian terrorism, we’d focus on Latvians.”

Officials argue that because bin Laden and other Muslim radicals have declared war on America, they cannot ignore their supporters here. Some experts believe Middle Eastern terrorists are increasingly dependent on their U.S. allies. Hamas, for example, raises about one-third of its $30 million annual budget in this country and Europe, University of Illinois terrorism experts say.

“The vast majority of Muslims are honorable, decent people,” said Steve Pomerantz, a former FBI counterterrorism chief. “But U.S. interests are in danger from Middle East terrorism. You have to be able to say that without fear of being called a bigot.”

Investigators claim some important victories to justify their aggressive approach.

The first person charged using the “material support” provisions of the anti-terrorist law was Fawzi “Frank” Mustapha Assi, a Ford Motor Co. engineer who lives in Dearborn, Mich., with his wife and three children. As the result of what his attorney believes was a tip, the FBI, with authorization from the Justice Department’s wiretap court, started in February watching him 24 hours a day, tapping his phones and sifting through his garbage.

On July 13, Assi was stopped at the Detroit airport on his way to Lebanon. In his luggage agents found $124,000 worth of electronics: two global-positioning satellite units, seven pairs of night-vision goggles and an infrared imaging camera. The FBI says Assi said that he was delivering the gear to contacts in Hezbollah, or Party of God, an Iranian-backed group in Lebanon that attacks Israeli forces and is on the State Department’s terrorism list. The FBI said Assi also tried to discard, in trash bins around Dearborn, documents about Israeli cabinet members and the locations of their offices.

Assi, charged with export law violations and giving material support to terrorists, insisted he was an apolitical family man with no ties to Hezbollah. A judge released him on bail with an electronic bracelet. A few days later he fled, reportedly to Lebanon. “It’s peculiar,” said Assi’s attorney, David Steingold. “I really thought the FBI was off-base. Now I don’t know what to think.”

Other FBI investigations have not resulted in charges, but even so authorities are penalizing some suspects. Salah’s case is the most prominent of this kind, and a symbol for Muslim activists angered by such tactics. Some Muslim activists accuse prosecutors of using the new laws to destroy Salah’s livelihood without charging him with a crime.

Salah, a U.S. citizen, has denied any links to violence. But American officials describe him as a “high-level operative” for Hamas who financed armed attacks on Israelis. He served five years in an Israeli prison for alleged terrorist activities before returning last November to Chicago, where he had first moved from the Middle East in 1970 and where, according to Israeli officials, he taught Palestinian students how to make car bombs.

The FBI says Salah also made several trips to the West Bank and Gaza to help a top Hamas leader named Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, a longtime Fairfax County resident who was deported to Jordan in 1996. In hundreds of pages of public documents, the FBI has outlined a complex series of covert real estate deals it says were designed to launder $820,000 from a Saudi company to Hamas. Eventually, most of the money ended up in Salah’s bank account after transfers from accounts controlled by Marzook in McLean.

While Salah has not been charged with a crime here, FBI agents tail him everywhere and question people he meets. In June, prosecutors filed an unprecedented “forfeiture complaint” seizing his bank accounts and taking steps to remove him, his wife, Azita, and their four young children from their house. They seized another $1 million from the Quranic Literacy Institute, an Islamic group that had a hand in the real estate deals.

Now the institute is all but shut down, and the Salah family is living on donated food. Salah is no longer allowed to have financial dealings — including with his lawyer and his doctor — unless they obtain special Treasury Department licenses. “This situation is undemocratic and bizarre,” said his attorney, Matthew Piers. “If they’ve got something on my client, charge him criminally.”

Salah admits only that some of his funds may have flowed to the “political” wing of Hamas, a main provider of social services in the West Bank and Gaza. But U.S. officials say Hamas’s “political” leaders also oversee the clandestine “military” wing that has killed scores of Israelis in bombings and executed hundreds of Palestinian “collaborators.” U.S. officials also say donations to Hamas charities free funds for the military cells, which promise lifetime assistance to the families of suicide bombers. The charities also indoctrinate and recruit Palestinians to Hamas’s radical cause, the officials say.

“Hamas uses the contributions to build support for itself both in social services and `military’ operations,” said Richard Ward, a University of Illinois terrorism expert. “I’m surprised at how successful it’s been moving into the U.S.”

Previous FBI probes of domestic groups suspected of improper activities have been disastrous, some officials acknowledge. In the 1960s there was COINTELPRO, an FBI effort to target civil rights groups with dirty-tricks campaigns. In the 1980s, there was CISPES, a broad investigation of liberals suspected of ties to Latin American communists that resulted in no criminal charges.

“If you know the history, you’ve got to be nervous,” said a top Justice official. “We’ll be fine on the high-profile cases, when everyone’s paying attention. But the idea of some FBI agent going off on his own — that’s when you break out in the cold sweat.”

Attorneys for several Muslim Americans say their clients are victims of overzealous investigators.

Ismail Selim Elbarasse, 51, an accountant from Falls Church, is in prison in New York for refusing to appear before a grand jury investigating money-laundering. Agents are reviewing the funds handled by Elbarasse, including bank accounts he shared with Marzook. Before he was jailed, Elbarasse worked as comptroller of the Islamic Saudi Academy, a Saudi-financed school under construction in Loudoun County.

Elbarasse’s lawyer, Stanley Cohen, said his client is “a freedom fighter without a gun,” and accused the FBI of running a “witch hunt” to discourage Muslims from sending money to areas under Palestinian control.

Abdelhaleem Ashqar, a fund-raiser for Palestinian causes who lives in Fairfax County, was also held in prison for several months for boycotting the same New York grand jury. He was freed after he went on a hunger strike and his Falls Church mosque and other local Muslims organized a letter-writing campaign for his release.

Civil libertarians say FBI probes of some Muslim groups show the bureau equates anti-American rhetoric with terrorism. But officials insist they have evidence that the groups encourage subversion or terrorist groups abroad.

Anjoman Islamie, a student group, “is comprised almost exclusively of fanatical, anti-American, Iranian Shiite Muslims,” Dale Watson, the FBI’s counterterrorism chief, said in Senate testimony earlier this year. Watson said Tehran “relies heavily” on the students for low-level intelligence, and could use them to mount operations against U.S. interests.

The Islamic Association of Palestine, a Dallas-based group that distributes Hamas literature, has seen many members questioned by the FBI. “IAP is a Hamas front,” said former FBI counterterrorism chief Oliver “Buck” Revell. “It’s controlled by Hamas, it brings Hamas leaders to the U.S., it does propaganda for Hamas.”

IAP President Amer al-Shawa said his group shares many ideals with Hamas, and acknowledged that speakers at IAP events at times take extreme anti-Jewish and anti-American stands. But he said they’re not invited back and he denied the group is a Hamas front.

The Holy Land Foundation, based in Richardson, Tex., is the nation’s largest Islamic charity, sending $2 million a year to Palestinian causes. Israeli officials say it is a Hamas front because it provides money to the families of Hamas activists killed or in prison. John Bryant, its attorney, denies ties to Hamas, saying the group dispatches money according to need, not Hamas affiliation.

Advocates for the nation’s 6 million Muslims say the investigations feed off an anti-Islamic bias they see throughout America — in political cartoons of Arabs, in employers who suspend Islamic women for wearing head scarves, and in airlines that focus mostly on Arab Americans in their search for potential bombers.

“We’re the weak link in the civil liberties chain,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. “Things happen to us that couldn’t happen to other groups.”

He points to cases such as that of eight supporters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who for a decade have faced deportation. Judges have criticized the FBI’s actions, and FBI documents reveal an effort to ascribe illicit motives to political activities protected by the First Amendment.

After one PFLP fund-raiser in 1986, an agent reported that his colleagues — who did not speak Arabic — had discerned from posters of Palestinians with AK-47 rifles and the “general mood” that the group “was not attempting to raise money for a humanitarian cause. The music . . . sounded militaristic.”

The heaviest criticism is reserved for the FBI’s use of secret evidence in deportation cases. Immigrants held on secret evidence can usually get out of jail by leaving the country, but some seek political asylum here, contending they could face death if they went home.

One example is the case of six Iraqis held in Los Angeles, which a Justice official described as “a total botch.” It began with FBI agents interviewing Iraqi dissidents at a refugee camp in Guam, where they fielded vague accusations that six of them were agents for Saddam Hussein. Officials admit that much of the evidence is sketchy and that some of it was improperly withheld from the suspects. In court some FBI agents made derogatory comments about Arabs. “There is no guilt in the Arab world,” one testified. “Only shame.”

Senior Justice Department officials have acknowledged potential problems in the aggressive pursuit of domestic groups. Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has said secret evidence must be used “sparingly,” and has pledged to review every such case personally. In a recent gathering with activists, Justice civil rights chief Bill Lann Lee said the department is “hemmed in” by Congress’s tough anti-terrorism laws.

FBI officials, resentful of the implied criticism, say they are already taking a cautious approach. “With COINTELPRO and CISPES, we’ve had our wings singed big-time,” one official said. “We’ve got an almost Pavlovian fear of these domestic cases. You better believe we’re extra careful.” However, the same official also warned that some seemingly innocuous Muslims lead “Jekyll and Hyde” existences.

Perhaps the most prominent secret evidence case involves Mazen al-Najjar, a University of South Florida professor jailed in Tampa since May 1997. Federal agents describe him and his brother-in-law, fellow USF professor Sami al-Arian, as “mid-level operatives” for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group. The two men worked at a Muslim think tank whose former administrator, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, is now the leader of Islamic Jihad. Court papers say another former officer, Basheer Nafi, was a top Jihad operative.

The professors say they are victims of guilt by association. They have not been charged with any crimes, and they deny supporting violence. The evidence against them remains classified, and al-Najjar has become a hero to Palestinian activists.

Still, an immigration judge who examined the secret evidence approved the detention of al-Najjar, and an appeals board agreed that his release “would pose a threat to both the national security of this country . . . and the safety of other persons.” An FBI agent testified that he found a letter from al-Arian soliciting funds for Islamic Jihad, “appeal{ing} for support for the Jihad so that people will not lose faith in Islam.”

Their incarceration might seem outrageous now, FBI officials say, but it would not if all the facts were public.

“Some of these people are not who they seem,” one senior FBI official said. “We know that whenever we do something, people are going to call us jackbooted thugs. But if we do nothing, people are going to yell at us when something blows up.”

FBI SURVEILLANCE (This graphic was not available)

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Opening of Va. Muslim Academy Delayed; 2003 Is Target Date For Loudoun School
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Justin Blum
Date: Feb 19, 1999
Start Page: B.02
Section: METRO
Text Word Count: 687

The first day of classes has been delayed by at least three years for a Muslim school in Loudoun County that sparked intense protest by some residents who feared it would become a target for terrorists and would not mesh with nearby residential communities.

The scheduled opening of the 3,500-student Islamic Saudi Academy near Ashburn has been pushed back from the fall of 2000 until at least the fall of 2003, according to representatives of the Saudi Arabian government, which is financing the school.

Saudi officials have decided to stagger construction of the school over several years as a way to reduce annual costs; the Saudi government is undergoing financial problems because of depressed oil prices and has been forced to scale back government budgets. In addition, officials said the school’s designers are reworking outdated plans to incorporate new technology into the building’s design.

“We are aware of the budgetary constraints in Saudi Arabia,” said Adel Al-Jubeir, a spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington. “We know that the ministries and the departments are under instructions to minimize costs. One way to reduce costs is to stretch construction.”

The school, whose cost is estimated to be $80 million, will replace an existing campus in Fairfax County that Saudi officials said has become too crowded. The school offers a standard curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as courses in Islamic studies and Arabic language. It has students from 28 countries, and 1,000 potential students are on the waiting list.

Anthony Nozzoli, the project manager for the school, said he was a bit too optimistic last year when he predicted the school would open in 2000. He now expects to begin construction in about a year and a half and expects work to continue at least two years.

The fierce public opposition to the Saudi Academy has died down since the project was approved by the Loudoun Board of Supervisors nearly a year ago. Some residents complained it would bring too much traffic for the neighborhood, while others warned that the school would either become a magnet or target for terrorists, a contention that other residents attacked as xenophobic. An unsigned flier warned last year that the academy would “bring Muslim and Arab terrorists to Loudoun” and that “thousands of Middle Eastern strangers {would be} roaming our streets while we work.”

The news of the construction delay pleased some of those who had urged the county board to reject the school’s land-use application.
“I’m still as opposed to that school as I ever was,” said George Jatras, who lives nearby. “I’m pleased it’s going to be delayed. Of course, I would be happy if it weren’t built at all.”

Glynn James, of Ashburn, another opponent of the school, said he was disappointed construction had not begun. He said he wanted residents to see that it was too big for the neighborhood before county supervisors face election in November.

“I would like to see all the supervisors that voted for it voted out of office,” James said. “So I was hoping it would take shape before the next board election so the voters could see what it really looks like and vote them out of office.”

The school is currently in a leased building owned by Fairfax County, and school officials are negotiating a new lease that likely will be for four years, said Bob Morgan, a leasing agent for the county.

School administrators have been fielding calls from anxious parents of students on the waiting list and those who live near the Loudoun campus asking when the new school would be open.

“We certainly look forward to the day {the Loudoun campus opens} because we’re very crowded here,” said Michael Kauffman, the school’s business manager. “The idea is to expand the academy, which we can’t do now. We’d like more acreage to spread out on.”

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Where Two Worlds Collide; Muslim Schools Face Tension of Islamic, U.S. Views
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Valerie Strauss and Emily Wax
Date: Feb 25, 2002
Start Page: A.01
Section: A SECTION
Text Word Count: 2091

Eleventh-graders at the elite Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia study energy and matter in physics, write out differential equations in precalculus and read stories about slavery and the Puritans in English.

Then they file into their Islamic studies class, where the textbooks tell them the Day of Judgment can’t come until Jesus Christ returns to Earth, breaks the cross and converts everyone to Islam, and until Muslims start attacking Jews.

At the Al-Qalam All-Girls School in Springfield, seventh-graders learn about the American Revolution and about respecting other people’s beliefs. But students in class also talk about the taunts they face outside the school gates — being called “terrorist” and “bomber” — and ask whether Osama bin Laden is simply the victim of such prejudice. Maps of the Middle East hang on classroom walls, but Israel is missing.

Such tensions within the walls of Muslim day schools are in many ways emblematic of the U.S. Muslim community’s political concerns, fears, biases and hopes, all brought into sharp focus since the events of Sept. 11.

Today, these schools — and Muslims in this country — are at a crucial juncture, as some work to stay true to their religion while they try to adapt to the U.S. experience, a process that Catholics and Jews went through before them. At stake, educators acknowledge, is how the next generation of Muslims coming of age in the United States will participate in the country they live in.

The fall attacks could serve as the catalyst in determining whether these schools and their students focus on the culture and politics of faraway Muslim lands or find within Islamic tradition those ideals consistent with U.S. democracy and religious liberty.

“This is going to get us out of the cocoon, out of our little comfort zone that is more of an isolation from the community at large,” said Shabbir Mansuri, founding director of the California- based Council on Islamic Education. “And it is going to put us into a position where we are going to have to put our own feet to the fire.”

The growth of the Muslim population in the United States in the past two decades has prompted a proliferation of day schools, with about a dozen located between Richmond and Baltimore. Nationally, there are estimated to be 200 to 600 of these schools, with at least 30,000 students. Thousands of others attend Islamic weekend schools.
Most Muslim children in the United States attend public schools, but there is a growing desire for more day schools. Some schools face the same prejudices that Catholics and their schools did beginning in the 1800s, when their loyalty to the pope was seen as inherently anti- American.

“We put Catholics through that, Jews through that, Mormons through that and many other groups,” Mansuri said. “It is the Muslims’ turn . . . and if Muslims are not living up to the ideas of Islam, then we certainly should take them to task.”

To that end, some Muslim educators are writing a new curriculum that infuses tenets of the religion in every lesson while providing a broad-minded worldview. Textbooks, often from overseas and rife with anti-American rhetoric, are being replaced in some schools. Some parents are forming PTAs and seeking a curriculum that teaches the civic virtues of tolerance and pluralism.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if some teachers are sometimes anti- American or anti-Semitic,” said Abdulwahab Alkebsi, whose 12-year- old daughter attends the Islamic Saudi Academy. “But I don’t want it to be that way.

“I choose the school because of the same reason why all American parents choose private schools — it’s a better environment and no peer pressure of drugs and being a sex symbol at too young an age.

But there are other American values — like freedom of speech and assembly — that we should be teaching our kids to respect.”
Ali Alkhafaji, 9, a fourth-grader, poses a question for his classmates at the Washington Islamic Academy, echoing a lesson from their teacher:
“Is it better to be a fashion star or to listen to Allah?”

The youngsters agreed it was better to listen to God, though wide- eyed India Abdullah, 8, said: “It’s hard to be a good Muslim. But if we do the right deeds and stuff, the devil is locked up and the door of heaven is unlocked.”

Yet the pictures of Britney Spears and the Islamic holy city of Mecca adorning the lockers and notebooks of two Muslim schools in Springfield attest to the challenge of providing an Islamic education amid the beckoning popular culture.

In fact, many such schools are not considered by Muslims to be truly “Islamic” because there is not yet a curriculum that teaches all subjects through an Islamic prism — nor is there an Americanized curriculum for Islamic studies, said Hamed El-Ghazali, head of the Muslim American Society’s Council on Islamic Schools.

Instead, they use public school curriculum and add classes in Islamic studies, Arabic language and the study of the Koran.

The schools “do have a lot of growing to do,” said Sharifa Al- Khateeb, president of the Muslim Education Council and the North American Council for Muslim Women. “They are still working out the exact curriculum. They are still working out how much readiness they would like to see in the children for taking mainstream exams. They are still going through the throes of rewriting materials that would be more appropriate for kids here in the U.S.”

With the exception of one network of schools for African American Muslims, most Muslim schools develop their own approach.

At the coeducational New Horizon School in Los Angeles, Principal Shahida Alikhan said the school is “on the progressive side,” with teachers stressing tolerance and students feeling connected to the outside world.

In Springfield, Islamic studies teacher Majida Zeiter described a different role for the Washington Islamic Academy, serving kindergarten through fourth-grade students.

“We want it to be a place where they don’t have to assimilate, where they can practice their religion. It’s like any other religious school,” Zeiter said. “We teach them the history and good values and what it takes to be a good Muslim.”

Still, Zeiter said she takes pains to present balanced lessons to students, piecing together a curriculum from books published both in the United States and overseas.

When she feels she must use material in a popular Pakistani textbook, she said, she makes photocopies of pages she needs and never uses those calling Christian beliefs “nonsense” or portraying Jews as treacherous people who financially “oppress” others. Yahiya Emerick, the author of “What Islam Is All About,” said he will soon release a new edition for U.S. audiences that eliminates the tendentious parts.
Political views, though, pervade the school.

Third-graders at the academy spent one recent morning learning how volcanoes work and where the Great Smoky Mountains and Yosemite National Park are.

Yet on world maps that hang every day in the classrooms, Israel is missing. Upstairs in Al-Qalam girls school, the word is blackened out with marker, with “Palestine” written in its place.

Officials at the two schools defended the maps, pointing out that some of the students are refugees from Palestine and want their heritage represented.

The schools, they said, have no anti-Israeli policy, or any policy teaching students to be disrespectful of others, saying Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. If teachers are slipping opinions into lessons, they say, it is because they lack proper qualifications. The average salary at Muslim schools across the country is about $16,000.
In a history class at Al-Qalam, Jill Fawzy teaches events from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War. But even before Sept. 11, a major topic of conversation had been what Muslims consider the U.S. government’s unfair treatment of Muslims abroad, particularly in the West Bank and Iraq. Given their distrust of U.S. policy, some students question the government’s claim that bin Laden is responsible for the terrorist attacks — disputing that videotapes actually show him taking credit.

Fawzy, a 19-year-old who will graduate from George Mason University in 2003, said she isn’t so sure and wonders whether the United States just needed someone to blame and picked a Muslim.

“A lot of the students can’t make up their minds if he is a good guy or a bad guy,” Fawzy said. “There are some Muslims who think he did it and others who don’t. The thing is, we don’t have any real proof either way. I think a lot of people feel this way.”

With two lavish campuses in suburban Virginia, dozens of highly qualified teachers and accreditation from two respected organizations, the Islamic Saudi Academy stands out among Muslim schools in the Washington area.

The academy educates the children of Arabic-speaking diplomats along with other children of differing heritages — about 1,300 students altogether. But the financial support from the Saudi government brings with it a curriculum that reflects the particularly rigid strain of Islam practiced there, Muslim educators say.

“One of the things the community has been concerned about for years is the Saudi influence and Saudi money,” said Amir Hussain, a California professor who has researched Muslim communities in North America. “You have people who come in and say, ‘Hey, I’ll build you a school.’ Then people begin to realize, if that school gets built with Saudi money, do we want that kind of curriculum?’ ”

The Islamic Saudi Academy does not require that U.S. history or government be taught, offering Arabic social studies as an alternative. Officials there said that only Saudis who intend to return home do not take U.S. history, though a handful of U.S.-born students who plan to stay in this country said they opted against it, too.

School officials would not allow reporters to attend classes. But a number of students described the classroom instruction and provided copies of textbooks.

Ali Al-Ahmed, whose Virginia-based Saudi Institute promotes religious tolerance in Saudi Arabia, has reviewed numerous textbooks used at the academy and said many passages promote hatred of non- Muslims and Shiite Muslims.

The 11th-grade textbook, for example, says one sign of the Day of Judgment will be that Muslims will fight and kill Jews, who will hide behind trees that say: “Oh Muslim, Oh servant of God, here is a Jew hiding behind me. Come here and kill him.”

Several students of different ages, all of whom asked not to be identified, said that in Islamic studies, they are taught that it is better to shun and even to dislike Christians, Jews and Shiite Muslims.

Some teachers “focus more on hatred,” said one teenager, who recited by memory the signs of the coming of the Day of Judgment. “They teach students that whatever is kuffar [non-Muslim], it is okay for you” to hurt or steal from that person.

Other teachers present more tolerant views, students said. Usama Amer, a veteran math teacher, is popular not only for his math skills but also for regularly allowing students free debate about topics within Islam.

“We do not teach hatred,” Amer said.

None of the academy’s officials would publicly address the students’ statements. One, who spoke anonymously, said he had no knowledge of intolerant passages being assigned or intolerant views being taught. He said textbooks with such passages would be replaced soon.

Mont Bush, of the Secondary and Middle School Commission of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, one of the academy’s accrediting agencies, said that the organization does not delve into curriculum extensively but that it would be “concerned” about such material being taught.

The schools are legally allowed to teach whatever they want — as long as they meet state requirements — but have a responsibility to be accurate, scholars say.

“As a matter of educational policy, no, it’s not a good idea to cross a nation off the map or to in any way misrepresent history,” said Charles Haynes, of the First Amendment Center in Arlington. “It is a civic responsibility of all schools, religious and secular, to do the best job of educating students to a variety of perspectives.”

That should be particularly true for Muslim schools, where many of the students are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with U.S. institutions, said Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College and author of “America and Political Islam: Clash of Cultures or Clash of Interests?”

“One would hope that Muslim day schools serve as a bridge that enable young men and women to make the journey into the safe harbor of open society,” he said.

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Islamic Academies Adopt a U.S. Institution; With Formation of PTAs, Parents From Diverse Backgrounds Gain a Voice
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Emily Wax and Valerie Strauss
Date: Feb 25, 2002
Start Page: A.10
Section: A SECTION
Text Word Count: 715

They represent just about every corner of the Muslim world. So when the parents crowded into the Washington Islamic Academy, the aromas from the steaming pots of chicken, lentils and rice wafted through the air along with the sounds of Arabic, English, Urdu and Farsi — all coming from different tables.

Rahaf Nazer, a woman of Palestinian descent, sat with a section of Arab parents. Asmaa Adballah, holding her daughter’s hand, joined another part of the table that was filled with African American converts. There were tables with parents from Afghanistan, parents from Pakistan, parents from Malaysia and parents from Ghana.

Those who gathered for a meeting of the newly formed Parent Teacher Association at the Muslim school in Springfield have different opinions and needs, but they have come together to talk about their children’s educations.

As Muslim schools grow in the United States, they will face pressures and interest about what they teach not only from the outside world, but also from parents, who are gaining an increasing voice within the schools. The Islamic Saudi Academy is also starting a PTA this year.

“The idea is that we bring everyone together from the different Muslim countries who have different approaches, and we find common understanding in the fact that we are all here in America,” said Saleh M. Nusairat, principal of the Washington Islamic Academy, who is an immigrant from Jordan. “Our role here is to get the best from each culture and do this within the American culture at the same time.”
With such differing interests, some parents say that could be tough. Arab parents, for instance, may have different expectations for what their children learn about the Palestinian conflict from those born in Pakistan or in Falls Church.

“My daughter knows very much about what’s going on in Palestine, and she wants to learn more,” said Fayzah Nubari, whose daughter Wisaam is in the fourth grade. “But we know the school has a lot of people and things to teach about.”

Adballah, whose daughter is in the third grade, said: “We care that she gets Islamic studies and learns Arabic and the Koran. We are converts, so we care more about learning the basics of the religion and less about the political stuff.”

The fledgling PTAs also reflect the borrowing of ideas from U.S. public schools, since Muslim schools have traditionally had little or no parental involvement. And parents said the organizations could, in the end, benefit the school, because the PTAs will end up gathering all points of view.

Muslim educators said that no other group in Muslim America is as diverse as the PTAs and that it reminds them of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that brings together followers from around the globe.

“The idea in Islam is that Muslims do not bring big attention to where they come from, and what is important is being Muslim,” Nusairat said. “Our parents believe this, and the idea is that we teach about any Muslim country or issue in a global fashion.”

The PTA was started recently by Nusairat, who, like many school principals at public and private schools across the nation, wanted to get the parents more involved in their children’s education.

At the Saudi Academy, the PTA has sparked so much interest that 40 parents have signed up for eight leadership slots, making elections necessary, said Abdulwahab Alkebsi, an active parent who has a 12- year-old daughter at the school.

Although less diverse than the Washington Islamic Academy, the PTA of the Saudi-financed school will have at least a half a dozen nations represented, Alkebsi said.

“There is huge diversity, and this is the first time that there is recognition that parents at ISA will be involved,” Alkebsi said. “It’s this new experiment, and we can’t wait to see what happens. It’s a very Americanized idea to do this PTA in the first place.”

Alkebsi said he hopes the PTA will be able to influence what the school teaches about what Muslims believe are the very good parts of American values.

“I think the parents can have a real impact as these schools grow more a part of America,” Alkebsi said. “I think these PTAs will spark real change, debate and growth. And that is the goal for our future.”

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Israel Blocked Entry Of Two N.Va. Men; FBI Says Note Implied Suicide Mission
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Brooke A. Masters
Date: Mar 27, 2002
Start Page: A.07
Section: A SECTION
Text Word Count: 778

Two Fairfax County men were denied entry into Israel after authorities found a letter written in Arabic inside their carry-on bags that the FBI says was a farewell note in preparation for a suicide terrorist mission, according to a criminal complaint unsealed yesterday.

The men, Mohammed Osman Idris and Mohammed El-Yacoubi, U.S. citizens born and raised in Northern Virginia, turned up for their Dec. 13 flight from New York to Tel Aviv and drew suspicion, the FBI says in an affidavit. The young Muslim men had paid cash for their tickets and were carrying $2,000. They had no checked baggage, no hotel reservations and no stated itinerary. Their passports were only three days old. The letter, written by El-Yacoubi’s brother, is about “Jihad” and “traveling to Allah.”

Idris, an Annandale resident, was charged with lying to a grand jury about why he and El-Yacoubi, of Fairfax Station, had gotten the new passports. El-Yacoubi has not been charged with a crime, and both men deny criminal intentions.

The case puzzles government investigators, officials familiar with it said. Three months of intense investigation have turned up no hard ties to terrorists and little evidence beyond the letter and Idris’s alleged lie, sources said. In addition, Idris, El-Yacoubi and his younger brother were born in this country and have strong ties to the Washington area. All three graduated from the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria.

“What do you do in a case like this?” one government official said. “How can you not act?”

The U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria declined to comment. But prosecutors did not appeal a decision to release Idris on bond after his arrest. El-Yacoubi and his brother, Abdalmuhssin, a student at the University of Virginia, were jailed initially as material witnesses and later released.

Reached at home, Idris, 24, said: “I can’t talk to you. . . . It’s really not that big a deal.” His attorney, Tom Walsh, did not return two phone calls seeking comment.

Mohammed El-Yacoubi, 23, said in an interview that he spent six weeks and one day in jail and $42,000 in lawyer fees over what he called a misunderstanding.

“Ninety-eight percent of the information they had was false and inaccurate,” said El-Yacoubi, who graduated from George Mason University in August 2000. “Everything they relied on was found to be not true. My lawyer cleared everything up.”

His attorney, Jefferson Gray, said his client “had no criminal purpose in making his trip to Israel and is not associated with any radical or terrorist group.”

Patrick Anderson, Abdalmuhssin El-Yacoubi’s lawyer, said his client “committed no crime, but he was locked in jail for two weeks because of the overreaching and overzealousness of a frightened Justice Department.”

According to the criminal complaint filed against Idris, he and El-Yacoubi wanted new passports because their old ones had Saudi stamps that they feared would alienate Israeli authorities.

Idris is charged with lying to the grand jury for allegedly saying he lost his passport in January 2001, even though he told the passport office he discovered it on Dec. 4, 2001. Bank records show he used it to cash a check Dec. 5, the complaint says.

El-Yacoubi, whose father is of Palestinian heritage, said he was simply planning to celebrate the end of Ramadan in Jerusalem.

But FBI experts said the Arabic letter he was carrying had far more sinister connotations.

In it, according to the FBI translation, Abdalmuhssin wrote to his brother: “When I heard what you are going to carry out, my heart was filled with the feeling of grief and joy. . . . I have no right to prevent you from your migration to Allah and His holy messenger, but it is incumbent upon me to encourage you and help you, because Islam urges Jihad for the sake of Allah. . . . I hope that this letter will arrive before you travel to Allah and His messenger.”

According to FBI experts, the language suggests that the elder El- Yacoubi was planning to commit some kind of terrorist attack.

It “indicates that Mohammed El-Yacoubi was going to place himself at grave risk of injury or death for the sake of his Jihad,” the complaint said.

But Mohammed El-Yacoubi said he didn’t know why his brother worded the letter the way he did. “My brother’s an overachiever. He writes that way,” El-Yacoubi said.

He added, “They mistranslated the letter. ‘Jihad’ means ‘struggle.’ It’s not fair that they did not translate that as ‘struggle.’ ”

The younger El-Yacoubi did not respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment, and Anderson said he could not comment on why his client wrote the letter.

Staff writers Tom Jackman, Peter Whoriskey and Maria Glod contributed to this report.

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Opening Date for Islamic School Still Uncertain
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Rosalind S. Helderman
Date: Jul 21, 2002
Start Page: T.03
Text Word Count: 470

The president of the Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) said that the school still plans to build a campus for 3,500 students on 100 acres in Ashburn but that ISA officials are no longer projecting when it might open.

Anthony Nozzoli said the Loudoun County school was intended to replace the school’s Fairfax County campus, which he said has been at capacity for years and cannot accommodate growing interest.
But he said ISA is not prepared financially to move forward with construction of the new school, the cost of which has been estimated at $80 million. Nozzoli said that the school, partly financed by the Saudi government, must also rely on tuition and donations from the local community for expansion and that gathering necessary funds will take time.

“The need is still the same as it was before,” Nozzoli said. “It’s just a matter of all the numbers matching so we can move on. This is quite the relocation. We want everything to be well thought out and prepared.”

The Loudoun Board of Supervisors approved construction of the facility in 1998 in a vote that sparked community debate about whether the school could become a terrorist target and whether the county should allow an institution partly financed by the Saudi government, which residents said had a poor human rights record.

At that time, school officials said they hoped that the facility would open in fall 2000. A year later, they said budgetary constraints were forcing them to delay the opening until at least 2003. Now, Nozzoli said, the school no longer has a date in mind.

“Just like every school, we would like to have a [new] school today,” he said. “Everything has a budget, and we work within that budget.”
Nozzoli said the school has been working on architectural drawings for the campus, which will consist of several buildings, but has not submitted site plans to the county.

In the meantime, the school has completed some preparations for building, including widening roads and installing a traffic light, as agreed to with the county. ISA has also completed two baseball fields on the property, off Ashburn Village Boulevard, south of Farmwell Road. The Dulles Little League uses the fields.

“With the growth of the county, it’s become very difficult for us to find field space,” said Rick Oldfield, sports program coordinator for the Loudoun Parks and Recreation Department. “It’s been extremely helpful to have these fields. [ISA] has been super in regards to letting us use those facilities.

Nozzoli said the school’s loss of accreditation from the Virginia Association of Independent Schools, reported by The Washington Post this month, will not affect its long-term plans or a timeline for the Loudoun move.

He said the school was working to reestablish ties with the group and hoped to become accredited again soon.

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Islamic Academy Given Go-Ahead in Loudoun
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Barbara E. Martinez
Date: Jan 30, 2003
Start Page: T.05
Text Word Count: 656

The Islamic Saudi Academy cleared the last legal hurdle a week ago to building an $80 million complex in Ashburn. But five years after the school won a special zoning exception for the 100-acre tract, no date has been set to start construction.

“We wanted to make sure that there was not an uncertainty looming over our land development permits,” said school spokesman Anthony Nozzoli. He said the school would “make the decision to move forward” when all aspects of the project came together. He would not give details on those plans.

The school’s special zoning exception to build on land designated for industrial use was to expire March 4, five years after its approval by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. Melinda Artman, county zoning administrator, ruled that the school had not met requirements for “vesting” its exception, such as starting construction or obtaining an occupancy permit.

School officials appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals on grounds that they had obtained a zoning permit for building two baseball fields on the property off Ashburn Village Boulevard, south of Farmwell Road.

Before the supervisors passed their sweeping revision to the county’s zoning ordinance Jan. 6, obtaining a zoning permit was considered adequate progress on a construction project to vest a special exception. The new ordinance requires either a building permit and work on the project or an occupancy permit.

Artman argued that baseball fields constitute a park, which do not require zoning permits to build.

Three members of the appeals board — E. Page Moffett, Nan M. Joseph Forbes and William S. Leach — voted to uphold the appeal. Board Chairman E. Frank Meyers III voted to deny it.

“I agree that a school is made up of more than reading, writing and arithmetic,” Forbes said. The ballfields were “clearly a part of this school,” she said.

In addition to the baseball fields, the school built an access road to them, widened Farmwell Road and paid half of the cost of adding a stoplight. The school said that work cost more than $5 million.

It was that fact that persuaded Leach to uphold the appeal. “Wouldn’t you concede that the expenditure of $5 million would demonstrate the intention to build a school?” he asked Artman.

The school operates on two campuses in Fairfax County and Alexandria, which it says are crowded. The new campus is supposed to include a high school, middle school and lower school, tennis courts, a gymnasium, playing fields, a prayer hall and towering minaret.

It would accommodate 3,500 students who would study an American curriculum, Islam and Arabic. The school withdrew last summer from the Virginia Association of Independent Schools but is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Granting the school’s special exception in 1998 followed a heated community debate. Some residents opposed a school partly funded by the government of Saudi Arabia.

Others expressed concern that an Islamic school would pose a security risk to their neighborhoods, and still others said the community would lose taxes on the school’s property without receiving anything in return. Many others, however, spoke of the diversity the school would add to Ashburn.

At that time, school officials said they hoped that the facility would open in fall 2000. A year later, they said budgetary constraints were forcing them to delay the opening until at least 2003. Now, Nozzoli said, the school no longer has a date in mind.

None of the detractors spoke at Thursday night’s meeting. Rather, a parade of community members spoke of the good that the school had already done for Ashburn. “They did use the little guys here in the county,” said Tom Berezoski, a contractor who helped to build the ballfields.

Robert Young, treasurer of the Dulles Little League, said the community could not afford to lose the fields, “especially ones as nice as these. . . . We need more neighbors as nice as these.”

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Va. Man’s Months in Saudi Prison Go Unexplained
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Caryle Murphy and John Mintz
Date: Nov 22, 2003
Start Page: A.01
Section: A SECTION
Text Word Count: 1994

Shortly before his final exams at Saudi Arabia’s University of Medina, Ahmed Abu Ali told his parents that he was looking forward to coming home to Falls Church for summer vacation. He joked with his younger sister about finding him a nice woman to marry. And he promised a close friend they’d have a long-awaited reunion at another friend’s wedding in late June.

But the 22-year-old student never made it home. On June 11, Abu Ali was arrested by Saudi authorities while taking one of his exams, and he has been in a Saudi prison ever since.

The strongest clue about the reasons for his imprisonment came in July, from an FBI agent testifying in federal court in Alexandria in the case of a group of Northern Virginia men alleged to be part of a “jihad network.” According to the agent’s testimony, Abu Ali told his Saudi interrogators that he had joined an al Qaeda cell in Saudi Arabia and that he aspired to be a planner like Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers.

Abu Ali’s family and friends say that he has no connection to terrorism and that the agent’s claims make no sense to them. “If he had any of those thoughts the government said he has, it should have come up on my radar screen long ago,” said Saif Abdul Rahman, 25, an Alexandria resident who has known Abu Ali since grade school.
With no public evidence or open court hearing in Abu Ali’s case, the degree to which he may have been involved in terrorism remains a mystery. Neither Saudi nor U.S. authorities will say publicly whether charges have been filed against him or tell his family what alleged acts led to his lengthy detention. His rights as a U.S. citizen offer him no legal protection while he is in Saudi custody. And U.S. law enforcement officials appear content to leave him where he is.

Abu Ali has yet to see a lawyer, his parents say. And based on comments he has made to them on the phone since his arrest, they fear he is being coerced into saying things that aren’t true.

“If you think our son is guilty, bring him to this country,” said his mother, Faten Abu Ali. “Don’t have him in a country where we can’t guarantee his rights. . . . Bring him into his own country in its courts, where justice can be served.”

In a written statement issued in response to a reporter’s inquiries, the foreign affairs adviser to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah described the case as “an ongoing investigation by both governments.”

“The U.S. government is aware of the case of Abu Ali and why he is detained,” wrote the adviser, Adel Al-Jubeir. “The U.S. government had access to the suspect and continues to have access.” He offered no further comment on the investigation, although he denied that Abu Ali is being mistreated.

FBI spokesman Ed Cogswell said the bureau does not have any evidence that Abu Ali has been mistreated while in Saudi custody. Citing national security, Cogswell said he could not comment on why the student is being held or whether the FBI has any plans to bring him to the United States.

FBI officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the bureau’s agents have worked on the case and observed some of Abu Ali’s interrogations by the Saudis.

U.S. law enforcement officials have repeatedly said that their main focus in the battle against al Qaeda is gathering intelligence from suspects rather than charging them criminally. And they have acknowledged that in some cases, that has led to suspected terrorists being interrogated in foreign prisons, where they do not have U.S. legal protections and cannot refuse to answer questions by invoking their right against self-incrimination.

The Saudi government’s cooperation with U.S. anti-terrorism efforts increased after bombings on May 12 in Riyadh that killed 35 people, and Saudi officials have promised to intensify their crackdown on al Qaeda since another deadly bombing Nov. 8 in the Saudi capital.

One reason U.S. officials have said they are interested in Abu Ali is his alleged ties to the Northern Virginia men accused of conspiring to support al Qaeda and wage “violent jihad” on behalf of Muslims abroad.
In that case, 11 men were charged in June in federal court in Alexandria with supporting Lashkar-i-Taiba, a group that is fighting to wrest Kashmir from Indian control and has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. The men allegedly trained for military combat overseas by playing paintball in the Virginia countryside.

Four of the defendants have since pleaded guilty to gun and conspiracy charges. The remaining seven were named in a new indictment in September that accuses two of the men of conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda and the Taliban by planning to go to Afghanistan to fight U.S. troops.

U.S. counterterrorism officials provide varying assessments of Abu Ali’s relative status as a terrorism suspect.

One U.S. law enforcement official said that “we view him as a player” with significant ties to al Qaeda and to the Northern Virginia group. But a senior FBI counterterrorism official characterized Abu Ali as “very peripheral.”

The same official said that the Saudi government has filed terrorism charges against Abu Ali. “I’m not aware of any information that he broke any U.S. laws,” the official said. “But the Saudis have found a reason to charge him based on his interviews. If he confessed to [al Qaeda] membership, they’re going to hold him.”

Saudi officials initially said that Abu Ali was suspected in connection with the May 12 bombings in Riyadh, but several U.S. law enforcement sources said the FBI has concluded that Abu Ali probably did not play a role in them.

Kelly Shannon, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, said a U.S. consular officer in Riyadh has “been visiting Ahmed, and our consular office here has been working closely with the family.” She declined to give further information because of privacy restrictions.

For Omar and Faten Abu Ali, the allegations made against their son are hard to believe. They said that Abu Ali does not hate his homeland and that while he is a devout Muslim, he is not rigid or extremist in his beliefs. His mother, who said she and her husband have raised their children to “think critically and not to obey blindly,” sees her son’s predicament as part of a larger picture.

“We Muslims are facing a lot after 9/11, and we shouldn’t be facing this,” she said. “For me, I’m sure my son is innocent. . . . My own country is leaving him there where he has no rights. . . . 9/ 11 should not be a reason for Muslims to suffer in this country and lose our rights.”

Abu Ali’s parents and four siblings live in a high-rise Falls Church apartment building not far from Dar Al Hijrah mosque, which the family attends.

Abu Ali was born in Houston, where his parents were living after emigrating from Jordan. Omar Abu Ali, now a U.S. citizen, works as a computer programmer at the Saudi Embassy. His wife is a pharmacist and permanent legal U.S. resident.

Their son was valedictorian of his 1999 high school graduating class at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria. David Kovalik, the academy’s director of education, described Abu Ali as “an exceptional student” who was “very strong in science and math and just very personable; he helped others and was respectful to teachers.”

His parents were not thrilled when he told them he wanted to pursue a degree in Islamic studies after high school and asked him how he expected to make a living.

Bending to their wishes, he entered the University of Maryland at College Park to study engineering in the fall of 1999 on a scholarship.

But he wasn’t happy there, and the next year he transferred to the Institute for Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America in Fairfax County. The institute, affiliated with al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, has a heavily religious-oriented curriculum reflecting Saudi Arabia’s conservative brand of Islam.

But Abu Ali wanted to study Islam in a more spiritual setting, his family said, and he eventually enrolled at the University of Medina.

Five days after Abu Ali’s June 11 arrest, 15 to 20 armed FBI agents searched his family’s apartment and confiscated several boxes of papers, books, cassettes, two computers and family photographs. According to the search warrant, they were looking for items related to al Qaeda, Lashkar-i-Taiba and the defendants in the Virginia “jihad” conspiracy case.

Abu Ali’s family said that he knows some of the defendants in the jihad case but that this is not unusual because they were all in the same circle of young men who attended Dar Al Hijrah. One defendant in that case, Randall Todd Royer, said in an interview this year that Abu Ali had “played once or twice” with the paintball group.

At bond hearings for two of the paintball defendants, prosecutors argued that it was too risky to release them on bail — partly because their phone numbers had been found on Abu Ali’s cell phone directory and both had said they had met him in Saudi Arabia.

According to a transcript of a hearing on July 30, FBI agent Jim R. Sobchack testified that Abu Ali “was a participant in some of the jihad training” alleged in the Alexandria indictment.

Sobchack also testified that during FBI-observed interrogations, Abu Ali “explained to the Saudis that he was there to join an Al- Qaeda cell. And in fact, [he] had joined an Al-Qaeda cell and participated in weapons and explosives training.” Al Qaeda, Sobchack continued, “gave Mr. Ali a choice, and that is he could either participate in a terrorist act or he could return to the United States and form an Al-Qaeda cell in the United States.”

Abu Ali “indicated that he would prefer to be a planner such as Mohamed Atta . . . but that he would be willing to participate in an attack,” Sobchack said.

In phone calls to his family on July 31 and Aug. 9, Abu Ali said he was fine, was playing soccer with other prisoners and did not know why he had been arrested. He also told his family not to “make the subject bigger than it is” and that they should “consider him on a long trip in the jungle.”

But his tone changed in a third call, on Aug. 23. According to his family, he said, “Hurry, hurry, I’m facing a trial in two weeks. . . . Get me a lawyer.” He later told them the trial had been postponed.

The family says they are confused because U.S. officials have told them that Abu Ali has not been charged. They also say that he has denied making any confession to the Saudis.

In an Oct. 10 call, he told his parents that FBI agents had interrogated him for several hours and threatened to send him to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States is holding detainees from the war on terrorism, or have him declared an “enemy combatant,” which would allow U.S. authorities to jail him indefinitely without access to lawyers.

“Mom, what am I supposed to do?” Faten recalled her son saying on the phone. “I have two countries against me!”

FBI spokesman Cogswell said he has no any information to corroborate Abu Ali’s claims that he was threatened with enemy combatant status.
Ashraf Nubani, a lawyer hired by the family, said he had not been able to get a Saudi lawyer to meet with Abu Ali in prison. “I reached out to several attorneys in Saudi Arabia, and they told us they couldn’t touch [the case] at all,” he said. “It’s too sensitive.”

Staff writers Dan Eggen and Susan Schmidt contributed to this report.

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No Islamic Campus in Loudoun; Saudi Academy Sells Land Instead of Establishing Third School
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Rosalind S. Helderman
Date: Jul 8, 2004
Start Page: B.01
Section: METRO
Text Word Count: 685

The Islamic Saudi Academy, a private school in Northern Virginia financed by the Saudi government, has announced that it no longer plans to build a 3,500-student campus in Loudoun County, six years after the school won the right to do so in a bruising public fight.
Academy officials, who did not explain the decision, said in a statement that they will sell the 101.3-acre site in Ashburn. County officials have approved the purchase of the prime land for $13.5 million as a site for public schools.

According to its Web site, the academy — which maintains two campuses in Fairfax — has more than 1,000 students, about half from Saudi Arabia.

“The Islamic Saudi Academy at this time has made a decision not to move the school from Fairfax County, and even with other offers to purchase the property, we would like to see the County of Loudoun be able to purchase the property for continued educational uses, much like we had intended,” the statement read.

Loudoun supervisors approved the school’s project in 1998, after months of public debate that was tinged at times with fear and xenophobia. Unsigned fliers appeared on Ashburn doorsteps, warning of a “Saudi invasion.” Some residents raised concerns that the school could be a target of terrorist attacks, and others complained about the Saudi government’s human rights record.

At the time, academy officials said they planned to open the school in 2000, but they pushed back the projected date several times, citing financial difficulties.

The supervisors voted Tuesday night to authorize the county to purchase the land. Vice Chairman Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) said Saudi school representatives contacted him last week, saying they plan to invest in their Fairfax site instead of building in Loudoun.

“That ended up being a greater financial deal rather than the astronomical amount they were going to spend here,” said Tulloch, who would not name his contacts.

“They were very quiet about selling this property,” he said. “They could have gotten a great deal more money than we bought it for. . . . It’s a very generous gesture.”

Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III applauded the deal, saying the site is large enough for several schools in the heart of the fastest-growing section of the county. “Anytime we can get ahead on this land issue, it gives the School Board a huge advantage in planning,” he said.

The academy leases its main Fairfax site from that county’s government. In January, the academy received a lease extension to 2007.

Anthony Nozzoli, project manager of the Loudoun site, would not comment on the sale, saying only that the school’s experience in Loudoun “has proved that people of all faiths can live in peace and harmony.”

A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy said he would not comment. An administrator at the school said he was in charge only for the day and was not aware that the land was being sold. He said Ibrahim Al- Gosair, the school’s director general, was not available.

Ali Al-Ahmed, a scholar with the Washington-based Saudi Institute, which pushes for religious tolerance in Saudi Arabia, said the school might have abandoned its plans for a grand new campus because the academy’s enrollment may have dropped. Al-Ahmed said the Saudi diplomatic community that forms the core of its student body has been shrinking since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“It’s been very difficult for people to come here,” he said.

The Saudi Academy’s broker in the sale to Loudoun was the Leesburg-based real estate firm Carter Braxton, where former Loudoun board chairman Dale Polen Myers is an agent and worked on the deal.

“We’re not in the business of asking clients why they are selling a property. That doesn’t go just for the Saudis — it’s for everybody,” said Tom Jewell, president of the firm.

Jewell said he and Myers worked on the sale. He declined to discuss the size of the commission. Myers supported the Saudi Academy when she was board chairman in the late 1990s, when the school applied for permission to build.

Staff writer Michael Laris contributed to this report.

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Va. Family Defends Video of Bay Bridge; Tape Led to Search, Man’s Detention
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Jerry Markon and Eric Rich
Date: Aug 26, 2004
Start Page: B.01
Section: METRO
Text Word Count: 924

The videotape behind the detention of an Annandale man was a vacation video showing the scenery from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and had nothing to do with terror surveillance, the man’s daughter said yesterday.

Dua’a Elbarasse, 20, daughter of Ismael Selim Elbarasse, said her mother was trying to zoom in on boats in the bay. “We had taped our whole vacation, and we thought the bay looked really nice off the bridge,” she said. “This has been completely blown out of proportion.”

Her comments came as a Maryland Transportation Authority report on Friday’s detention revealed that three minutes of the 27-minute videotape contains footage of or from the bridge. The first 24 minutes depict Elbarasse, his wife and three children packing up their vehicle and leaving Broadkill Beach, Del., where they had rented a beach house for several days. It also has footage taken from the Kent Narrows Bridge.

Elbarasse is being held on a material witness warrant in connection with a federal case in Chicago, where three men are charged with raising millions of dollars for Hamas. The U.S. government considers Hamas a terrorist group and says the organization has carried out attacks in Israel.

But, with the FBI saying that the family might have been scouting a potential terrorist target, the taping on the bridge has generated the most widespread attention. An affidavit in support of a search of Elbarasse’s home and car says the video showed “the cables and upper supports of the main span” of the bridge. Dua’a Elbarasse said the cables simply got in the way as they were filming the scenery below the bridge.

Federal agents seized hundreds of items in the search, including bank records of a senior Hamas leader who maintained a joint account with Elbarasse.

A spokeswoman for the transportation authority, Catherine Leahan, said investigators were suspicious of the accounts that Elbarasse family members gave after their sport-utility vehicle was stopped near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. “They were telling conflicting stories,” she said. “They weren’t clear as to which beach they were coming from.”
Leahan also cited what authorities said were the efforts of Elbarasse’s wife, Boushra, to hide the camera from officers as they passed the SUV and the presence of Elbarasse’s name in a law enforcement database.

The database revealed that the FBI considered Elbarasse, 57, a “person of interest” because of his possible ties to terrorism. Elbarasse, an accountant from Gaza who remains in federal custody in Baltimore, has drawn law enforcement attention in the past.

The 20-year Northern Virginia resident and naturalized U.S. citizen was jailed for eight months in 1998 after he refused to testify in New York before a federal grand jury investigating terrorism. Court records show that Elbarasse read the grand jury a statement attacking the process as unjust and vowing not to testify “before this Grand Jury or any other, no matter what my punishment may be, no matter how long my sentence.”

From jail, he filed affidavits seeking his release, including one from an imam saying that Elbarasse’s refusal was justified by the Koran. In her affidavit, Elbarasse’s wife wrote that her husband would not “testify against anyone. He would not be able to face his family much less his own people who consider his stand a noble and honorable one.”

U.S. District Judge Michael B. Mukasey released Elbarasse but wrote that he had worked “closely and directly” with Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, a former Falls Church resident who is deputy chief of Hamas’s political wing. The judge said Elbarasse had “achieved a level of trust sufficient to permit him to hold a joint account with Abu Marzook that was used to transfer substantial funds . . . used for terrorist activity abroad.”

It was Marzook’s bank records that agents found in Saturday’s search of Elbarasse’s house. The federal indictment unsealed Friday in Chicago charges Marzook in an alleged racketeering conspiracy that authorities said raised millions of dollars for Hamas. Also charged were former Howard University professor Abelhaleem Hasan Abdelraziq Ashqar, 46, of Fairfax County and Muhammad Hamid Khalil Salah, 51, of suburban Chicago. Salah and Ashqar were arrested Thursday.

Marzook, expelled from the United States in 1997, is believed to be living in Syria.

The Chicago grand jury named Elbarasse as an unindicted co- conspirator. Elbarasse is being held at Maryland’s Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center, an intake facility, where he is under 24-hour surveillance. The warden has deemed him a “security risk,” a spokeswoman said.

Federal agents are reviewing the seven tapes seized from Elbarasse’s vehicle, including the tape showing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge cables and supports. Court records say officials consider the portions of the bridge taped to be “integral to the structural integrity of the bridge.”

Elbarasse left the Middle East in his mid-twenties and eventually settled in Northern Virginia, in part because of the area’s large Muslim community, said one of his attorneys, Stanley L. Cohen. From July 1984 to April 1998, he worked in the financial department of the Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax County, a private school financed by the Saudi government. He was terminated, in part because of his New York arrest.

Cohen described Elbarasse as “a very quiet and soft-spoken and extremely honest and considerate person.” Of the videotaping, Cohen said: “It’s completely innocuous. It’s harmless. [The investigation] looks sexy, but it’s trash. There is no case. Zero. Mark my words. He will be in Chicago. He will deal with the grand jury, and that will be the end of it.”

Staff writer Mary Beth Sheridan contributed to this report.

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Terrorist Plot to Kill Bush Alleged; Suspect, a Va. Man, Was Held by Saudis Nearly Two Years
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Jerry Markon and Dana Priest
Date: Feb 23, 2005
Start Page: A.01
Section: A SECTION
Text Word Count: 1056

Federal prosecutors unveiled broad terrorism charges yesterday against a Northern Virginia man who had been detained in Saudi Arabia for nearly two years, accusing him of plotting to assassinate President
Bush and trying to establish an al Qaeda cell in the United States.

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 23, conspired with confederates in Saudi Arabia to shoot Bush on the street or kill him with a car bomb, according to a six-count indictment unsealed yesterday. The indictment said Abu Ali sought to become “a planner of terrorist operations” and compared him to leading al Qaeda figures associated with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Abu Ali’s family and supporters denied the charges and said he had been tortured while he was being held by authorities in Saudi Arabia. Abu Ali’s attorney said he intends to plead not guilty.

Law enforcement sources said the plot against Bush, which the indictment says was hatched while Abu Ali was studying in Saudi Arabia, never advanced beyond the talking stage. One source involved in the case said the U.S. government had hoped Saudi Arabia would bring charges against Ali, in part because of the lack of evidence linking him to any al Qaeda activities.

The charges followed a highly public effort by Abu Ali’s family to force the government to return him to the United States from a Saudi prison, where he had been held for the past 20 months. His parents sued the U.S. government, charging it had condoned the torture of their son.

The case has triggered a flurry of diplomatic activity, with the State Department making an unusual request several weeks ago that the Saudis charge Abu Ali or release him into U.S. custody.

Those emotions were on display yesterday as dozens of supporters crammed into the federal courthouse in Alexandria to glimpse Abu Ali, a U.S. citizen who grew up in Falls Church. His family yelled out greetings as he emerged in the custody of U.S. marshals. His father blinked back tears. Family members laughed aloud as prosecutors mentioned the alleged plot against Bush.

But family members wept as they left the courtroom, and supporters expressed outrage at the charges. Defense attorneys told the judge that Abu Ali had been tortured in Saudi Arabia and offered to show the judge proof right in the courtroom. Sources said that proof includes vertical scars along Abu Ali’s back showing that he had been whipped.

“Everything the government has said is lies upon lies upon lies,” said Abu Ali’s father, Omar Abu Ali. He described his son as a peaceful student of Islam who was arrested in June 2003 while taking final exams at the University of Medina in Saudi Arabia.

But prosecutors painted a vastly different portrait. They said that Abu Ali had plotted with America’s greatest enemies and that the case had struck a major blow against terrorism. “After the devastating terrorist attack and murders of September 11th, the defendant turned his back on America and joined the cause of al Qaeda,” said Paul J. McNulty, the U.S. attorney in Alexandria.

The allegations of torture promise to play a role as the case progresses. “We all know that evidence obtained from torture is the most unreliable evidence you can get,” said Edward B. MacMahon Jr., an attorney for Abu Ali. “I’m distressed that it’s come to the point where our government is prepared to use evidence gained from torture in a criminal trial in the United States.”

The case is the first in which the U.S. government would have to rely, in part, on information gathered solely by a foreign government, in this case, Saudi Arabia.

Because U.S. authorities were not involved in Abu Ali’s interrogation and, therefore, could not conduct questioning in a manner that would stand up in U.S. courts, the Alexandria court might have to decide whether any statements gained under Saudi questioning should be admissible. The case is being brought at a time when the role of torture in the U.S. war on terror is becoming increasingly scrutinized.

Legal experts said the defense will face a series of hurdles if it seeks to use torture allegations to get the case thrown out. It is not enough, experts said, to prove that Abu Ali was tortured by the Saudis.

“They would need to show that U.S. personnel participated in the torture — not the arrest, not the detention, not even the interrogation,” said Victoria Toensing, a Washington lawyer.

Abu Ali was born in Houston and moved to Northern Virginia at age 4.

He attended the private Islamic Saudi Academy in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, a school for grades K-12. He graduated as valedictorian and briefly attended the University of Maryland before going to Saudi Arabia to pursue religious studies.

Abu Ali was studying at the University of Medina when Saudi authorities arrested him and 18 or 19 other men suspected of having connections to people involved in the May 12, 2003, bombing of three Western residential compounds in Riyadh. The bombing killed 23 people. The men were believed to be a jihadist cell in training, U.S. officials have said.

Abu Ali’s name also surfaced during the recent case of a group of Northern Virginia men accused of training for jihad overseas by playing paintball in the Virginia countryside. The FBI became interested in Abu Ali because he knew some of the men convicted in that case, U.S. officials have said.

In a lawsuit against the U.S. government, filed last summer in federal court in the District, Abu Ali’s parents alleged that the United States government had arranged for him to be held by the Saudis and that U.S. authorities expected he would be tortured there.

Abu Ali is not charged directly with plotting to kill Bush; the allegation is part of a broader indictment that includes conspiracy charges. The charges also include providing material support to al Qaeda, contributing services to al Qaeda and receiving funds from al Qaeda.

The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in Alexandria on Feb. 3 and unsealed yesterday.

The White House declined to comment on the plot allegations.

A federal magistrate judge yesterday ordered Abu Ali detained until a hearing tomorrow. If convicted of all charges, he faces up to 80 years in prison.

Staff writers Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei contributed to this report.

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Teaching Hate
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Date: Mar 4, 2005
Start Page: A.20
Text Word Count: 315

The arrest of a former valedictorian of the Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia is a stunning reminder of the link between terrorism and teaching hate to children [front page, Feb. 23].

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was apprehended for allegedly planning to assassinate President Bush and trying to establish an al Qaeda cell in the United States. He was not the first Islamic Saudi Academy graduate to attempt to carry out a terrorist attack. About three years ago, two Fairfax County men, Mohammad Osman Idris and Mohammad El-Yacoubi, both graduates of the school, were turned away from Israel after authorities found a letter in Arabic inside their bags that FBI officials say was a farewell note in preparation for a suicide mission. Mr. El-Yacoubi was not charged, but Mr. Idris was convicted of lying on a passport application.

According to a Feb. 25, 2002, front-page story, the Islamic Saudi Academy teaches students, among other things, that “the Day of Judgment cannot come until Jesus Christ returns to Earth, breaks the cross and converts everyone to Islam, and until Muslims start attacking Jews.” Global maps hanging in classrooms are missing Israel.
In 2003 the American Jewish Committee, in a joint study with the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, examined 93 Saudi schoolbooks. The study found that Saudi children were indoctrinated in the hatred of American and Western values and taught to abhor and distrust so-called infidels — i.e., non-Muslims. At least two of the problematic books reviewed in the study were used at the Islamic Saudi Academy.

Since then, the school has removed itself from the Virginia Association of Independent Schools. It lost its accreditation after the association began questioning how it was funded.

We reap what we sow. As long as the teaching of hate goes on, so too will the threat of terrorism.

Washington Area Director
American Jewish Committee

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Experts Urge Science, Tech School for Ashburn Site; Business Role Envisioned For Ex-Saudi Property
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Michael Alison Chandler
Date: Oct 23, 2005
Start Page: T.01
Text Word Count: 547

Loudoun County should build a science and technology academy on the 101-acre parcel in Ashburn it purchased last year, a panel of land-use experts recommended Friday.

The idea brought praise from Supervisor Lori L. Waters (R-Broad Run), who suggested that such a school could rival Fairfax County’s elite Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and a retort from School Board member Robert F. DuPree Jr. (Dulles).

“We have such an academy. We opened it six weeks ago,” DuPree said, referring to the Loudoun Academy of Science, a magnet program at Sterling’s Dominion High School in which students take math and science classes every other day.

The recommendation Friday came from a seven-member panel representing the Urban Land Institute, a 25,000-member nonprofit research organization. It is the first time the county has hired the institute, and panelists include architects, developers, planners and real estate attorneys from across the country.

After five days of interviews with public officials and business leaders, the group presented its recommendations to about 50 people in the boardroom of the County Government Center. The county paid the organization $115,000 to conduct the study, but panelists were not paid individually for their work.

The science and technology school would capitalize on the concentration of technology businesses in the area, panelists said.

They envisioned a student attending classes in the morning and walking to a nearby high-technology company for an internship in the afternoon.

“This campus will be a destination for creative minds in all areas of the county,” said panelist Lyneir Richardson, a vice president of General Growth Properties in Chicago.

The school would be the capstone of a mixed-use project that the panel suggested could include commercial and business development, recreational space and county office space.

“This is a spot for something truly innovative, groundbreaking,” said James DeFrancia, chairman of the panel and president of Lowe Enterprises Community Development in Aspen, Colo.

Waters said she was impressed with the group’s report. “I’m excited about the potential for cross-pollination between public uses and the private sector,” she said, adding that she thought the school could be a “signature piece” in Loudoun.

The county bought the land last year from the Islamic Saudi Academy for $13.5 million, after the school scrapped plans to build a 3,500-student campus. Officials of the Saudi Embassy-run school decided to expand their campus in Fairfax instead of moving to Loudoun. ISA officials said at the time they hoped Loudoun would use the land for educational purposes.

Before the Urban Land Institute panel met, the School Board recommended to the Board of Supervisors that 40 acres of the site be used for an elementary school and a vocational and technical school.
DuPree said that he was glad to see that the panel included public education in its findings and that he thinks a vocational school, which would include technology training and be a partner with local businesses, could fit within the latest recommendations.

“Our vision is not incompatible with what you have proposed,” he told panelists.

The Board of Supervisors has the final say on how the land will be used. Waters, chairman of the board’s economic development committee, said the committee will take up the proposals at its meeting Tuesday.

The panel’s recommendations can be viewed online at

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Work Starts on Islamic High School; Nation’s Reaction to 9/11 Spurred Annapolis Group’s Idea for Expanded Mission
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Daniel de Vise
Date: Mar 20, 2006
Start Page: B.02
Section: METRO
Text Word Count: 836

Construction has begun on a 20-acre campus near Annapolis that will house an Islamic high school, a television station, athletic facilities and eventually a college, according to project directors.

Mohammad Arafa, executive director of the Islamic Society of Annapolis, said the Mekkah Learning Center will be the first Islamic high school in the region. Work will progress on the $8 million project only as fast as donations permit; religious law forbids the society to take out a loan with interest.

The school will complement two established Islamic schools in the region, Al-Huda School in College Park and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, each serving a few hundred students up to the middle- school grades. Arafa said he has the support of 22 Muslim leaders across Maryland.

He envisions the campus as a means “to help our children to be Americans and Muslims without having to compromise their identity” and as a place where Muslims and non-Muslims can gather to bridge their differences.

He hopes there will not be a fight. Islamic schools and mosques have engendered fear and suspicion across the Washington region, both before and since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, whose creators purported to be acting in Allah’s name.

Perhaps the most explosive case, which preceded the 2001 attacks, was a proposed $80 million complex for the Islamic Saudi Academy in Ashburn. Partly financed by the government of Saudi Arabia, the project thoroughly divided the community in 1998. Some residents said the school, given its backing, might pose a security risk.

Protest later subsided, but in 2004, academy officials decided not to pursue the project, according to Dave Kovalik, school spokesman. The academy serves 1,000 students in preschool through grade 12 at campuses in Burke and Alexandria. It is the only accredited Islamic high school program in the Washington-Baltimore region, Kovalik said. Some students travel from as far as Waldorf.

Arafa said the idea for the Mekkah school took root in the 2001 attacks and the resulting need for Muslims in Maryland to express the peaceful nature of their faith. A release for the new school states that “it is imperative that area Muslims get the message out as to the true peaceful nature of Islam.”

He recalls fielding 106 telephone calls after Sept. 11; 104 were supportive, and two were not.

But when he learned last year that the Islamic Society’s lease in a strip mall on Forest Drive would not be renewed because of parking concerns, Arafa found the search for a new home to be an exercise in rejection. Arafa said at least eight prospective landlords turned him away after learning the identity of the tenant. Mosques and Islamic schools nationwide have been victims of anti-Muslim vandalism and other hate crimes, as well as allegations that their facilities are harboring terrorists.

“They turn around, as soon as they find out who it is, and say, ‘Sorry, we don’t want you,’ ” said Martha Scott, a spokeswoman for the society, which offers prayer services for a congregation of about 250 families.

The nascent school garnered its first publicity early this month, in a write-up in the Annapolis newspaper. Afterward, neither the county nor the society received any complaints, officials said, an encouraging sign. Scott said the news coverage even improved the group’s reception as a prospective tenant, with some landlords indicating that they wanted to reconsider the society’s application. The society will maintain its headquarters at a separate location.

When Arafa first saw the Millersville property and learned that the asking price for the prospective campus was $550,000, he told the real estate agent that the society could never afford it: “First of all, we don’t deal with interest. Second of all, we are broke. Third of all, we don’t have assets.”

Much to his surprise, the seller agreed to an interest-free installment plan. About two-thirds of the purchase price has been paid, he said.
Arafa cannot predict when classes will begin on the site, southwest of where Crain Highway meets Interstate 97. The next wave of fundraising will pay for grading work and a septic system. School organizers hope they can offer classes in fall.

The first building will house a prayer hall, assembly rooms and space for two ninth-grade classes, one for boys and one for girls. Arafa hopes to add one grade each year, eventually serving 250 to 300 students. Plans call for 171,000 square feet of building space.

If all goes as planned, he said, the school will be a place “where you can give me the child at 3 years old and he can finish with a PhD.”

Shama Farooq, civil rights director of the Council on American- Islamic Relations for Maryland and Virginia, said Arafa is probably correct in predicting that the school will draw students from the broader Baltimore-Washington region.

“Obviously, people are sending their children to Islamic middle schools, and they’re trying to find Islamic high schools as well,” she said. “I know of people who drive their children 30, 40 miles to private schools.”

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Supervisor Voted on Issue in Which Friend Had Interest
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: David S. Fallis and Michael Laris – Washington Post Staff Writers
Date: Jan 21, 2007
Start Page: A.11
Section: A SECTION
Text Word Count: 608

County Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch and Leesburg lawyer Douglas L. Fleming Jr. are close friends.

“I love the guy like a brother,” Tulloch (R-Potomac) said, adding that Fleming had encouraged him to run for office in 2003. When Tulloch won, he asked Fleming, a substitute judge in Loudoun’s General District Court, to swear him in.

Since 2003, they have co-owned a rental house in Surfside Beach, S.C., that earns tens of thousands of dollars in annual income, records show.

And on several occasions, Tulloch’s public role has overlapped with Fleming’s professional world.

Tulloch cast votes four times in favor of Loudoun Hospital Center, which had hired Fleming for legal advice. Tulloch voted twice for its expansion and twice to block a planned competitor.

Health-care giant HCA Inc. had proposed building a hospital five miles southwest of the long-established Loudoun Hospital, now called Inova Loudoun. State officials had determined that a second hospital was needed, but Inova Loudoun and its advocates, including Fleming, sought to thwart the competition. Some said that it might jeopardize the existing hospital.

Fleming, 49, was one of several attorneys the hospital has retained for legal advice, a hospital spokesman said. Fleming’s two- member firm worked on land-use and policy matters, according to court documents filed in a related lawsuit in 2005. He was also hired to represent residents opposed to the new hospital, records show.

“This is an ill-conceived, half-baked application, and it should be denied,” Fleming argued on behalf of the residents at a 2004 Planning Commission meeting.

In an interview, Tulloch said he did not know Fleming had done legal work for the hospital. “We don’t talk about his clients,” Tulloch said. “We don’t talk about my voting. . . . It’s not that type of relationship.”

Had he known, Tulloch said, he would have disclosed it, but still voted.
“We’ve never discussed Loudoun Hospital,” he said, adding that Fleming had not appeared before him on the board.

Tulloch’s appointment schedule, obtained through a public records request, notes a meeting with Fleming and two senior hospital officials on Feb. 23, 2005, two weeks before Tulloch voted for a health plan that helped sink the proposal for a competing hospital. The appointment notation refers to “LHC,” or Loudoun Hospital Center.
Tulloch did not respond to questions last week about the meeting.

Fleming also represented the Islamic Saudi Academy Inc. in a zoning matter in 2003 before county officials, records show. The Saudi Academy benefited when the county purchased 101 acres of its land at Tulloch’s behest in 2004. Tulloch said he had no idea that Fleming had done legal work for the company.

Tulloch said he sees no conflicts between his relationship with Fleming and his public decisions. Fleming declined to answer written questions about his relationship with Tulloch.

Tulloch, 46, has said he needs to supplement his salary as a food service manager with Sodexho and the $22,400 he earns as a part- time county official, so he has explored business opportunities in the county. He said he considered opening an ice cream shop and a pizza franchise but decided against it. He is still looking into opening a Harley-Davidson dealership, he said.

“I will also look at other ventures if they present themselves where I can make money,” Tulloch said. “My strength is getting things done. . . . People recognize that, they see value in that and they invest in that. That’s the best way to put it. I mean, there’s nothing insidious here. . . . You know, there’s no linkage,” he said.
“I’m the cleanest form of government you’re ever going to find.”

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Loudoun Land Deals Subject of U.S. Probe; County Officials’ Ties to Developers Under Investigation
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Michael Laris and Sandhya Somashekhar – Washington Post Staff Writers
Date: Feb 7, 2007
Start Page: A.1
Section: A SECTION
Text Word Count: 960

Federal prosecutors have launched a far-reaching investigation into potential public corruption in Loudoun County, where officials have overseen billions of dollars’ worth of development projects in one of the nation’s fastest-growing areas.

Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney James E. Plowman announced a joint investigation yesterday with the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, which will take the leading role. “It’s kind of a waste of resources if we’re both independently reviewing the same matters,” Plowman said, adding that the combined federal-local effort “brings about a greater aspect of neutrality.”

The announcement follows months of quiet interviewing by FBI agents, who have queried county figures about possible abuses of power by officials, and represents a major escalation of the scrutiny facing

Loudoun, the officials with the power to approve lucrative development projects and those in the real estate industry with the most at stake.

It also came shortly before Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors passed ethics measures designed to increase government transparency. As part of the reforms, the board voted to discourage supervisors from accepting campaign donations from developers and others with pending projects, and it agreed to disclosure guidelines that could expose potential conflicts of interest.

The investigation and board action come after reports by The Washington Post last month that detailed how major land-use decisions in Loudoun have been dominated by a small network of public officials and their allies in the development industry. Developers, landowners and others profited as they coordinated with public officials to influence land-use decisions in the county, e- mails and other records showed.

Plowman, who last month said his office was focusing on eight or nine areas of inquiry, said in a statement that the joint group “will be tasked with reviewing any potential issues of public corruption within Loudoun County.” It was unclear which individuals or specific actions are being investigated.

U.S. officials would not discuss their role in the probe. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, Jim Rybicki, said, “Department of Justice policy does not allow us to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.” An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.
People interviewed by the FBI in recent months said agents asked them in wide-ranging interviews if they had knowledge of any improper dealings by public officials.

The Post reported on the actions of Lawrence Beerman II, the former head of Loudoun’s Planning Commission, who voted favorably on projects brought by companies with which he had business ties. They were a firm run by Peter J. Knop and his son, Peter R.Q. Knop, who operate a construction waste dump, and the home-building arm of Greenvest L.C. Beerman’s activities have drawn the attention of the FBI, according to two people who were interviewed.

Beerman and the Knops were interviewed for The Post’s report but declined to respond to additional written questions. A lawyer representing Greenvest said the company did nothing improper.

“The fact you have local law enforcement working with federal law enforcement is an indication of the seriousness of the probe,” said Eric H. Holder Jr., a former deputy attorney general and U.S. attorney in the District. The investigation will now appear to be in “a quiet period, but just because federal officials are not commenting on what they are doing, that does not mean the investigation is not very active. . . . These things often take months, if not years, to resolve themselves.”

Some Loudoun officials have argued that they forged close links to people in the real estate industry in an effort to serve residents and said that their votes and other public actions reflected what they thought was best for the county. Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) was among the officials who, records and interviews show, worked closely with individuals who stood to benefit from his position.

“I embrace the investigation and look forward to the outcome,” Tulloch said. “The sooner, the better.” The allegations “need to be brought forward and people’s names cleared,” he said.

Supervisor James Burton (I-Blue Ridge) said that because of Plowman’s ties to other Republican officials, Burton is “glad that someone other than the commonwealth’s attorney is involved. . . . The public trust has been severely damaged. We need something to clear it up as soon as possible.”

Chairman Scott K. York (I) asked that the board hold a closed meeting this month to discuss whether to sue a real estate agent and others over the purchase of 101 acres in Ashburn from the Islamic Saudi Academy Inc., a company affiliated with a conservative religious school in Fairfax County funded by the Saudi government. The county paid $13.5 million for the land with the urging of Tulloch, who had close ties with the broker.

The Post’s series reported that the purchase price was substantially more than what another buyer said he was under contract to pay for the land.

Tulloch defended his actions and those of his friend Dale Polen Myers, a former supervisor who represented the Saudis in the sale.

“I’m proud of everything I’ve done on this board,” Tulloch said. The land purchase “was a good deal for the county, and I don’t regret that vote,” he added, noting that the purchase had been approved unanimously by the board.

Supervisor Stephen J. Snow (R-Dulles), whose actions were also part of The Post’s reports, defended his close communications with developers as proper and in the service of the community. Evoking his years in the Army, he said he lives by the strict code of ethics of a soldier and an officer.

“I don’t take life casually,” Snow said. “I don’t take all of what we do here frivolously. A lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into this job.”

Staff writer David S. Fallis contributed to this report.

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FBI Meets With Loudoun Officials, Staff; Probe Into Possible Corruption Includes County’s $13.5 Million Land Purchase
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Michael Laris; David S Fallis – Washington Post Staff Writers
Date: Mar 18, 2007
Start Page: C.1
Section: METRO
Text Word Count: 848

Federal officials have stepped up their investigation into potential public corruption in Loudoun County in recent days, interviewing supervisors and senior county staff and collecting official documents from county offices. Several of those interviewed said agents focused on the county’s $13.5 million purchase of property in 2004 from the Islamic Saudi Academy Inc.

The interviews mark a turn in the federal investigation, which has until recently taken place quietly behind the scenes. The investigation was announced last month after stories in The Washington Post detailed the close ties between Loudoun officials and the developers, builders and land-use lawyers pushing lucrative projects in one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties.

Within the past weeks, at least five members of the county’s nine- member Board of Supervisors have been interviewed or contacted by FBI agents. The agents also interviewed four senior county staff members.

The conversations covered a wide range of subjects, said sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. In many cases, federal officials sought specifics about the board’s unanimous vote to buy the Saudi property in the Ashburn area to build county schools.

One of those interviewed said federal agents asked about the role of Dale Polen Myers, a former county board chairman who was the Saudis’ agent on the land sale and earned a substantial commission.

Myers said late last week, “We’re part of an FBI investigation” and declined to answer questions.

Federal agents have become more visible, conducting some of their interviews in public settings. Supervisor Sarah R. Kurtz (D- Catoctin) said she met the agents in the fifth-floor conference room in the center of the Board of Supervisors’ offices. Several other county officials also met with agents in the county building, and Supervisor Jim Clem (R-Leesburg) said he was interviewed in the funeral home he runs.

“They are making the rounds,” said Supervisor Lori Waters (R- Broad Run), who was interviewed.

Other supervisors who have been interviewed or contacted include James Burton (I-Blue Ridge) and Mick Staton Jr. (R-Sugarland Run).
“We talked about when did I know, and what did I know, when the board made the decision to purchase the Saudi property,” said one of the officials who have been interviewed.

Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) was instrumental in the county’s decision to buy the site. The Saudis had originally planned to move their conservative religious school from Fairfax to the 101- acre parcel but ultimately decided against it.

Tulloch, who took the deal to the board, pushed his colleagues to move quickly to buy the land. At a meeting when the board voted to authorize the purchase, Tulloch said he knew “for a fact” that there were buyers willing to pay more than the county would pay. In an interview, Tulloch said developer Robert Buchanan was willing to pay more.

Buchanan, however, told The Post that he was going to pay considerably less than the $13.5 million the county paid, a figure he described as “in the range” of $11 million. County records show that Buchanan had a contract to buy the parcel but agreed to give it up so the county could buy it.

Buchanan would not say whether he has been contacted by the FBI.
The county’s purchase of the property landed a sales commission for Myers, Tulloch’s political mentor, and her boss at Carter Braxton Real Estate in Leesburg. The commission, which was paid by the seller, would range from $270,000 to $675,000 by industry standards.

In an interview with The Post, Tulloch insisted that he did not learn Myers was the agent until “well, well, well after the vote” by the board. But two Loudoun officials, including County Administrator Kirby M. Bowers, said that Tulloch told county staff members in the days before the board vote that Myers was handling the sale. Bowers was among the officials interviewed by the FBI.

Tom Jewell, owner of Carter Braxton, said in an interview Thursday that Myers had brought in the listing and that he was not aware that Buchanan had a contract on the property.

“It certainly wasn’t a secret” that Myers was the agent, Jewell said. “Quite frankly, the commission on a $13 million deal got everybody’s attention” at his office.

Tulloch would not say whether he had been contacted by federal investigators. “If they’ve been contacting people, then they’ll contact me eventually,” he said last week.

Nail Al-Jubeir, director of information at the Saudi Embassy, which funds the Islamic Saudi Academy, said: “As far as the embassy’s concerned, it has been sold, and it’s a closed case.”

Clem said the purchase has proved to be a good deal for the county. “You look at the value of it now, and whew, it’s gone up considerably. I feel strongly about that. It wasn’t a bad buy.”

Another area of inquiry for the FBI, sources said, has been Lawrence S. Beerman II, a former supervisor and Planning Commission chairman. An agent has asked about Beerman’s business activities and his actions as a public official. Beerman, contacted Friday, declined to comment.

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U.S. Prodded to Shut Fairfax Saudi School; Federal Panel Wonders Whether Religious Intolerance Is Being Fostered
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Jacqueline L Salmon and Valerie Strauss – Washington Post Staff Writers
Date: Oct 19, 2007
Start Page: B.1
Section: METRO
Text Word Count: 910

A federal panel yesterday urged the State Department to shut down a Saudi government-supported private school in Northern Virginia unless it can prove it is not teaching religious intolerance.

In a report released yesterday, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom criticized what it called the promotion of religious extremism in Saudi-run schools around the world, including in the kingdom. It leveled particular criticism at the Islamic Saudi Academy, which operates two campuses in Fairfax County, expressing “significant concerns” that the school is promoting a brand of religious intolerance that could prove a danger to the United States.

The commission does not specifically criticize the school’s teaching materials; it said Saudi officials would not make them available. But it said it is concerned about the textbooks used in the school because those used by schools in Saudi Arabia promote violence against Christians, Jews, Shias and polytheists.

The panel’s recommendations prompted a sharp response from school administrators and a Saudi government representative yesterday. They angrily denied that they are teaching radical Islam and said that the commission never asked to speak with any school staff members and never asked to see any materials.

“I think they went to Saudi Arabia and saw some curriculum there and thought we are teaching the same curriculum,” said Acting Director-General Abdulrahman Alghofaili, who also is principal of the boys’ high school. “And the fact is that we are teaching another curriculum. We are teaching an American curriculum.”

Panel members said they attempted to get access to the school’s textbooks and curriculum through the Saudi government but were unsuccessful.

“We’ve made every effort to get this information,” commission member Felice D. Gaer said.

As evidence of the type of material it believes is being taught at the school, it cited a 2006 analysis of Saudi textbooks by the Center for Religious Freedom and Institute for Gulf Affairs. One ninth-grade textbook taught teenagers that violence toward Jews, Christians and others is sanctioned by God. A 12th-grade textbook, the 2006 report says, reads “the hour [of judgment] will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.”

But Alghofaili said that school officials revised their curriculum last summer, eliminating material considered controversial in the United States.

Administrators took textbooks sent from Saudi Arabia, ripped out pages deemed inappropriate and in some cases added material, said Alghofaili and David Kovalik, the education director who was involved in the curriculum changes.

John Whitehead, founder of the Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute, which focuses on religious freedom cases, said he is skeptical of the U.S. government judging the intent and content of a religious school’s curriculum.

“This is real troublesome stuff,” he said. “Religion has a history of saying intolerant things. That’s why they’re protected.”

The Saudi academy was founded in 1984 to educate pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade children of Saudi diplomats; it also enrolls others. Its enrollment has fallen to 1,000 students from 1,300 five years ago, a decrease Saudi activists call a result of negative publicity in recent years. About 30 percent of the students are Saudi.

The academy is unlike other private Muslim schools in the United States, in part because it is heavily funded by the Saudi government, whose official religion is a rigid strain of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. The chairman of the school’s board of directors is the Saudi ambassador.

The eight-year-old commission, a creation of Congress, puts out a report each May meant to advise the White House, Congress and the State Department about “countries of particular concern” when it comes to religious freedom. It has no power to implement policy on its own.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House subcommittee on state and foreign appropriations, announced yesterday that he plans to introduce a House resolution requiring Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to close the Saudi Academy until its textbooks are made available for public examination.

State Department spokesman Karl Duckworth said the department is studying the commission’s report. “We continue to engage the government of Saudi Arabia on the need to address the intolerant references toward other religious groups in their textbooks and in other educational materials,” he said. “There has been progress . . . but they still have a ways to go.”

The commission and other religious-freedom groups have been complaining about Saudi textbooks for years, and congressional hearings have been held on the subject. Last year, the Saudi government agreed to make changes. The commission is following up but said it has not been given access to the revised texts.
Ordinarily, the U.S. government would have little power to close a private religious school, said Kevin Seamus Hasson, president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

But because the school is funded by the Saudi government, the U.S. government could consider the school a Saudi entity and, thus, subject to a U.S. law that gives the government wide discretion in regulating the non-diplomatic activities of foreign governments in the United States, Hasson said.

At the main campus in the Fairfax County section of Alexandria yesterday, students and teachers — some sheathed in veils, others in Western clothes — went about their day while administrators scrambled to address the commission’s report.

Alghofaili said that a number of worried parents called the school yesterday after hearing about the report and asked if the school would be closed. “Our response has been that we are fine,” he said.

Staff writer Michelle Boorstein contributed to this report.

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U.S. ‘Studying’ Islamic School Report; Officials Have Not Talked to Saudis Since Panel Urged Shutdown
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Valerie Strauss – Washington Post Staff Writer
Date: Nov 5, 2007
Start Page: B.4
Section: METRO
Text Word Count: 949

Saudi Embassy officials say no U.S. authorities have contacted them about a federal commission’s recommendation last month to close an Islamic school in Northern Virginia accused of promoting intolerance and violence.

State Department officials say publicly that they are “studying” the Oct. 19 report issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which includes a recommendation that the Islamic Saudi Academy be shuttered until it can prove it is not teaching religious extremism.

But State officials and others with knowledge of the issue, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing inquiry, said U.S. officials believe the commission was premature in asking that the school, supported by the Saudi government, be closed. They said the State Department was proceeding cautiously, speaking with Saudi officials about issues of religious tolerance and school curriculum, to avoid creating a crisis.

The school, whose main campus is in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, remains open.

Commission members said their non-binding recommendation was made after careful study and a number of failed efforts to review a comprehensive set of textbooks from the Saudi government.

They said they were less concerned about intolerance than whether school officials are promoting violence.

A report last year by the nonprofit organization Freedom House showed that textbooks used in Saudi Arabia contained an ideology of hatred toward Christians, Jews and Muslims who do not follow Wahabism, a branch of Sunni Islam seen by many Muslims as extremist in its views toward women and non-followers. Osama bin Laden is perhaps the best-known follower of that branch.

An earlier review of textbooks at the Virginia academy was critical of some parts, and a 2003 report produced in Saudi Arabia by a former Saudi judge showed that parts of Saudi textbooks promoted violence against non-Wahabis.

Saudi officials say the books have since been revised. And officials at the Virginia school said they have created their own textbooks, in part by ripping out pages from books obtained from Saudi Arabia.

The criticism of the Virginia school reflects the delicate nature of U.S.-Saudi relations, according to academic scholars. It also casts light on the line the federal government must straddle as it tries to determine the difference between teachings that are intolerant and those that are violent and illegal.

“The challenge with Islamic schools is first of all the language barrier,” said Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar for religious freedom at the nonprofit First Amendment Center in Arlington County. “The reason there is so much controversy is that nobody knows what is being taught.

“Even if they were teaching things that sound to the outsider like it is hateful, the question is, ‘Are they teaching people to break the law and go and attack other people?’ ” Haynes said. “Those are the kinds of things they may not do. That’s the line.”

The Saudi academy, which operates on two campuses in Northern Virginia, was founded in 1984 to educate pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade children of Saudi diplomats; about 30 percent of the roughly 1,000 students are Saudi, the school said. The school has a governing board headed by the Saudi ambassador to the United States and receives much of its funding from the Saudi government.

The commission was created by Congress eight years ago and issues an annual report about religious freedom around the world. Its members are appointed by the White House and congressional leadership. The current chairman is Michael Cromartie, vice president of the D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, at which he directs the Evangelicals in Civic Life program.

The commission has been studying Saudi curricula for years, said Commissioner Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the D.C.-based nonprofit Hudson Institute.

Shea said the Saudi school is unlike any other private religious school in the country because of its connections to Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of most of the Sept. 11 hijackers, a number of whom were adherents of Wahabism.

She said Saudi officials have promised since 2004 to revise the school’s curriculum to remove material.

“Ronald Reagan used to say, ‘Trust but verify,’ ” she said. “I now believe we must verify and not take the Saudi government’s word on faith.”

School officials said the commission did not call and ask directly for the books. The commission said it asked the embassy and never received a response.

Nail Al-Jubeir, spokesman for the Saudi Embassy, said the Saudi ambassador has exchanged letters with Freedom House and invited officials to the school in the past few years. He said the last letter was sent Oct. 16, 2006.

“We never got a response,” he said. “This whole issue should never have been raised.”

Tom Melia, deputy executive director of Freedom House, said letters had been exchanged but called the embassy invitation “a red herring.”
“We’ve asked them for the textbooks, and they said, ‘Sure, when the new editions come in.’ We’ve never received them,” Melia said. “We’d still like to see them. . . . We are always interested in dialogue.”

Ali Al-Ahmed, founder of the nonprofit Saudi Institute, which monitors Saudi Arabia, said he has seen the revised textbooks and finds that they still contain unacceptable material that promotes extremism. “It is like trying to remove a piece of bread that has a lot of mold,” he said. “You can’t do it. You remove a spot, but the bread is bad.”

But Zenit Chughtai, who said she graduated from the academy and is attending Michigan State University, praised the school. “A terrorist school? A school of hate? This is the exact opposite of how I recall school,” she said in an e-mail. “We were taught respect, tolerance, love, and decency.”

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School Officials Say Panel’s Call for Closure Hurt Image
The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.
Author: Valerie Strauss – Washington Post Staff Writer
Date: Nov 16, 2007
Start Page: B.3
Section: METRO
Text Word Count: 623

Officials of a Northern Virginia Islamic school accused of promoting intolerance and violence yesterday criticized a federal commission that recommended it be shuttered, saying the panel had unfairly damaged the reputation of the academy.

Abdalla Al-Shabnan, director general of the Islamic Saudi Academy, said a report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom calling upon the State Department in September to close the school, had taken everyone by surprise and left those affiliated with the school shaken.

Yesterday, Al-Shabnan invited a few reporters, including one from The Washington Post, to tour the school and meet with teachers, students and parents. Officials displayed some of the textbooks used, including a few routinely used by students in Fairfax County public schools.

Others, written in Arabic, are religious or language texts, academy officials said. They denied that any of the texts promote religious extremism.

“Some people believe we get our orders from the [Saudi] Embassy,” Al-Shabnan said. “That is not the case. I am the one in charge. I am responsible for all the action in the school.”

Parents and students say the commission’s views do not describe the school they know. Dana Nicholas, assistant principal of the girls’ school, said the academy uses a curriculum similar to the one used by Fairfax public schools. There are religious classes and Arabic is taught, said Nicholas, who described herself as a devout Christian. But, she added, “we are just a normal school.”

Commission members said they were not persuaded by the school’s invitation to reporters, nor a letter they received from Al-Shabnan on Wednesday. In the letter, dated Nov. 12, Al-Shabnan stated that the school had made its textbooks available to a Fairfax County supervisor for review. Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) said yesterday that his office had received six boxes of books from the school and that a translator from the county’s library system was looking through them.

Al-Shabnan also invited commission members to come to the school to review the textbooks.

Commission Chairman Michael Cromartie said the offer was not taken up because academy officials wanted mutually acceptable scholars and translators to review the textbooks. He said the commission had repeatedly asked Saudi Embassy officials in Washington for the books but had not received them.

The commission, created by Congress under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, issues an annual report about religious freedom around the world. Its members are appointed by the White House and congressional leadership.

Officials with the commission said they had spent several years examining textbooks used by schools in Saudi Arabia, which gives the Northern Virginia academy much of its funding. Those textbooks, the commission members said, promoted violence against Christians, Jews, Shiites and polytheists.

The Islamic academy, which has two campuses in Northern Virginia, was founded in 1984 to educate children of Saudi diplomats from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. About 30 percent of the roughly 1,000 students are Saudi, school officials said. The school’s governing board is led by the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

Officials of the school said the materials used there are unique, obtained from Saudi Arabia but changed to meet the needs of an American student body.

Al-Shabnan said yesterday that he had turned over the school’s textbooks to the Saudi Embassy. He said he expected that embassy officials would turn the textbooks over to the State Department.

Department officials and others with knowledge of the issue, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing inquiry, said U.S. officials think the commission’s recommendation to close the school was premature. They said the State Department was proceeding cautiously, speaking with Saudi officials about issues of religious tolerance and school curriculum, to avoid creating a crisis.

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