Head of Islamic School Guilty Of Not Reporting Child Abuse

July 31, 2008 at 4:40 pm | Posted in Shariah | Leave a comment
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By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 31, 2008

The director general of a controversial private Islamic school in Fairfax County has been found guilty of a misdemeanor charge of failing to report child abuse and fined $500.

Abdalla I. Al-Shabnan, head of the Islamic Saudi Academy on Route 1 in the Mount Vernon area, was arrested last month by Fairfax police, who said Al-Shabnan had been informed of the possible sexual abuse of a 5-year-old student at the school. School authorities are required by law to report alleged child abuse within 72 hours.

Al-Shabnan was charged with misdemeanor counts of failing to report child abuse and obstruction of justice. He pleaded no contest July 24 to the failure to report charge, and Fairfax prosecutors agreed to dismiss the obstruction charge, according to court records.

Al-Shabnan did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday. His attorney, Robert C. Whitestone, said, “We thought it was a fair resolution.”

The Islamic Saudi Academy has come under criticism because some of its textbooks contain passages that extol jihad and martyrdom, call for victory over one’s enemies and say the killing of adulterers and apostates is justified. The academy has rented the school from Fairfax County since 1984, and the county recently renewed its lease for three years.

Protesters picketed the school last month, saying it promotes religious intolerance. The county has asked the State Department to review the school’s texts.

Cultural differences might have led to the episode that resulted in Al-Shabnan’s arrest. A police affidavit filed last month said that detectives learned in May that the 5-year-old girl attended the academy’s West Campus on Popes Head Road, just south of Fairfax City, and her sexual abuse allegations had been reported to the school’s administrators. No report was made to any state agency.

Detectives interviewed the girl and then visited Al-Shabnan, who said he “did not believe her complaint and felt she may be attempting to gain attention,” according to the affidavit by Detective Doug Comfort.

Al-Shabnan told police that he met with the child’s parents and advised them to seek counseling for the girl. Al-Shabnan then reportedly told the detectives that he “was not aware that he was required to make such a report” to child protective agencies, Comfort wrote. Police also found that Al-Shabnan had “ordered the written report deleted from the computer” of the school.

Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Ian M. Rodway said the plea agreement “was satisfactory to all the people involved in the case.”

Head of Saudi school admits he didn’t report abuse

July 31, 2008 at 4:29 pm | Posted in Shariah | Leave a comment
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by Matthew Barakat, AP, July 30, 2008

McLEAN, Va. (AP) — The director of a Saudi-funded Islamic school in northern Virginia accused of promoting religious intolerance has been convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse.

Abdalla I. Al-Shabnan, director of the Islamic Saudi Academy, was fined $500 Thursday after admitting that he failed to inform authorities about suspected sexual abuse of a 5-year-old girl who attended the school’s Fairfax campus.

As part of a plea bargain, prosecutors dropped an obstruction of justice charge, which could have carried up to a year in jail. A trial had been scheduled for Aug. 1.

The charges against Al-Shabnan provided fuel to the school’s critics, who say it teaches an intolerant brand of Islam in line with the Wahhabist form of the religion prevalent in the Saudi kingdom.

According to court papers, the girl made comments that led her teacher to suspect the girl’s father might be sexually abusing her.

The teacher and school principal filed a report to Al-Shabnan, but he didn’t believe the girl. He advised the girl’s parents to put her into counseling, according to a police affidavit.

State law requires school authorities to report alleged child abuse within 72 hours of learning of the allegation.

Police also said in court papers that the Al-Shabnan, 52, had a report of the girl’s complaint deleted from a school computer.

Al-Shabnan, of McLean, Va., and school officials did not return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday, nor did Al-Shabnan’s attorney, Robert C. Whitestone.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond Morrogh was out of town and unavailable for comment, his office said.

School officials have countered allegations of intolerance by saying they modified textbooks and religious courses to delete intolerant material.

However, a federal commission issued a report last month stating that even the academy’s revised textbooks contain numerous hateful passages. One passage said it is permissible for Muslims to kill adulterers and converts from Islam, while other passages state that “the Jews conspired against Islam and its
people” and that Muslims are permitted to take the lives and property of those deemed “polytheists.”

And a regional accrediting body said earlier this month that it was reviewing the school’s status in light of the commission’s report and Al-Shabnan’s arrest.

Fairfax County officials have said it’s up to the State Department to decide if the school can continue running. But the State Department has said that operations at the school — which sits on land leased by the county — remain a local issue.

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., sent a third letter Wednesday to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her more actively investigate what’s being taught at the school.

The school serves about 900 students in grades K-12 at campuses in Alexandria and Fairfax.

Andrea Lafferty — executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, a conservative advocacy group that has been critical of the school — said the $500 fine amounts to a slap on the wrist.

“His fine wasn’t much more than an HOV (traffic) violation,” Lafferty said. “That’s pretty outrageous for failure to report child abuse.”
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