Behind the Veil at the Islamic Saudi Academy

August 1, 2008 at 10:04 pm | Posted in Shariah | 2 Comments
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by Jerry Gordon and Isabelle Cruz , New English Review (Aug. 2008)

Last month we chronicled in a New English Review
article the nearly 25 year saga of citizen opposition to the Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA), a Royal Saudi Embassy sponsored private school with two campuses located in Fairfax County, Virginia. The ISA is one of 20 such Saudi funded schools around the world with ties to the Kingdom’s Ministry of Education that espouses the strict Islamic doctrine of Wahhabism.

When the US Commission on International Religious Freedom released a report on its review of 17 textbooks used in the Islamic Studies program at the embattled ISA on June 11th, a fuse was lit that resulted in a protest outside the main Alexandria, Virginia Campus on June 17th.  The group of 15 protesters who rallied outside the ISA had signs that said:

Honk to Stop Islamic Terrorism;
This Saudi school is Anti-Semitic and Anti-Christian.
Andrea Lafferty, executive director of Traditional Values Coalition organized the ISA protest with participation by the United American Committee, Virginia Chapter, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Security Policy (CSP).
Lafferty commented:
They’re free to come here and worship, but they are not free to come here and teach hate.
Christine Brim of the CSP said:
They don’t have a First Amendment right in this country to incite violence against other groups.

Rahima Abdullah, the ISA education director
replied to these allegations:
That’s absolutely not true. What we teach here is love and tolerance.
We have new books now and the ones the commission is talking about have been out of use for some time, and were misinterpreted, then.

A spokesman for ISA, a U.S. history teacher, David Kovalick, was
shown this excerpt from an ISA textbook:
The Jews conspired against Islam and its people. A sly, wicked person who sinfully and deceitfully professed Islam infiltrated (the Muslims).

response was:
Well, that is very anti-Semitic and uh, wow, no, but those don’t exist in our books.

An Al Jazeera
report on the protest at the ISA noted this comment from Abd Al-Rahman Al-Ghufayli, principal of the Boys’ School: “We have nothing to hide. That’s why we invited them there and tried to discuss things with them, but I’m sad to say, they did not accept our invitation. This suggests that the commission has a certain agenda, which it is trying to implement.”
Then there were these additional observations from an Al Jazeera interview with ISA administrators and faculty inside the School during the June 17th protest:
Reporter: “The local authority of Fairfax County, where the academy is located, has challenged the threats of closure. It determined that the allegations are invalid, and it approved the religious curricula after examining them. The non-Muslim teachers also expressed disgust and frustration at the allegations.”
Kate Schneider, English teacher: “The thing that frustrates me so much about these accusations is that first, they are not true, and second, it is so completely opposite from the truth. This school teaches faith and the same basic values we want all our children to have.”
Another non-Muslim faculty member was quoted in a Washington Post report parroting the same line:
School administrators said teachers were told to keep any inflammatory material out of the classroom. “I taught for 15 years,” said Dana Nicholas, assistant principal of the girls’ school. “I would not have stayed if I thought that my students that were coming into my classroom and dealing with me every day, as a Christian, as a woman, if they were being taught this kind of thing in the Islamic class.”
However, the realities about what prevails inside the ISA are 180 degrees away from these faculty comments quoted  in Al Jazeera, the Washington Times and the Washington Post.
Following the June 17th protests, we were contacted by former ISA faculty members  who consented to present views on the atmosphere that pervades the Saudi Embassy sponsored school in Fairfax County, Virginia.
The comments by these confidential sources reveal a pervasive attitude towards non-Muslims that reflects Saudi autocracy and Wahhabi xenophobic doctrine.
According to the source, approximately 20 % of the ISA students were children from the Saudi and other Muslim diplomatic legations in Washington, DC.  The school was very much under the control of the Saudis and had Arab Muslim long term faculty who had been there since the school’s founding in the mid-1980s. At the beginning of the school year, all of the teachers were informed that the ISA was an arm of the Saudi government.
The sources indicated that the majority of students were American Muslim children. The instructors were concerned male students would travel to the Middle East after graduation, ‘go over the edge’ and become Jihadists, just like 1999 ISA valedictorian, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, now in prison for thirty years for the attempted assassination of President Bush.
The administrators were ‘extremely arrogant’ and practiced the religiously sanctioned tradition of lying to non-Muslims (taqiyya) and enjoyed pulling the wool over the eyes of the infidels. An atmosphere of deception was at the heart of everything that they did. There was an attitude among administrators of “Don’t tell the Americans” regarding Wahhabi Jihadi doctrine. Whenever Saudi representatives came to the ISA, they would have nothing to do with the non-Muslim faculty. Non-Muslim faculty were allowed to attend general faculty meetings, but when there was something that the Muslim faculty did not want them to hear, the Muslim instructors would disappear and non-Muslim instructors would hear rumors of meetings. If the non-Muslim faculty asked about those meetings, the Muslim leadership at the school would tell them that it was going to be in Arabic anyway so they need not attend.  There was an atmosphere of exclusion and oppression.
Classroom maps of the Middle East did not depict Israel on them.
There was an incident involving a Christian woman instructor.  Her daughter had attended ISA. The daughter would come home in tears because she had been taught to hate Jews and that Christians were awful.   The daughter had missed several days of school because she didn’t want to hear the hateful scorn. The girl became the object of a scurrilous campaign by Muslim girls in her class who spread rumors that her Christian mother had an illicit affair and was pregnant. When the girl’s mother heard of this, she approached the head of faculty and requested a denial of the allegations and an apology; none were given.  The woman taught at ISA for a brief period and when the school year ended, resigned. According to the sources, to add insult to injury, the same Dana Nicholas who said she couldn’t have taught at the school if students “were being taught this kind of thing in the Islamic class,” knew directly about the persecution of the Christian woman instructor and also helped to white wash the incident.
The sources noted that the turnover for non-Muslim teachers was huge, while some non-Muslim teachers wanted to leave but stayed because they needed the job. Not only American non-Muslims but other people who were considered lower in status by the Saudi administrators, including Pakistanis, Kurds and even Shia Muslims, suffered at the school. The sources described how the students “got away with murder.” An interesting side note is that many Muslim students from the Middle East came to the school for one or two semesters and in the English as a Second Language (ESL) classes received credits for English so that they could go on to an American university, whether they could speak English or not. All the students passed, no matter what their proficiency level. Students could not be failed or reprimanded. There is evidence that students’ grades were changed to allow them to pass and even the students told the teachers they couldn’t do anything about it.
Another telling incident involved a non-Muslim teacher who taught second and third grade students and apparently was liked by them.  One day, after the children had returned from their Muslim Studies class, when the instructor walked into the classroom, the students were talking about how they hated Christians and that they were going to kill them. The teacher overheard this and said, “I’m a Christian”.  The students said that they wouldn’t kill the instructor, but would kill all the rest of Christians. This should come as no surprise since the head of the Muslim Religion Department is himself a Wahhabist. The teacher who heard the students say these things resigned his position and left the school.
One last point to ponder, the sources said that it doesn’t matter if the textbooks are changed because the instructors teaching the Wahhabi doctrine know it by heart and teach it year after year. Even if the textbooks were to finally have the hateful Wahhabist and Islamic supremacy language removed, it would do nothing to change those teachers who have been filling young Muslim heads with this hate-filled xenophobic doctrine. While Rahima Abdullah may assure us that the books are new and were misinterpreted originally, our sources have experienced the Saudi agenda of teaching anything but “love and tolerance.”
It is the atmosphere of exclusion and hate directed at non-Muslim ISA faculty that raises serious questions about the tolerant, non-discriminatory representations by faculty and the School’s administrators.  The ISA is an arm of the Saudi government Ministry of Education. Given the recent revelations of the second Saudi text book study, “Update: Saudi Arabia’s Curriculum of Intolerance,” released by the Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom on July 17th, perhaps  it is time for Congressman Frank Wolf and others on the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to demand that the ISA be shut down. Certainly, the ISA accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is seriously in question, and if xenophobic hate is taught there, should be withdrawn.
As attested by the comments of these knowledgeable sources, things are not quite what the Saudis allege behind the veil of taqiyya at the ISA.


A Textbook Case of Intolerance

July 22, 2008 at 6:33 pm | Posted in Shariah | Leave a comment
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Saudi textbooks. Click image to expandSaudi textbooks

Because they are so clearly designed for the convenience of large testing companies, I had always assumed that multiple-choice tests, the bane of any fourth grader’s existence, were a quintessentially American phenomenon. But apparently I was wrong. According to a report put out by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom last week, it seems that Saudi Arabians find them useful, too. Here, for example, is a multiple-choice question that appears in a recent edition of a Saudi fourth-grade textbook, Monotheism and Jurisprudence, in a section that attempts to teach children to distinguish “true” from “false” belief in god:

Q. Is belief true in the following instances:
a) A man prays but hates those who are virtuous.
b) A man professes that there is no deity other than God but loves the unbelievers.
c) A man worships God alone, loves the believers, and hates the unbelievers.

The correct answer, of course, is c). According to the Wahhabi imams who wrote this textbook, it isn’t enough just to worship god or just to love other believers—it is important to hate unbelievers as well. By the same token, b) is also wrong. Even a man who worships god cannot be said to have “true belief” if he loves unbelievers.

“Unbelievers,” in this context, are Christians and Jews. In fact, any child who sticks around in Saudi schools until ninth grade will eventually be taught that “Jews and Christians are enemies of believers.” They will also be taught that Jews conspire to “gain sole control of the world,” that the Christian crusades never ended, and that on Judgment Day “the rocks or the trees” will call out to Muslims to kill Jews.

These passages, it should be noted, are from new, “revised” Saudi textbooks. Following a similar analysis of earlier versions of these same textbooks in 2006, American diplomats immediately approached their Saudi counterparts about the more disturbing passages, and the Saudis agreed to conduct a “comprehensive revision … to weed out disparaging remarks towards religious groups.”

The promised revision—hailed, at the time, as a great diplomatic success—was supposed to be finished by the beginning of the 2008-09 school year and was accompanied by a Saudi PR campaign. Among other things, the Saudis sponsored an interfaith dialogue last week, one that all participants hailed as a great breakthrough—despite the fact that the actual meetings took place in Spain as it would be too embarrassing for Saudi Arabia to host Christian and Jewish religious leaders on its own soil. But although the beginning of the 2008-09 school year is nearly upon us, the only textbook revisions have been superficial, and the most disturbing part of the message—that faithful Muslims should hate Jews and Christians—remains.

Normally, the contents of another country’s textbooks would be of no interest to us. Indeed, I’ve no doubt that there are plenty of U.S. textbooks that contain insane, incorrect, or otherwise unacceptable information. Saudi school textbooks are a special case, however. They are written and produced by the Saudi government and subsequently distributed, free of cost, to Saudi-sponsored schools as far afield as Lagos, Nigeria, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Americans are not the only ones who worry about their influence. In Britain, a small political storm began last year when British mosques were found to be distributing Saudi books that called on Muslims to kill all apostates.

Still, even if U.S. diplomacy is a legitimate response to this peculiarly insidious form of propaganda, it clearly isn’t a sufficient response. Far more significant, and surely more effective, would be a unified response from the rest of the world’s Muslims, the vast majority of whom do not share Saudi views and do, occasionally, say so. The Hudson Insitute report cites a few of them, outside as well as inside Saudi Arabia. It would be useful, for us but especially for them, if they would say so more often and more loudly.

Of course, we are not a Muslim nation, and Americans cannot, by themselves, orchestrate a meaningful Muslim response to Saudi extremism. But we do have a large Muslim population, we do have friends in the moderate Muslim world, and we do have some money, much of which is wasted, to spend on public diplomacy. We also have two presidential candidates who are arguing hard this week about the best ways to combat terrorism, the best way to deploy guns and aid, the best uses of American military power.

Here is a novel idea for both of them: Make sure that children in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in Islamic schools all around the world have decent fourth-grade textbooks. It might save a lot of trouble later on.

Despite Saudi Promises, Textbooks Filled With Hate

July 22, 2008 at 4:14 pm | Posted in Shariah | Leave a comment
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By ELI LAKE, Staff Reporter of the New York Sun | July 18, 2008

WASHINGTON ­ Two years after protracted American-Saudi negotiations persuaded the State Department that the Saudis would remove religious intolerance from their national textbooks, a new study finds the books still portray non-Sunni Muslims as the enemies of true believers.

The report from the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute finds that the Saudi textbooks are filled with the austere supremacism of the Wahhabi sect of Islam, despite promises from the Kingdom in 2006 to alter them. For example, a textbook for 10th graders on Islamic jurisprudence not only says it is permissible in Islam to murder a homosexual, but recommends the methods for doing so: burning alive, stoning, or throwing oneoff a high building.

Jews, Christians, and non-Wahhabi Sunni Muslims are described in many of the textbooks as enemies of the true faith and infidels. What’s more, examples from Muhammad’s teachings that focus on tolerance of other faiths are often ignored.

The report coincides with a conference the Saudi monarch is sponsoring in Madrid, at which he appeared to want reconciliation between the clerics of the Muslim world and their counterparts among Christians and Jews.

Saudi textbooks are not only a human rights issue, but also increasingly a national security matter, as the House of Saud underwrites Islamic education across the world, including a school in northern Virginia that has come under scrutiny for using the Saudi official textbooks.

The director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, Nina Shea, said yesterday that the State Department should consider sanctions against Saudi Arabia. “The government of Saudi Arabia may have told the State Department it would thoroughly revise its textbooks in order to diffuse criticism two years ago. But it’s two years later and now is the time for reckoning. The State Department must now demonstrate it was not an unwitting accomplice to a public relations ploy. They must intensely scrutinize these textbooks and work with them to remove it, or impose sanctions,” she said.

Nearly two years ago, the State Department waived a series of sanctions suggested under the International Religious Freedom Act after America and Saudi Arabia came to an arrangement whereby Riyadh promised to excise the intolerance of their textbooks by the start of the fall 2008 school year.

The report says: “This analysis documents that thorough textbook reform has not yet occurred. It is in American interests that the U.S. Government, in this administration and the next, hold Saudi Arabia to its obligations.”

Saudi textbooks still teaching hate: report

July 18, 2008 at 8:30 am | Posted in Shariah | 2 Comments
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Jews, Christians referred to as apes and swine

Charles Lewis, National Post Published: Thursday, July 17, 2008

Despite promises to the U.S., Saudi students are still learning  from textbooks that espouse the killing of homosexuals and vilification of non-Muslims.Fahad Shadeed/ReutersDespite promises to the U.S., Saudi students are still learning from textbooks that espouse the killing of homosexuals and vilification of non-Muslims.

Despite a promise to remove attacks on other faiths from the public school curriculum, Saudi Arabia’s state-produced textbooks still refer to Jews and Christians as apes and swine, insist that Jews conspire to take over the world and on Judgment Day “the rocks or the trees” will call out to Muslims to kill the Jews, says the Washington-based Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank.

The textbooks, used by five million students in the kingdom every year, as well as in many Saudi-funded institutions outside the country, also attack homosexuals and Muslims who do not practice a fundamentalist form of Islam.

For example:

• “The punishment for homosexuality is death. The companions of the Prophet were unanimous on killing although they differed … in the manner of killing. Some companions … stated that a homosexual is to be burned with fire … he should be stoned or thrown from a high place.”

• “You can hardly find an example of sedition in which the Jews have not played a role.”

• Zionism has achieved its aims through a variety of “destructive movements” including the Rotary Clubs and International Lions Clubs, which are “Masonic clubs based in America and they have secret agents all over the world.”

One of the suggested activities for Grade 8 students is to “write a composition on the danger of imitating infidels, giving some examples of imitation among the students and then present it to his classmates.”

Nina Shea, author of the report, Saudi Arabia’s Curriculum of Intolerance, said the deeper problem the textbooks represent is a noxious ideology that is being exported all over the world.

“This ideology is kindling to [Osama] bin Laden’s match,” she said.

“It radicalizes those who are indoctrinated with it. The aim is to radicalize students to hate the West, hate non-Muslims, to hate Jews, and to say that killing is sanctioned by God.

“Saudi Arabia is making every effort to make it mainstream in the Muslim world and make it the dominant interpretation of Islam.”

She said the Saudi education system is the main reason Web sites designed to recruit suicide bombers are directed so heavily at Saudi youth.

The ultra-conservative Sunni kingdom practises a form of Islam called Wahhabism, which advocates jihad.

Ms. Shea, who produced her first report on the textbooks in 2006, said Saudi Arabia agreed to make changes after pressure from the United States. The deadline is September, 2008.

“[The State Department] had to look like we’re doing something in the face of this really toxic teaching,” she said.

“It’s so indefensible and so inexplicable that this is being disseminated. It’s not even private clerics or an enemy who is disseminating this. This is our ally.”

The international human rights lawyer said her latest study looked at the textbooks used in the 2007-08 school year. But she found little difference from the books studied for her first report and does not believe the Saudis will meet the September deadline.

Rather, she believes they agreed to make the changes as a “publicity ploy.”

“They want to take some of the pressure off by promising to make the changes ,but they are fairly confident that the State Department will not go after them and will not even bother to open the books or translate them, which they have not done at all.”

And when a new president enters the White House in January, the agreement will likely be forgotten, she said.

Ms. Shea believes Americans give Saudi Arabia an easy ride because of their country’s dependence on foreign oil.

“Oil independence is really important for this reason. Because it’s going to be very hard for the Saudis to change.”

Officials at the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., declined to comment.

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