LOCAL News :: Education
Troubling passages in texts at Va. school
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Review: Troubling passages in texts at Va. school
By MATTHEW BARAKAT
McLEAN, Va. (AP) — Textbooks at a private Islamic school in northern Virginia teach students that it is permissible for Muslims to kill adulterers and converts from Islam, according to a federal investigation released Wednesday.
Other passages in the school's textbooks state that "the Jews conspired against Islam and its people" and that Muslims are permitted to take the lives and property of those deemed "polytheists. "
The passages were found in selected textbooks used during the 2007-08 school year by the Islamic Saudi Academy, which teaches 900 students in grades K-12 at two campuses in Alexandria and Fairfax and receives much of its funding from the Saudi government.
The academy has come under scrutiny from critics who allege that it fosters an intolerant brand of Islam similar to that taught in the conservative Saudi kingdom. In the review, the panel recommended that the school make all of its textbooks available to the State Department so changes can be made before the next school year.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a panel formed by Congress, last year recommended that the school be closed amid concerns that it promotes violence and too closely mimics the conservative Saudi educational system.
The commission made its recommendation last year to close the school even though it had not reviewed the textbooks. Now that some have been reviewed, "we feel more confident that the potential problems we flagged before really are there," said the commission's spokeswoman, Judith Ingram.
School officials have long denied that the academy fosters intolerance. It has acknowledged that some of the Saudi textbooks contain harsh language, but says that the texts have improved in recent years and are revised as needed by the academy before being distributed to students.
School officials and the State Department did not immediately respond to phone calls and an e-mail seeking comment Wednesday.
The commission said it obtained 17 of the academy's textbooks through a variety of channels, including from members of Congress. The texts did appear to contain numerous revisions, including pages that were removed or passages that were whited out, but numerous troubling passages remained, according to the panel:
_ The authors of a 12th-grade text on Koranic interpretation state that apostates (those who convert from Islam), adulterers and people who murder Muslims can be permissibly killed.
_ The authors of a 12th-grade text on monotheism write that "(m)ajor polytheism makes blood and wealth permissible, " meaning that a Muslim can take with impunity the life and property of someone believed guilty of polytheism. According to the panel, the strict Saudi interpretation of polytheism includes Shiite and Sufi Muslims as well as Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists.
_ A social studies text offers the view that Jews were responsible for the split between Sunni and Shiite Muslims: "The cause of the discord: The Jews conspired against Islam and its people. A sly, wicked person who sinfully and deceitfully professed Islam infiltrated (the Muslims)."
More generally, the panel found that the academy textbooks hold the view that the Muslim world was strong when united under a single caliph, the Arabic language and the Sunni creed, and that Muslims have grown weak because of foreign influence and internal divisions.
The commission's findings issued come a month after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to extend the academy's lease for its main campus, which sits on county property.
The county conducted its own study of the textbooks last year at the request of Supervisor Gerald Hyland, whose district encompasses the academy.
Hyland and the county never released results of what they had found, but Hyland said in approving the lease that he is comfortable with the school's teachings, though he did so with a qualification.
"I would be less than frank if I didn't tell you that the curriculum does contain references to the Quran, which, if taken out of context and read literally, would cause come concern," Hyland said at the meeting at which the lease was extended.
On the Net:
Islamic Saudi Academy: www.saudiaca demy.net/
USCIRF Press Release: www.uscirf. gov/index. php?optioncom_ content&taskview&id2206&Itemid 1