Islamic Public Charter School In Minnesota Supported by the Muslim American Society

Islam is thriving in a Minnesota public school.  Islamic Relief sponsors a public charter school, that is in reality a madrassa, paid for by taxpayers in Minnesota.   The parent organization Islamic Relief Worldwide is  known to “provide support and assistance” to the murderous Hamas terrorist organization. The  U.S. government designates Hamas as a terrorist group. The Muslim American Society of Minnesota openly admits it’s running a public charter school.  As you read the article below, published in the Minnesota Star Tribune, “MAS-MN offers on its web site “beneficial and enlightening information” about Islam, which includes statements like “Regularly make the intention to go on jihad with the ambition to die as a martyr.”

It is outrageous that we allow any school to establish Islam in an American public school.   Minnesotans contact Stop the Madrassa.  We can help you. 

Are taxpayers footing bill for Islamic school in Minnesota?

Last update: March 9, 2008 – 8:03 AM

Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) — named for the Muslim general who conquered medieval Spain — is a K-8 charter school in Inver Grove Heights. Its approximately 300 students are mostly the children of low-income Muslim immigrant families, many of them Somalis.

The school is in huge demand, with a waiting list of 1,500. Last fall, it opened a second campus in Blaine.

TIZA uses the language of culture rather than religion to describe its program in public documents. According to its mission statement, the school “recognizes and appreciates the traditions, histories, civilizations and accomplishments of the eastern world (Africa, Asia and Middle East).”

But the line between religion and culture is often blurry. There are strong indications that religion plays a central role at TIZA, which is a public school financed by Minnesota taxpayers. Under the U.S. and state constitutions, a public school can accommodate students’ religious beliefs but cannot encourage or endorse religion.

TIZA raises troubling issues about taxpayer funding of schools that cross that line.

Asad Zaman, TIZA’s principal, declined to allow me to visit the school or grant me an interview. He did not respond to e-mails seeking written replies.

TIZA’s strong religious connections date from its founding in 2003. Its co-founders, Zaman and Hesham Hussein, were both imams, or Muslim religious leaders, as well as leaders of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota (MAS-MN).

Since then, they have played dual roles: Zaman as TIZA’s principal and the current vice-president of MAS-MN, and Hussein as TIZA’s school board chair and president of MAS-MN until his death in a car accident in Saudi Arabia in January.

TIZA shares MAS-MN’s headquarters building, along with a mosque.

MAS-MN came to Minnesotans’ attention in 2006, when it issued a “fatwa,” warning Muslim taxi drivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that transporting passengers with alcohol in their baggage is a violation of Islamic law.

Journalists whom Zaman has permitted to visit TIZA have described the school’s Islamic atmosphere and practices.

“A visitor might well mistake Tarek ibn Ziyad for an Islamic school,” reported Minnesota Monthly in 2007. “Head scarves are voluntary, but virtually all the girls wear them.” The school has a central carpeted prayer space, and “vaguely religious-sounding language” is used.

According to the Pioneer Press, TIZA’s student body prays daily and the school’s cafeteria serves halal food (permissible under Islamic law). During Ramadan, all students fast from dawn to dusk, according to a parent quoted in the article.

In fact, TIZA was originally envisioned as a private Islamic school. In 2001, MAS-MN negotiated to buy the current TIZA/MAS-MN building for Al-Amal School, a private religious institution in Fridley, according to Bruce Rimstad of the Inver Grove Heights School District. But many immigrant families can’t afford Al-Amal. In 2002, Islamic Relief — headquartered in California — agreed to sponsor a publicly funded charter school, TIZA, at the same location.

TIZA claims to be non-sectarian, as Minnesota law requires charters to be. But “after-school Islamic learning” takes place on weekdays in the same building under MAS-MN’s auspices, according to the program for MAS-MN’s 2007 convention. At that convention, a TIZA representative at the school’s booth told me that students go directly to “Islamic studies” classes at 3:30, when TIZA’s day ends. There, they learn “Qur’anic recitation, the Sunnah of the Prophet” and other religious subjects, he said.

TIZA’s 2006 Contract Performance Review Report states that students engage in unspecified “electives” after school or do homework.

Publicly, TIZA emphasizes that it uses standard curricular materials like those found in other public schools. But when addressing Muslim audiences, school officials make the link to Islam clear. At MAS-MN’s 2007 convention, for example, the program featured an advertisement for the “Muslim American Society of Minnesota,” superimposed on a picture of a mosque. Under the motto “Establishing Islam in Minnesota,” it asked: “Did you know that MAS-MN … houses a full-time elementary school”? On the adjacent page was an application for TIZA.In addition to the issues raised by TIZA’s religious elements, there are reasons to be concerned about the organizations with which it is connected.

Group linked to Hamas

Islamic Relief-USA, the school’s sponsor, is compared to the Red Cross in several TIZA documents. In 2006, however, the Israeli government announced that Islamic Relief Worldwide, the organization’s parent group, “provides support and assistance” to Hamas, designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist group.

Meanwhile, MAS-MN offers on its web site “beneficial and enlightening information” about Islam, which includes statements like “Regularly make the intention to go on jihad with the ambition to die as a martyr.”

At its 2007 convention, MAS-MN featured the notorious Shayk Khalid Yasin, who is well-known in Britain and Australia for teaching that husbands can beat disobedient wives, that gays should be executed and that the United States spreads the AIDS virus in Africa through vaccines for tropical diseases.

Yasin’s topic? “Building a Successful Muslim Community in Minnesota.”

TIZA has improved the reading and math performance of its mostly low-income students. That’s commendable, but should Minnesota taxpayers be funding an Islamic public school? []

Katherine Kersten • Join the conversation at my blog, Think Again, which can be found at


3 Responses to “Islamic Public Charter School In Minnesota Supported by the Muslim American Society”

  1. Sandy M Says:

    My husband and I are both Muslim and are considering Tarek ibn Ziad as one of the many schools for our daughter to attend in 2009. I’ve been to both campuses and have met with most of the staff. I will be looking into just how the day is structured and what exactly is taught but from my current understanding of the school, all Islamic activities and lessons take place after school hours. If I found that they were not doing this I would be a little upset because taxpayers should not have to pay for schools that teach religion. However I have to wonder what previous reporters and yourself consider to be so Islamic about the school. It’s mentioned in the article that religion plays a central role. I’m not sure how one determines that it plays such a central role in the school! There is nothing upon entering either campus that implies anything about Islam. Both campuses do have a prayer room in them but as you said schools are required to make accommodations for student religious needs. Both campuses have a high percentage of Muslim students. They need a specific room just for them to pray in. Otherwise, the halls would be filled with praying children. The Blaine location has nothing in it that is inherently associated with Islam except it’s prayer room. The other campus shares a building with MAS-MN. However, MAS operates out of one portion of the building for the most part and the school operates out of the other. The schools do teach Arabic language (the main reason my husband and I are considering them). It’s important to note that the Arabic language does refer to God (Allah) often in every day saying but this does not necessarily imply Islam either. For example Al-hamdulilla (thanks to God), Insha’allah (God willing), and many more sayings use a name of Allah as a part of common expression. This is true for both Muslim and Christian Arabs who both use Allah to say God. I don’t know whether or not the school is slipping in little bit of imposed Islam into anything else but hopefully I will be able to find out as we look into it more. However I’d also like to address the whole “madrassa” issue. You say madrassa like it’s a bad thing! Madrassa is the arabic word for elementary/primary school. It’s the same word they use to refer to our K-6 schools. It doesn’t have anything to do with religion or not. It is true that in Islamic countries the elementary schools will often have religion classes included in their cirriculum but it is not a requirement that schools teach religion to be a madrassa. Why is this concept apparently so misunderstood by the media and general public. Also I’ve never once seen statements such as “Regularly make the intention to go on jihad with the ambition to die as a martyr.” on MAS-MN’s website. Of course MAS promotes building an Islamic community in Minnesota, you wouldn’t complain at all if a church held conventions about making a Christian community in Minneasota. We all deserve to build thriving communities that interact with each other for the mutual benefit of all community members. Who speaks at MAS conventions has nothing to do with the school itself. There are plenty of Christians who think its their God-Given right to beat their wives too. Beating women is a universal issue that affects women Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and every other religion in the world. Even so someone can have bad views about one issue and good views about another. So he spoke of building a community in MN? And so we should all the sudden worry that Minnesota women will all of the sudden be subject to violent attacks by their husbands? Brining together a bunch of unrelated facts and meshing them together into an article doesn’t make for all that good of an article. If your upset about the school focus on the school.

  2. Craig Montegue Says:

    THIS IS RIDICULOUS! When the average American student can’t even say a silent prayer in school – these muslims are allowed to conduct religious services! When are we going to quit punishing ourselves in favor of every leftist splinter group in our country?
    I am sick of the liberals pushing all of these absurd concessions on the Americans that built this country, and turning it into the new frontier for Islam.

  3. Steve Says:

    At its 2007 convention, MAS-MN featured the notorious Shayk Khalid Yasin, who is well-known in Britain and Australia for teaching that husbands can beat disobedient wives, that gays should be executed and that the United States spreads the AIDS virus in Africa through vaccines for tropical diseases.

    Are you kidding me! If you want to have an islamic school that is fine. Why would you think it is ok to link yourself to someone like this guy? I dont agree with your religion, but I dont try to blow muslims up because I dont agree with it either. Can you imagine what kind of uproar there would be if I decided I was going to start a school and as an after hour “elective” course I was going to talk about anti muslim topics? If public school is so horrible do us all a favor and stay home, or go back to whereever you came from and complain about how horrible your education is there. This is a perfect example of how PC we have allowed ourselves to become. Something as stupid as this cant be spoken negatively about because then we are racisits.

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