We do not respond to comments in our blog posts. However, given the allegations of Islamic religious education openly practiced in the public charter school, Tarek Ibn Ziyad Academy in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, we felt it merited a response. The comment can be found below.
First I would like to respond to the writer’s question regarding the “madrassa issue”. A madrassa is a school that teaches the Arabic language and culture. The Kalil Gibran International Academy’s stated purpose is to teach Arabic language and culture. The purpose of a public school in the United States is to teach the core subjects: American values, civics and the Constitution. History classes cover all cultures. Languages are offered as electives. In the U.S. we have an American culture. Immigrants come here because of the freedom and opportunity our culture and values provide. We are a “melting pot” into which all assimilate to become Americans first. The glory of our culture is that each of us is free to practice our own religion and cultural values privately while being an American without imposing our personal preferences on others. When a public school becomes a vehicle for teaching about one specific culture and language it is no longer a public school that serves the entire community. This is known as a private school. KGIA, TIZ and any other public or charter school teaching Arabic language and culture is,in effect, a madrassa; hence the name of our coalition, “Stop the Madrassa”. If madrassas have the reputation of being hotbeds of radical jihadist instruction then that is a question you must address with those indoctrinating young children to violence and hate.
As for the Muslim American Society’s association with the school, the FBI says MAS, based in Washington, D.C., was founded by members of the radical Muslim Brotherhood. In addition the school is sponsored by Islamic Relief, a Muslim charity identified by the U.S. Treasury as an al-Qaida front group. Churches are not advocating for jihad or death to the infidels. Some Mosques and Islamic organizations however are calling for Shari’a law to supercede the United States Constitution. I call your attention to the statement of one of CAIR’s founders and spokesmen, Ibrihim Hooper, “I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future,” he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in a 1993 interview. “But I’m not going to do anything violent to promote that. I’m going to do it through education. [http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=2136]
In response to your statement, “You wouldn’t complain at all if a church held conventions about making a Christian community in Minnesota” I will leave it to Robert Spencer who explains it well-” But [Tarek Ibn Ziyad Academy] it has been drawing objections from a number of people, including Robert Spencer, the expert who monitors such developments at Jihad Watch.
“Can you imagine a public school founded by two Christian ministers and housed in the same building as a church? Add to that – in the same building – a prominent chapel. And let’s say the students are required to fast during Lent and attend Bible studies right after school. All with your tax dollars,” he wrote. “Inconceivable? Sure. If such a place existed, the ACLU lawyers would descend on it like locusts. It would be shut down before you could say ‘separation of church and state’ to the accompaniment of New York Times and Washington Post editorials; full of indignant foreboding, warning darkly about the growing influence of the Religious Right in America.” [http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=58967]
It was very apparent to Amanda Getz, the teacher that was substituting in TIZA, that Islam was practiced during the school day. “There’s overwhelming evidence the public school’s endorsing the Islamic faith, including:
• Daily scheduled prayer led by an imam.
• Classroom instruction in the Quran.
• Compulsory “after-school” Islamic Studies classes (buses don’t leave the school until after Islamic Studies is over).
• Halal cafeteria food.
• Observance of Islamic holidays.
• Early release for Friday mosque.”
The only explanation for this not being blatantly evident to you when you visited the campuses is that you were given the typical tour given to visitors in which the school is “cleaned-up”. This deception is practiced in order to cover-up what is really going on. Following the writer’s comment is the second article published in the Minnesota Star Tribune, April 9, 2008, regarding the evidence of Islamic religious practice in the Tarek Ibn Ziyad Academy.
My husband and I are both Muslim and are considering Tarek ibn Ziadas 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 mutualbenefit 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.
Wall of silence broken at state’s Muslim public school
Recently, I wrote about Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), a K-8 charter school in Inver Grove Heights . Charter schools are public schools and by law must not endorse or promote religion.
Evidence suggests, however, that TIZA is an Islamic school, funded by Minnesota taxpayers.
TIZA has many characteristics that suggest a religious school. It shares the headquarters building of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, whose mission is “establishing Islam in Minnesota.” The building also houses a mosque. TIZA’s executive director, Asad Zaman, is a Muslim imam, or religious leader, and its sponsor is an organization called Islamic Relief.
Students pray daily, the cafeteria serves halal food – permissible under Islamic law — and “Islamic Studies” is offered at the end of the school day.
Zaman maintains that TIZA is not a religious school. He declined, however, to allow me to visit the school to see for myself, “due to the hectic schedule for statewide testing.” But after I e-mailed him that the Minnesota Department of Education had told me that testing would not begin for several weeks, Zaman did not respond — even to urgent calls and e-mails seeking comment before my first column on TIZA.
Now, however, an eyewitness has stepped forward. Amanda Getz of Bloomingtonis a substitute teacher. She worked as a substitute in two fifth-grade classrooms at TIZAon Friday, March 14. Her experience suggests that school-sponsored religious activity plays an integral role at TIZA.
Arriving on a Friday, the Muslim holy day, she says she was told that the day’s schedule included a “school assembly” in the gym after lunch.
Before the assembly, she says she was told, her duties would include taking her fifth-grade students to the bathroom, four at a time, to perform “their ritual washing.”
Afterward, Getz said, “teachers led the kids into the gym, where a man dressed in white with a white cap, who had been at the school all day,” was preparing to lead prayer. Beside him, another man “was prostrating himself in prayer on a carpet as the students entered.”
“The prayer I saw was not voluntary,” Getz said. “The kids were corralled by adults and required to go to the assembly where prayer occurred.”
Islamic Studies was also incorporated into the school day. “When I arrived, I was told ‘after school we have Islamic Studies,’ and I might have to stay for hall duty,” Getzsaid. “The teachers had written assignments on the blackboard for classes like math and social studies. Islamic Studies was the last one — the board said the kids were studying the Qu’ran. The students were told to copy it into their planner, along with everything else. That gave me the impression that Islamic Studies was a subject like any other.”
After school, Getz’s fifth-graders stayed in their classroom and the man in white who had led prayer in the gym came in to teach Islamic Studies. TIZA has in effect extended the school day — buses leave only after Islamic Studies is over. Getz did not see evidence of other extra-curricular activity, except for a group of small children playing outside. Significantly, 77 percent of TIZA parents say that their “main reason for choosing TIZA … was because of after-school programs conducted by various non-profit organizations at the end of the school period in the school building,” according to a TIZA report. TIZA may be the only school in Minnesota with this distinction.
Why does the Minnesota Department of Education allow this sort of religious activity at a public school? According to Zaman, the department inspects TIZA regularly — and has done so “numerous times” — to ensure that it is not a religious school.
But the department’s records document only three site visits to TIZA in five years — two in 2003-04 and one in 2007, according to Assistant Commissioner Morgan Brown. None of the visits focused specifically on religious practices.
The department is set up to operate on a “complaint basis,” and “since 2004, we haven’t gotten a single complaint about TIZA,” Brown said. In 2004, he sent two letters to the school inquiring about religious activity reported by visiting department staffers and in a news article. Brown was satisfied with Zaman’s assurance that prayer is “voluntary” and “student-led,” he said. The department did not attempt to confirm this independently, and did not ask how 5- to 11-year-olds could be initiating prayer. (At the time, TIZA was a K-5 school.)
Zaman agreed to respond by e-mail to concerns raised about the school’s practices. Student “prayer is not mandated by TIZA,” he wrote, and so is legal. On Friday afternoons, “students are released … to either join a parent-led service or for study hall.” Islamic Studies is provided by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, and other “nonsectarian” after-school options are available, he added.
Yet prayer at TIZA does not appear to be spontaneously initiated by students, but rather scheduled, organized and promoted by school authorities.
Request for volunteers
Until recently, TIZA’s website included a request for volunteers to help with “Friday prayers.” In an e-mail, Zaman explained this as an attempt to ensure that “no TIZA staff members were involved in organizing the Friday prayers.”
But an end run of this kind cannot remove the fact of school sponsorship of prayer services, which take place in the school building during school hours. Zamandoes not deny that “some” Muslim teachers “probably” attend. According to federal guidelines on prayer in schools, teachers at a public school cannot participate in prayer with students.
In addition, schools cannot favor one religion by offering services for only its adherents, or promote after-school religious instruction for only one group. The ACLU of Minnesotahas launched an investigation of TIZA, and the Minnesota Department of Education has also begun a review.
TIZA’s operation as a public, taxpayer-funded school is troubling on several fronts. TIZA is skirting the law by operating what is essentially an Islamic school at taxpayer expense. The Department of Education has failed to provide the oversight necessary to catch these illegalities, and appears to lack the tools to do so. In addition, there’s a double standard at work here — if TIZA were a Christian school, it would likely be gone in a heartbeat.
TIZA is now being held up as a national model for a new kind of charter school. If it passes legal muster, Minnesota taxpayers may soon find themselves footing the bill for a separate system of education for Muslims.