Further details have become available concerning textbooks used in a Northern Virginia private school sponsored by Saudi Arabia that passages which were anti-Semitic, intolerant of various Muslim groups, and which advocated violence against those who convert from Islam. A post from January discussed a review of the textbooks used by the Islamic Saudi Academy in 2007-2008 undertaken by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which recommended that:
…. the State Department close the school until it proves that it is not teaching a type of religious intolerance potentially dangerous to the United States. Commission member Nina Shea said the panel is concerned that Saudi Arabia is using its educational system, and connections to schools worldwide, to export intolerant and militant religious teachings. The school’s board of directors is headed by the Saudi ambassador, and Shea has called the school an extension of the Saudi Embassy.
The Academy 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 Associated Press reports that the recommendation to close the school had been made although it not actually reviewed the textbooks. The report states that having finally completing its review, the Commission found:
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.
These findings come a month after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to extend the academy’s lease for its main campus, which lies on county property after conducting its own study of the textbooks last year. According to the AP report:
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. 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.
Parents and students had previously denied the charges although noting that “intolerance” was common to many religious schools.
The earlier post also noted that the congressionally created commission’s actions caused “tensions” at the State Department who were said to be annoyed that the panel was pressing the issue during a “delicate moment of diplomacy over Saudi education.” State Department officials said at the time that Saudi education is undergoing reforms within the kingdom and at affiliated schools around the world.
Individuals connected to the Muslim Brotherhood have been known to send their children to various Saudi religious schools in both the U.S. and Europe.