Local media has reported on an ongoing controversy between Minnesota State officials and an Islamic charter school with close connections to the Muslim American Society (MAS) and Islamic Relief, two organizations tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood. According to the report:
Last week, Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA) and the Minnesota Department of Education appeared to reach an understanding in the controversy over whether Islam is being promoted at this public school. But behind the scenes, a storm may be brewing. TiZA officials have “taken a confrontational road” in discussions with the department, according to Deputy MDE Commissioner Chas Anderson, the department’s No. 2 official. Anderson says that the two sides have not yet reached an agreement on one key issue and that MDE will be closely monitoring TiZA’s performance in future months.
An earlier post discussed the connections between TIZA and the MAS and Islamic Relief as well as the Islamic character of the school. The MAS was established in 1993 by leaders of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and a Chicago Tribune investigation has revealed it’s close ties to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Another post has discussed the Brotherhood ties of Islamic Relief as well as corruption charges against the global charity.
The latest news report goes on to discuss the resistance by TIZA to making changes in its Friday prayer event:
In a report issued in May, the MDE concluded that TiZA’s Friday prayer event violated the law and since then has been working with the school to make changes.” We wanted TiZA to do Friday prayers the way all other public schools” handle similar activities — “as release time, under state law,” said Anderson. In a release-time arrangement, students move off-site for religious activities. But TiZA said no, according to Anderson. Instead, the school will continue to hold Friday prayer on its premises. Students will lead prayer and staff will be present only “to ensure student safety,” said Zaman in a letter to the MDE. In a response to Zaman’s letter, Anderson wrote complaining of what she called the “defensive tone” of the letter in which he set forth the school’s intentions. “It is inaccurate for TiZA to imply that MDE’s legal concerns regarding the school’s operations … were unfounded,” she wrote, “and it is of utmost importance that TiZA take seriously its responsibility to comply with applicable state and federal laws.” TiZA now says it will shorten Friday prayers — whose length has been a potential concern because of instructional time requirements — though it has not said by how much. MDE has agreed that TiZA’s new arrangement on after-school bus transportation will bring the school into legal compliance on that issue. But the department is highly skeptical that TiZA’s proposed arrangement for on-site, student-led Friday prayers will work.
The new report also discusses other controversial aspects of the TIZA religious program:
While TiZA and the department don’t agree about the Friday prayer service — even over whether they have an agreement on it — there are other religious accommodations at the school that raise questions. In its May report, for example, MDE said that regularly scheduled daily prayers at TiZA appear to pass legal muster because they are “voluntary and student-led.” But imagine the reaction if prayer time — reflecting only one faith — were built into the schedule at, say, Stillwater Junior High.Asked if other public schools would be allowed to accommodate religion the way that TiZA accommodates Islam, Anderson said: “We sought guidance, we want guidance” from federal sources and the Minnesota attorney general, “but no one will give us a black and white answer.”MDE says there are broader questions at issue. “This upcoming legislative session may be an appropriate forum” for “a serious discussion about the appropriateness of sectarian organizations sponsoring publicly-funded nonsectarian charter schools in the first place,” said Anderson in a statement Monday. For now, she added, “This is a gray area. School authorities at TiZA know it’s a gray area, and they are walking right up to and over that line.”