German media is reporting that Saudi Arabia plans to close the controversial King Fahd Academy, located in the southern suburbs of Bonn, Germany. According to the Deutsche Welle report:
Saudi Arabia plans to close the private King Fahd Academy in the southern suburbs of Bonn. The school has 30 teachers and roughly 150 students from Arabic-speaking countries around the world from grade 1 to grade 12. Courses are taught in Arabic according to the Saudi curriculum and following the ‘International Baccalaureate Diploma Program’ in classes 11 and 12. Construction of a second school underway in Berlin is reportedly also being stopped. Germany has one of the world’s best education systems – a system Saudi Arabia could learn from, so the government in Riyadh no longer sees the need for a Saudi school in Germany, German media quote Saudi diplomats in Berlin as saying. No one was available for a comment on Monday at the school itself, or at the Saudi embassy. A security officer who answered the school’s phone said it is closed until mid-September for the summer vacation. Moving beyond oil Closing the school is clearly linked to the ‘dynamic changes’ in Saudi Arabia, Henner Fürtig told DW. Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is pushing reforms in the framework of the country’s ‘Vision 2030’ program, announced earlier this year. A number of wide-ranging economic reforms including subsidy cuts and a government efficiency drive are designed to restructure the kingdom’s economy, making it less dependent on oil revenue.
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 30, is intent on bold reforms But ‘it’s also an attempt to change the country’s image in Europe,’ Fürtig, the director of the Hamburg-based GIGA Institute for Mideast Studies said, adding that the Saudi government is by no means unaware of the controversies surrounding the King Fahd Academy and the accusations of ‘indoctrination attempts.’ It’s an image they want to get away from, he argued.
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The King Fahd Academy was first the subject of media attention in 2003 when German public television aired a documentary exposing the school’s ties to Islamic extremism. According to a Deutsche Welle report at that time:
After a documentary aired on German public television a week ago, interest in the activities at the Arab-language King Fahd Academy in Bonn was heightened. According to the show “Panorama,” the school had come under investigation for allegedly harboring ties to the terrorist network al Qaeda and other fundamental Muslim groups believed to operate in Germany. In addition, German security agencies had been reporting a significant influx of radical Islamists to the Bad Godesberg neighborhood in the former German capital where the school is located…..Both educators and security forces are worried that the school is a breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalism and anti-democratic principles. According to the newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which quotes sources from within the interior ministry, the academy has attracted Islamists from across Germany to Bonn. The magazine reports that several fundamentalists well-known to security authorities, have sent their children to the school and to its affiliated mosque. Among them are Mamoud A, former head of the Islamist group frequented by Christian Ganczarski, the suspected accomplice of the Djerba bomber, and the Egyptian Sayed M., suspected member in the al Tawhid group with connections to al Qaeda. The Spiegel also reports that investigators have found traces linking the imprisoned al Qaeda financier Mamduh Salim to the school. In addition, the magazine says that the imam at the affiliated mosque has reportedly called upon teachers at the academy to prepare pupils for the “holy war.”
The King Fahd Academy was also accused of teaching hatred of Jews and Christians.
According to German TV reports, the King Fahd Academy maintained contact with the Islamische Geminschaft Deutschland (IGD), representing the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany, and the academy’s registration papers indicated that in the event of its closure, its assets would revert to the IGD. In addition, an archived academy web page indicates the possibility that a member of the family of Abou Shewarib (aka Abou Shewareb) was involved with the King Fahd Academy. Shewarib was formerly under investigation by the German government as part of a Hamas fund-raising and money-laundering case and named in a 1997 media report as the head of Hamas in Berlin.
In June 2012, the GMBDW reported that the King Fahd Academy was the center of a violent conflict between Islamic extremists and anti-Muslim protestors.