Close the Islamic Saudi Academy?

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The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged the State Department to close the Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax.

The commission does not specifically criticize the school's teaching materials; it said Saudi officials would not make them available. But it said it is concerned about the textbooks used in the school because those used by schools in Saudi Arabia promote violence against Christians, Jews, Shias and polytheists.

What astounding hypocrisy. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom wants a school shut down for exercising its religious freedom.

Disclaimer: I interviewed for a teaching position at ISA some 16 years ago. Despite my obvious "Caucasianness," I never felt unwelcome during the interview, and was even given a campus tour while classes were in session.

Despite that pleasant experience, I do not know whether ISA is promoting violence, nor do I care. Their religious freedom extends even that far.

I realize that many on the left think that religion should not even be allowed to offend anyone, much less promote violence, but religious freedom must extend to even the most vile ideas, because they are only ideas. Ideas should be combated in the open with other, better ideas, not with censorship.

When the ideas become plans to commit violence, then there is a problem.

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20 Comments

zimzo said:

It is hilarious that you would blame the left for the closing of this school when it is clearly the Islamophobic furies of the right who are driving this such as these shrill nutcases:
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=27570_Feds_Recommend_Closing_Saudi_School_in_Virginia&only

Everything you disagree with is not a conspiracy of the left.

Jack said:

I do blame the left for the idea that they have a right to not be offended by another's religious practices or promotional activities.

Jack said:

"Everything you disagree with is not a conspiracy of the left."

I'm sure of that. You guys aren't bright enough to form a conspiracy.

David said:

"I do blame the left for the idea that they have a right to not be offended by another's religious practices or promotional activities."

'Left' and 'right' are equally guilty of this. Having said that, I will say this: Jack, for once I completely agree with your post. Well done.

Jack said:

Yes, the Commission is well divided between left and right -- with one Muslim. I wonder how he voted.

BlackOut said:

Very interesting that this comes up. Years ago one of the most vocal critics of the Saudi Academy coming into Loudoun County was Greg Ahlmann's father. He was very vocal about it, and joined arms with Dick Black to keep them out of the area. Just an observation.

arwillow said:

Some might say it was very fortuitous that Ahlemann's father took the stand against the Saudi Academy coming to Loudoun County years ago...as you'll recall Ahlemann's father took that stand just a few years before September 11th happened. As we have since learned in the years following September 11th, some Saudi monies were actually funding the terrorist attacks of September 11th.

Normally, I would be very welcoming of any religion and adherents to any faith. And in general I don't mind moderate Muslims (though anyone can be obnoxious). But I am opposed to the ISA in particular. There are several reasons:

1) It is funded by the state of Saudi Arabia, and they do not allow a reciprocity of any kind (i.e., they would not allow the Vatican or any other country to put any other religious school in the environs of Riyadh. They do not even allow for individuals to speak openly of other religions in their country, and if a Muslim converts to a different faith, it is a capital offense -- if a Muslim in Saudi Arabia converts, he can be killed by anyone without any punishment to the murdered.

2) The Saudi government has been funding the building of madrassas throughout the world. One of the results of this is the export of radical Islam. While it is not universal, many of the madrassas teach jihad in its most violent form. (For those that don't know, jihad means struggle -- my struggle in a literal sense, Mein Kampf is the German, and yes, that is the name of Hitler's book. The parallels are not lost on many.)

So do I want what could literally be a training camp for terrorists in my back yard? While there are many Muslims that don't follow the Koran (like most mainline Christian churches don't follow the Bible) the truth is that the Koran does not teach peace without dimmitude of those outside Islam. Such a literal interpretation? When that is what is being taught, yes.

Jack said:

1) "Do unto others as they do unto you"?

2) "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34)

Do you have evidence that any ISA graduates have been involved in terrorist plots?

Mona said:

Im a former graduate from ISA, born and raised in Northern Virginia and attended ISA for 13 years, I am now attending a public university, not once in my 13 years have I felt any type of hate or disregard to other religions and all the negative information reported on the news does not reflect the reality of the school, if anything I think the most dominant issue that I feel I have gained is that most Americans are extremely ignorant when it comes to the Islamic faith and have automatic assumptions judging even American Muslims.

"...the most dominant issue that I feel I have gained is that most Americans are extremely ignorant when it comes to the Islamic faith and have automatic assumptions judging even American Muslims."

Somehow, bro', I don't think this statement is going to win you any converts. And I don't think it should.

Mona said:

I'm sorry if I offended anyone by using the wrong word for the meaning I'm trying to portray, but lets see a better word, misinformed instead of ignorant, On that note I think my fellow graduate did a great job explaining my feelings and feelings of many others who have graduated and experienced ISA:

It was in the middle of a hurricane warning in a basement that I had found out that my school, my home, the Islamic Saudi Academy, was being put under attack by a major network. CNN’s very own Rick Sanchez, a so called “journalist”, an immigrant and non-native American from Cuba, a communist country, was attacking MY school, MY religion, and MY brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers that I grew to know and love at what some people like to call “a terrorist school”. A bit paradoxical if you ask me…but anyways, I am not writing to attack, blame, or point fingers, but to express my chagrin and embarrassment, as an American, at a level of ignorance that has become so commonplace and is quite intolerable to me, and other Muslims in this country and around the world.
I remember all I could do was shake with rage at what kind of ludicrous remarks had been made. A terrorist school? A school of hate? This is the exact opposite of how I recall school.
I currently attend Michigan State University. Walking down the street I look like any other average student. Hair tied back, jeans, MSU t-shirt, backpack, sleepy faced. Often I am asked where I am from. I always tell people to guess. The first response is that I am of Spanish descent. I reply no. The second is Turkish. I again reply, no. Syrian. No. Egyptian. No. Palestinian. Not at all. I am a Pakistani Muslim American. To most people’s shock and awe, I don’t wear a turban and carry a gun or have a bomb strapped to my chest. I find this sad. The American media in all its paranoia has so distorted the image of a Muslim that is actually a shock to most people to see an every day Average Jane identify herself with Islam. Yet, as a Muslim, I stand proud with my head held high, as an American though, it is quite the opposite.
People ask me, “Are you Islam?” No, I am not Islam, I am a Muslim. “Do you speak Qur’an?” No, I speak Arabic, and read the Qur’an. “Is it really okay in your religion to go suicide bombing?” No, suicide and killing are both unforgivable sins, mix them together, and only God knows what punishment awaits. Questions like this, although sometimes amusing, leave me wondering, “Why are people so uneducated about Islam and the Middle East?” Well I suppose it is pretty obvious now, we have these so called “experts” on T.V. talking about something they know nothing about. How can I say this you may be asking yourself? Well look at the questions I’m being asked, “Am I Islam?”….Americans can’t differentiate between who is who and what is what because we have these “experts” saying things to help serve their own and whomever else’s agenda. They are throwing around words like “Madrasa” and “Jihad” as if they know what they mean. Please go take a look at the vocabulary section of my old Islamic books, and see what jihad means, I beg you, for my sanity and your information. “Madrasa” literally translates to school. So if you want to call my Islamic Saudi Academy a “madrasa”, then by all means go ahead, because it is a school, and a great one at that.
I loved going to ISA. The administration and faculty were like my mothers and fathers. Every single one of them extended such a tremendous amount of caring that you will not see at any other educational institution. My friends, classmates, peers, whatever you want to call them, to me they were, and still are, sisters. A school of hate could not breed bonds like these. To each and every single person I extend the deepest amount of gratitude, because with out them I don’t know who I would be today. I learned so many things from all the wonderful people I met there. All of us were taught beyond math, science, English, and religion. We were taught respect, tolerance, love, and decency. I can truly say that the values of Islam played a huge part in this. Look into the Qur’an or any other Islamic book, and you are taught things like respect your neighbor, respect your parents, give to the poor, and always put your best foot forward. Some of these things may sound familiar. Islam, after all, was sent down by the same God that sent down Christianity and Judaism. We as Muslims also follow the Ten Commandments, and look at the examples of all the prophets as idealistic role models. We look at the patience of Moses, the serenity of Jesus and the faith of the prophet Mohammad (PBUH(and all the other prophets as well)), only to name a few. We use the characteristics of all the prophets before us as examples for ourselves, and not ever was there a prophet who preached hate or violence.
Although the students who attend the academy are Muslim they are no fanatics. We were actually encouraged to go out and have fun. I participated in Model UN, I went out with my friends, I played basketball, I wear jeans, my hair shows, I love music. My graduation party was at Fur Nightclub, if that doesn’t sound “un-fanatic” to you, then ladies and gentlemen I don’t know what to tell you, except that this hatred towards Muslims needs to end, this stereotype needs to be shattered and this ignorance needs to be remedied. I ask all the journalists reporting against my school exactly where they are getting their sources from. I know, as many other alumni, faculty and students do, that the Islamic Saudi Academy looks down upon the way the Muslims in the media have been portraying Islam. These fundamentalists get attention because they are extreme. Nothing moderate ever gets attention because it isn’t interesting. It’s human nature to look for the negative in everything. But I ask this of everyone, look at the example of an everyday Muslim and you will see that there are little to no similarities in their beliefs and the beliefs of an extremist. Take a minute to talk to your Muslim neighbor, coworker, or anyone else that you have made brief contact with in your life and see Muslims for what they really are, peaceful people who condemn the acts we see on T.V.. My family, friends and I participate in everyday life as any other American would. So why on earth is a place for our children to keep in touch with their roots and cultures being attacked? It is just like any other private Catholic or Christian school, except it is Arab, and that scares people. They see Osama Bin-Laden on the news talking about 9-11 and fanatics in Iraq fighting each other and think “gee, these Muslims are nuts.” One thing people forget though is that Islam has been around for centuries, and only recently has it received such negative attention, and this is due to the action of ONE man, and his actions had sort of a domino effect.
So how can a whole society take a group of people and stereotype them due to the action of a few is beyond me. After all, we don’t call Mr. Rick Sanchez a “commie” because his native country’s leader is Fidel Castro. We don’t call Germans “Nazis” because of Hitler. And we most certainly do not call American Soldiers “bombers” because of Timothy McVeigh. So how dare anyone have the audacity to call a Middle Eastern or a Muslim a terrorist? ______ says that calling an Arab or Muslim a “terrorist” is, and should be considered, just as bad as calling an African-American the “n-word” or a Hispanic the “s-word” or anyone any other ridiculously racist and close-minded label. Terrorism as defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion”, therefore a terrorist, by definition, should be someone who systematically uses terror as a means of coercion, right? So why is the word terrorist thrown around as a description instead of an accusation? Why is a veiled woman considered oppressed? Why is a man with a beard pulled aside at the airport? Because America has been driven to paranoia of epic proportions and it needs to be reversed. We need to, as a country, educate our fellow citizens on other cultures. This has happened in history before, and is happening now, and will happen again unless we have the ability to learn from our mistakes. We cannot just go around throwing around labels at people because it makes life easier for us. It is unacceptable and it’s a bit high school if you ask me. So I leave you with a notion, lets grow up. How about all of us Americans learn to try to accept each other, and not stereotype due to the actions of one person in a particular group? It’s a long road and I am not saying it will be easy, but I do believe it will be worth it. We were the melting pot before, now we’re just a basin weighed down by some sort of hardened alloy, cold and unwelcoming.

stay puft said:

say it loud, Mona!

Jack said:

Thank you, Mona. I do wonder if part of the object of OBL's terrorism is to divide the moderate Muslims from the populations in which they reside. Even though a very small percentage of Muslims hold to OBL's fanatical interpretation of the Q'ran, that small percentage, multiplied by the billion or so Muslims, makes for a large number of maniacs, indeed. Those maniacs have cowed the moderate Muslim imams into silence. But to avoid the division that OBL wants, those moderate imams must speak out against terrorism -- loudly, clearly, and repeatedly.

zimzo said:

I must say, Jack, when you actually have some first-hand knowledge of what you are talking about you don't seem so crazy. In fact, you actually sound reasonable and intelligent and I find myself agreeing with you. Maybe we should get you a gay friend to hang out with.

Jack said:

I had one. He died of AIDS at 28.

David said:

Jack,

I'm sorry.

Mona,

I appreciate what you are posting, but humor me just a little.

1) What is the punishment (in this world) for converting from Islam to Christianity in the country of Saudi Arabia?

2) Does Saudi Arabia allow foreign governments (or even private bodies) to establish religious schools for training people in the Jewish religion (or even Christianity) within Saudi Arabia?

3) Please explain the principle of Al-Takeyya and what it means regarding integrity and truth.

Note, this three question relate directly to the academy (it is supported by Saudi Arabia) and to the principles that govern this country.

Jack said:

Thank you, David.

Anonymous said:

They did have a valedictorian back in the 1990s who went on to try to assassinate President Bush, but I suppose we all have our black sheep, eh?

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