Middle East studies in the News
Director of Saudi Academy Arrested for Failing to Report Child Abuse [on the Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax, VA]
ALEXANDRIA -- The director of a Saudi government-funded Islamic school has been arrested and charged with failing to report a child abuse allegation, adding to scrutiny of the northern Virginia academy as protesters came out Tuesday to call for a federal investigation of its teachings.
Abdalla I. Al-Shabnan, director of the Islamic Saudi Academy, was also charged with obstruction of justice, according to a police report about the June 9 arrest. The misdemeanor counts come at a time when the private school is under heavy criticism from a federal commission and others over textbooks that allegedly teach violence and hate.
More than a dozen protesters lined up outside the school Tuesday, waving signs that read "Saudi hate is not an American family value" and "Islamic Shariah teaches violence and hate."
The protesters, including the conservative Traditional Values Coalition, want the Justice and State departments to investigate the school. The State Department last year obtained copies of the school's textbooks but has so far refused to make them public.
Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, said the arrest of al-Shabnan is just further evidence of problems at the school.
"The academy is a virtual one-stop shopping center for law enforcement," she said, citing the case of a former school valedictorian, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, who was convicted of joining al-Qaida after leaving the school and plotting to assassinate President Bush.
Al-Shabnan's arrest came after police alleged he covered up an incident in which a 5-year-old girl attending the school reported that she was being sexually abused by her father.
According to court papers, Al-Shabnan, 52, of McLean, told police that he didn't believe the girl, and advised the girl's parents to put her into counseling.
But state law requires school authorities to report alleged child abuse within 72 hours of learning of the allegation. Al-Shabnan is free pending trial.
Police said in court papers that Al-Shabnan ordered a written report about the girl's complaint, which had been prepared by other school officials, to be deleted from a school computer.
Al-Shabnan has not returned repeated phone calls and e-mails from The Associated Press seeking comment over the last week.
Last week, a federal commission issued a report detailing numerous troubling passages from school textbooks. A 12th-grade text on Quranic interpretation teaches students that it is permissible for Muslims to kill adulterers and converts from Islam, according to the investigation by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a panel created by Congress that monitors religious freedom rights around the world.
Other passages in the school's textbooks state that "the Jews conspired against Islam and its people" and that Muslims are permitted to take the lives and property of those deemed "polytheists."
The school issued a statement saying the textbooks had been mistranslated and misinterpreted and that some of the textbooks studied by the commission are no longer in use. But the statement offered no detailed explanation of the specific passages cited by the commission, and school officials have not returned calls seeking comment.
Generally, the school has said in the past that some of the textbooks it uses come from Saudi Arabia and contain harsh language inappropriate for use in the United States. The school has said it revises the textbooks as needed.
Indeed, the commission found evidence that individual passages were removed from individual textbooks, sometimes covered up with correction fluid.
But John Cosgrove of Springfield, Va., one of the protesters outside the school, said the revisions are even more troubling given the passages cited in the commission's report that were not deleted.
"It stands to reason that the material they left in is material they think is acceptable," Cosgrove said.
The commission and other critics of the school say the State Department ought to take a more assertive role in regulating the school because it functions as an arm of the Saudi embassy. Also, the school's lease with Fairfax County specifically gives the State Department the right to intervene if it has concerns about the academy.
Protesters also criticized the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for voting unanimously last month to extend the school's lease. The lease was extended after county officials conducted their own review of the textbooks and said they didn't find any serious problems.
The board's chairman -- Gerry Connolly, who is the Democratic nominee for Congress in Virginia's 11th District -- offered a strong defense of the school and accused the school's critics of slander during the meeting in which the lease was approved.
Connolly did not return calls seeking comment.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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