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Debate Erupts Over Muslim School in Virginia
by Theo Emery
For years, children's voices rang out from the playground at the Islamic Saudi Academy in this heavily wooded community about 20 miles west of Washington. But for the last year the campus has been silent as academy officials seek county permission to erect a new classroom building and move hundreds of students from a sister campus on the other end of Fairfax County.
The proposal from the academy, which a school spokeswoman said was the only school financed by the Saudi government in the United States, has ignited a noisy debate and exposed anew the school's uneasy relationship with its neighbors.
Many residents living near the 34-acre campus along Popes Head Road, a narrow byway connecting two busy thoroughfares, say they oppose it because they fear it will bring more cars, school buses and flooding of land that would be paved over for parking lots.
But others object to the academy's curriculum, saying it espouses a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism. A leaflet slipped into mailboxes in early spring called the school "a hate training academy."
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