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When You Lie Down with Pythons
by Faith J. H. McDonnell
Nestled on lovely two-lane bypass, Popes Head Road, some 21 miles from Washington, DC, the Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) is a private K-12 school founded and financed by the Government of Saudi Arabia. The fully accredited ISA declares that it "promotes respect and mutual understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims, Arabs and Americans while keeping within the Muslim faith." It also says "it strives for its staff and students to uphold tolerance, honesty, integrity and compassion, qualities that represent the best of both American and Arabic cultures." But warning signs indicate that the ISA's adherence to Saudi Arabia's radical Wahhabi sect of Islam present a pythonesque situation -- and not in a British comedy way.
Three years ago, the Center for Religious Freedom, then at Freedom House, partnered with the Institute for Gulf Affairs to translate textbooks provided to the ISA and other schools and mosques in America by the Saudi Ministry of Education. In a June 2008 press release, independent government agency the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) reported the findings of that effort. The texts sanctioned the murder of converts from Islam, Jews, adulterers, polytheists (i.e. Wahhabis call Shiites polytheists) and homosexuals. Such statements obviously encourage the breaking of U.S. law. This is tantamount to sedition against U.S. sovereignty, since in Islam no law can be higher than the Shari'a (Islamic law). Articles in Front Page Magazine on October 29, 2007 and June 20, 2008 provide more details on the textbooks' contents.
When the textbooks were first brought to light, the Saudis, including the leadership of the ISA, promised reform. In October 2007, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called for the ISA to be closed under the Foreign Missions Act until the Saudi textbooks used at the school were made available for comprehensive public examination. Not long after the Commission raised the issue, the Saudi government turned over textbooks used at the ISA to the U.S. State Department. But in September 2008, USCIRF commissioner and director of the Center for Religious Freedom, Nina Shea, reported that despite requests, the State Department did not make the textbooks available either to the public or to the Commission, nor did it release any statement about the content of the books that it received. Shea said that the State Department "misleadingly wrote" that ISA "offered to make the books available to USCIRF." Actually, she said, ISA invited USCIRF to "visit" the school, but this would not aid in translating and analyzing the texts. That job would take months.
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