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Hide and Seek
For nearly 25 years, the Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA), the Virginia school founded by royal decree of Saudi King Fahd in 1984, immersed students of its Islamic-studies curriculum in the same Wahhabi interpretation of Islam that is taught in Saudi Arabia and in Saudi-funded madrassas around the world. That curriculum includes praise for militant jihad to "spread the faith" and permission for the killing of various categories of "unbelievers," as well as other endorsements of religious intolerance.
Now, as it seeks permission from Fairfax County to expand its operations, ISA claims that, over the last school year, it replaced the Saudi religious curriculum with a more moderate one.
Through private channels, we were able to acquire ISA's Islamic-studies textbooks, all marked for use in the first semester of the 2008-09 school year. Compared to the original Saudi Education Ministry versions, these new Arabic-language textbooks — one slim, single volume for each grade — are indeed redacted and condensed.
We wish we could celebrate the deletions we helped catalyze, but we are not persuaded that the problem is solved. The books contain no significant discussion of jihad and make few references to the religious "other." The silence is deafening. It raises the question — a question ISA has yet to answer — of what supplemental material the academy is using.
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