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Education Reporter

Director of Islamic Saudi Academy Arrested, Charged
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On June 9th, police arrested the director of the Islamic Saudi Academy in northern Virginia, and charged him with obstruction of justice for failing to report a possible sexual abuse case committed against a 5-year-old student. Director Abdallah I. Al-Shabnan later told detectives that he did not believe the girl's claims, and that he was unaware the law required him to report the accusation to child protective services. Police found that Al-Shabnan had ordered someone else to delete the written report of the girl's accusation from the school's computer.

A court later found Al-Shabnan guilty of failure to report a child abuse allegation, which is a misdemeanor. Al-Shabnan pleaded no contest to that charge, and Fairfax County prosecutors agreed to drop the charge of obstruction of justice.

This is not the first hint that the Islamic Saudi Academy, operated by the government of Saudi Arabia, may harbor views of justice at odds with American law and practice. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a federal panel created by Congress, has recommended that the State Department shut ISA down (see Education Reporter, January 2008).

When the USCIRF requested copies of ISA's textbooks to review, school administrators failed to cooperate. The commission then obtained textbook copies from "independent sources." What they found was not encouraging. "The Commission's review of these textbooks found that they did contain passages justifying violence toward, and even the killing of, apostates and so-called polytheists," said USCIRF's report. "It is deeply troubling that high school students at a foreign government-operated school in the United States are discussing when and under what circumstances killing an 'unbeliever' would be acceptable," concluded the commission.

In June, protestors picketed ISA, concerned that the school promotes intolerance. Fairfax County, which rents school property to ISA, has requested a State Department review of the textbooks in use at ISA. When the county submitted an official request for the State Department's opinion on whether it was acceptable to continue renting property to ISA, the department dodged the question. "No authorization from the Department to renew the lease is required," stated the response.

"This is the State Department's responsibility, and they have repeatedly tried to duck giving an opinion on this," said Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the Congressional committee that oversees the State Department's budget.

In response to widespread criticism, ISA has announced it will create new textbooks, free of intolerant or violent passages, for students to use in the new school year.

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