Establishment Clause issue? Naah. Not when it involves Islam. Here is my column for Human Events this week:
Can you imagine a public school founded by two Christian ministers, and housed in the same building as a church? Add to that -- in the same building -- a prominent chapel. And let’s say the students are required to fast during Lent, and attend Bible studies right after school. All with your tax dollars.
Inconceivable? Sure. If such a place existed, the ACLU lawyers would descend on it like locusts. It would be shut down before you could say “separation of church and state,” to the accompaniment of New York Times and Washington Post editorials full of indignant foreboding, warning darkly about the growing influence of the Religious Right in America.
But such a school does exist in Minnesota, in a different religious context, and so far the ACLU has uttered nary a peep.
Tax dollars are currently at work funding the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, a popular, rapidly growing K-8 charter school with campuses in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine, Minnesota. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, as a Minnesota charter school implementing a statewide “performance and professional pay program” known as Q-Comp, Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy pocketed $65,260 in state money for the 2006-07 school year. The school’s website, meanwhile, boasts that it offers a “rigorous Arabic language program” and an “environment that fosters your cultural values and heritage.” Whose cultural values and heritage? According to the indefatigable investigative reporter Katherine Kersten of the Star Tribune, “there are strong indications that religion plays a central role” there.
Which religion? Do you need three guesses?
The Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy was co-founded by two imams; is housed in the same building as a mosque and the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society (MAS); features a carpeted space for prayer; and serves halal food in the cafeteria. All students fast during Ramadan. They attend classes on the Qur’an and Sunnah, or Islamic tradition and law, after school. The school is closely tied to the MAS: Kersten observes that “at MAS-MN's 2007 convention, for example, the program featured an advertisement for the ‘Muslim American Society of Minnesota,’ superimposed on a picture of a mosque. Under the motto ‘Establishing Islam in Minnesota,’ it asked: ‘Did you know that MAS-MN ... houses a full-time elementary school’? On the adjacent page was an application for TIZA” -- the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy.
The existence of the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy is, of course, yet another manifestation of the witless multiculturalism that grants protected victim status to Muslim groups in view of the “racism” and “Islamophobia” from which they supposedly suffer. Latitude that would never be granted to other faith groups, particularly Christians, is readily given here.
But it’s even worse than that. According to a 2004 Chicago Tribune exposé, the Muslim American Society is the name under which the Muslim Brotherhood operates in the United States. And according to a 1992 Brotherhood memorandum about its strategy in the U.S., it is embarked upon a “grand Jihad” aimed at “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”
Is Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy part of this “grand jihad”? A clue might come from the name of the school itself. Kersten notes that it was named after the eighth-century Muslim conqueror of Spain. Islam Online praised Tarek ibn Ziyad in a 2004 article as a “man of valor, a man of extraordinary courage and a true leader.” He is chiefly remembered for one incident in particular. Landing in Spain, he ordered the Muslim forces’ boats to be burned, and then told his soldiers: “Brothers in Islam! We now have the enemy in front of us and the deep sea behind us. We cannot return to our homes, because we have burnt our boats. We shall now either defeat the enemy and win or die a coward’s death by drowning in the sea. Who will follow me?” The soldiers, crying “Allahu akbar,” rushed ahead and defeated a vastly superior Spanish force.
Does the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy represent the same idea for those who founded it and now operate it -- the burning of the boats, representing the determination of Muslim immigrants to stay in the U.S., followed by conquest? In light of the Brotherhood memorandum and other evidence about the jihadist allegiances of the Muslim American Society, it is not an illegitimate question.
But what public official, in Minnesota or elsewhere, dares to ask it?