[…] After my columns appeared, the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union began an investigation, which is still underway. The Minnesota Department of Education also investigated. Its report, released last month, concluded that the school is breaking the law by holding Friday religious services on school grounds; that it should stop Muslim teachers’ practice of praying with students at that service; and that it must provide bus transportation home before Islamic Studies classes let out.
But the report was flawed in important respects. Most significantly, it was silent about the school’s close entanglement with the religious organization with which it is affiliated.
It’s a safe bet that if the school in question here were essentially a Catholic school, this wouldn’t be a debate. Imagine a public charter located in the headquarters building of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Its principal is a priest and its board chairman is the archbishop. Catholic students there “are comfortable asking questions about their own religion.” Latin is required, and the cafeteria serves fish during Lent. Students break for prayer and attend Mass during the school day, and buses leave only when after-school Catholic Catechism classes are over. Such a school would never open.
But with Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy we have something different. It’s held up as a model, “religiously sensitive” public school. It is justified in terms of culture and “religious accommodation.”
Minnesota education officials need both the backbone and the oversight tools necessary to prevent the blurring of lines between Islam and the public schools. If they continue their tepid response, a separate system of taxpayer-financed education for Muslims may take root here. Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy could be the first of many.