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June 17, 2008 Clip No. 1799

Al-Jazeera TV Report on the Controversy over the Islamic Saudi Academy in Virginia

Following are excerpts from a report on the Islamic Saudi Academy in Virginia, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on June 17, 2008:

Reporter: We are at the Islamic Saudi Academy in the state of Virginia – the largest institution teaching the Arabic language and Islamic education on the East Coast of the U.S. However, this institution faces mounting pressure, and this is a nightmare for the families of the students enrolled in the academy. This pressure is exerted by several Congressmen, known for their great hostility towards Arabs and Muslims.

This child recites verses from the Koran with perfect diction, even though he is only six years old. These flowers, which have just begun to bloom, have sprouted on American soil. Their parents decided to help them find their roots in a supervised environment. This goal has been achieved at the Islamic Saudi Academy. However, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which was established by Congress, has recommended that the academy be shut down, alleging that its religious curricula, which are taught in Saudi Arabia as well, included material inciting to racism and intolerance towards other religions. [The commission] did not even talk to those in charge of the academy, let alone visit it.

Abd Al-Rahman Al-Ghufayli, Principal of the Boy's School: We have nothing to hide. That's why we invited them there and tried to discuss things with them, but I'm sad to say, they did not accept our invitation. This suggests that the commission has a certain agenda, which it is trying to implement.

Reporter: The local authority of Fairfax County, where the academy is located, has challenged the threats of closure. It determined that the allegations are invalid, and it approved the religious curricula after examining them. The non-Muslim teachers also expressed disgust and frustration at the allegations.

Kate Schneider, English teacher: The thing that frustrates me so much about these accusations is that first, they are not true, and second, it is so completely opposite from the truth. This school teaches faith, and the same basic values we want all our children to have.

Reporter: The academy's students participate in community activities, which differ from other American schools. The U.S. President even sent letters of appreciation to the students.

Fardia Turkestani, Principal of the Girls’ School: We are very proud that a student of ours won this award three years in a row.

Reporter: "I will become the slave of he who teaches me a single letter." So what should be said about those who teach an entire language? What should be said about a commission that some say is unconstitutional and contradicts the very meaning of its name? This commission calls upon all countries of the world to respect freedom of religion there, while the commission itself violates this freedom on its own land.

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