There were two articles in today's newspapers today, both about Islamic grade schools. First, the local news, about an Islamic school in Shrewsbury, MA, the first accredited Islamic school in New England (two more are in the pipeline).
"It's located on 2.8 leafy acres in Shrewsbury, complete with a basketball court, small playground, and the traditional classes that can be found in any public school. But Al-Hamra Academy in Shrewsbury, a private school housed in a simple two-story brick building under an American flag, also teaches Arabic, Islamic studies, and the Koran. There are prayers during the school day."
"Now, the academy has become the first Islamic school in New England to win accreditation, a milestone for the region's Muslim community....There are only 10 Islamic schools in New England, and Al-Hamra was the first to seek accreditation, a voluntary evaluation process, Bennett said....The school, founded in 1994, has 152 students, male and female, preschool through eighth grade."
I have some concerns about Al-Hamra, which featured Ingrid Mattson of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) at its April 2007 fundraiser. The ISNA is on the list of unindicted co-conspirators in the federal government's case against the Holy Land Foundation in Dallas, TX. Ms. Mattson spoke at Harvard University in March 2007, where she warned Jews to be wary of Christian fundamentalists:
"Right-wing Christians are very risky allies for American Jews," Mattson said, "because they [the Christians] are really anti-Semitic. They do not like Jews."
Is this indicative of the prevailing attitude at Al-Hamra?
The Links page at Al-Hamra's website shows the usual ties to the MAS-run Islamic Society of Boston, and the Islamic Society of Greater Lowell and the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester. There are links to Sound Vision, Al Jazeera and Saudi One TV, which promote a fundamentalist Islam. Al-Hamra links to Islam Q and A, where one can read the fatwas declaring that under shariah law, women doctors cannot treat male patients, that Muslim women should not wear their hair or dress in a way that imitates the kaafirs (non-Muslims), and that it is only permissible for "scholars and knowledgable people" to go to churches and interfaith discusssions, and then only to call the people there to Islam. Think about that the next time you attend an interfaith discussion with ISB or MAS. Ordinary Muslims who aren't "scholars" might get confused and be influenced by the church.
Don't miss the winning entry in the 8th grade Al-Hamra Religion fair, a Powerpoint presentation about the "History of Islam in America". "Muslims have played a titanic role in the development of this country." (Interesting word choice, titanic.) The presentation is slide after slide of fabricated history, full of unsubstantiated claims that Muslims were here before Columbus, North African Muslims brought Islam to Native Americans, and Christopher Columbus saw a mosque in Cuba. This is largely based on Saga America, a book by Barry Fells, a Harvard marine biologist, whose "history" has never been accepted by serious scholars and historians. No one - aside from Fells and some deluded Islamists- believes this stuff, because there is no documentation, relics or substantiation of these claims. One of the local proponents of this cult archeology is Salih Yucel, who currently serves as a Muslim Chaplain at Harvard Medical School's Brigham and Women's Hospital, Children's Hospital Boston and North Shore Medical Center. Deafening Silence provides a thorough debunking of the Islamists's misappropriation of Native American culture here. Deafening Silence also skewers the Barry Fells make-believe.
The PowerPoint further goes on to explain that many African slaves became Muslims in order to "confront" the European slave traders. Righhhht. No mention of the far larger Arabic slave trade which enslaved millions more Africans than the Atlantic slave trade did, except to say that "Muslims were also more open to be captured for the slave trade because they moved around Africa a lot for the purpose of spreading Islam." Righhhhht. Who is feeding this stuff to 8th graders? More fantastic claims:
"Muslims developed the art of "autobiography" and and their stories, letters, and personal quotations became the primary sources for people today learning about slave experience on ships. The growing collection of Arabic documents that were once buried in libraries and archives provides the solid evidence of African Muslims in the Americas."
Really? Where are these Arabic documents? Buried in which libraries? More details, please. The PowerPoint contrasts the illiterate European Masters with the literacy of the noble Muslim slaves, and exposes the great deceit by American colonists:
"Later the American colonists conjured the idea that they would trick people by saying that the Muslims were Arabs, since everyone knew how smart and clean the Arabs were, so it wouldn't arouse any suspicion."
Tricky American colonists!
This nonsense won a prize at a Religion fair? I'm ever so slightly consoled that it didn't win a prize at the History Fair. Did Bill Bennett, director of the commission on independent schools at the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, read this winning entry?
Somewhat ironically, the second article on Islamic schools I read today was this one, in the Washington Post:
"An independent government agency that monitors worldwide religious freedom will suggest today that the State Department shut down the 23-year-old Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia on the grounds it is fomenting hate and religious extremism."
"The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which advises Congress, the State Department and the president on religious-freedom issues, has issued a 30-page document saying the Saudi Embassy, which operates the 933-student academy, is violating U.S. law. It will explain its findings at 10 a.m. today in Room 538 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building."
"....At issue are textbooks the USCIRF says contain "highly intolerant and discriminatory language, particularly against Jews, Christians and Shi'a Muslims." Its findings are based on a three-year study of Arabic-language textbooks, some of them from the Saudi Academy, by the Center for Religious Freedom in the District."
Hmmm, kind of makes you wonder what sort of Arabic textbooks they use at Al-Hamra, dunnit?