Here’s an idea for those members of a federal panel worried about what’s being taught at a Saudi-supported school in Fairfax County. Give the academy a call and ask to take a look at the disputed works.
That’s what a Fairfax supervisor did, and school officials, without hesitation, opened their doors and the books. Maybe the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is right to have qualms about the school, but its half-hearted efforts to review the disputed works and its irresponsible suggestion that the school be shut don’t inspire confidence.
The Islamic Saudi Academy was singled out by the commission in a report criticizing Saudi Arabia for promoting religious intolerance in schools it operates around the world. The commission, complaining that it couldn’t obtain textbooks and other curricular materials, urged the State Department to close the school unless it shows it doesn’t teach dangerous extremism. The school’s status is unique; as an arm of the Saudi government, it is subject to the Foreign Missions Act and broad discretion by the State Department.
Demanding that the school prove a negative is questionable, particularly since the panel’s efforts to review the material were, at best, perfunctory. It wrote to Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir, chairman of the academy’s board of directors, but got no answer. No other options were pursued. Consider, by contrast, the experience of Fairfax Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D), whose Mount Vernon district includes the school’s main campus.
The day the report was released, Mr. Hyland, alarmed by what he read, called the school and was immediately permitted to meet with staff members and look over materials. Mr. Hyland was reassured by what he saw in the English materials, and he told us the school is agreeable to his returning with someone able to read Arabic.
The school denies teaching radical Islam, and the Saudi Embassy claims it has made materials available to the State Department as part of an ongoing effort to bring about promised reforms in textbooks. (MORE)