Please Hit

Folks, This is a Free Site and will ALWAYS stay that way. But the only way I offset my expenses is through the donations of my readers. PLEASE Consider Making a Donation to Keep This Site Going. SO HIT THE TIP JAR (it's on the left-hand column).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Minneapolis Muslim School Clings on to Shariah

Last April I posted about a Muslim School Funded by Minnesota Tax Dollars/Run by Imams with help from MAS (Muslim American Society-a good friend) This charter school in Minneapolis that is run by Imams, has a central carpeted prayer space where there are regular prayer services, serves halal (kind of Muslim Kosher) food in its cafeteria---well except during Ramadan, when the student body is encouraged to fast from sunrise to sunset. This is not a religious school according to the school's leaders but a cultural school. But this school, funded by tax payer dollars "walks like a religious school, squawks like a religious school. During the intervening months the Minnesota Ed Department has been working with the school to get rid of their religious programs. The Education Dept. thought they had a deal, but the school seems to want to hang on to the Shariah:

Storm brewing between state officials and Muslim school By KATHERINE KERSTEN, Star Tribune

September 10, 2008

Last week, Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA) and the Minnesota Department of Education appeared to reach an understanding in the controversy over whether Islam is being promoted at this public school.

But behind the scenes, a storm may be brewing.

TiZA officials have "taken a confrontational road" in discussions with the department, according to Deputy MDE Commissioner Chas Anderson, the department's No. 2 official.

Anderson says that the two sides have not yet reached an agreement on one key issue and that MDE will be closely monitoring TiZA's performance in future months.

TiZA is a K-8 charter school in Inver Grove Heights, financed by taxpayers. Its students have scored well on standardized tests. But like all public schools, it may not encourage or endorse religion, or favor one religion over another.

A number of facts raise questions about TiZA on this score. Its executive director, Asad Zaman, is an imam, or Muslim religious leader. The school shares a building with a mosque and the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society, which the Chicago Tribune has described as the American branch of the Muslim Brotherhood -- "the world's most influential Islamic fundamentalist group."

Most of TiZA's students are Muslim, many from low-income immigrant families. The school breaks daily for prayer, its cafeteria serves halal food (permissible under Islamic law), and Arabic is a required subject.

School buses do not leave until after-school Muslim Studies classes, which many students attend, have ended for the day.

Last spring, MDE opened an investigation after press reports raised questions about whether TiZA has been blurring the church/state line. The investigation focused on the school's 30-minute Friday communal prayer event, among other issues. The service -- led by adults -- has been conducted on school premises, and both students and teachers have attended.

In a report issued in May, the MDE concluded that TiZA's Friday prayer event violated the law and since then has been working with the school to make changes.

"We wanted TiZA to do Friday prayers the way all other public schools" handle similar activities -- "as release time, under state law," said Anderson. In a release-time arrangement, students move off-site for religious activities.

But TiZA said no, according to Anderson. Instead, the school will continue to hold Friday prayer on its premises. Students will lead prayer and staff will be present only "to ensure student safety," said Zaman in a letter to the MDE.

In a response to Zaman's letter, Anderson wrote complaining of what she called the "defensive tone" of the letter in which he set forth the school's intentions. "It is inaccurate for TiZA to imply that MDE's legal concerns regarding the school's operations ... were unfounded," she wrote, "and it is of utmost importance that TiZA take seriously its responsibility to comply with applicable state and federal laws."

TiZA now says it will shorten Friday prayers -- whose length has been a potential concern because of instructional time requirements -- though it has not said by how much.

MDE has agreed that TiZA's new arrangement on after-school bus transportation will bring the school into legal compliance on that issue. But the department is highly skeptical that TiZA's proposed arrangement for on-site, student-led Friday prayers will work.

Track the situation closely

We are "very troubled by it," said Anderson in an interview. "This may look good on paper. But how can you have an assembly with older students in charge of younger students?" she said. MDE plans to track the situation closely and conduct site visits.

Asked to respond to MDE's continuing concerns, the school issued a statement through spokesman Blois Olson saying: "TiZA Academy has reached agreement with the Department of Education ... and will continue to work with the department to ensure that we continue to be in compliance with all state and federal laws."

While TiZA and the department don't agree about the Friday prayer service -- even over whether they have an agreement on it -- there are other religious accommodations at the school that raise questions. In its May report, for example, MDE said that regularly scheduled daily prayers at TiZA appear to pass legal muster because they are "voluntary and student-led."

But imagine the reaction if prayer time -- reflecting only one faith -- were built into the schedule at, say, Stillwater Junior High.

Asked if other public schools would be allowed to accommodate religion the way that TiZA accommodates Islam, Anderson said: "We sought guidance, we want guidance" from federal sources and the Minnesota attorney general, "but no one will give us a black and white answer."

MDE says there are broader questions at issue. "This upcoming legislative session may be an appropriate forum" for "a serious discussion about the appropriateness of sectarian organizations sponsoring publicly-funded nonsectarian charter schools in the first place," said Anderson in a statement Monday.

For now, she added, "This is a gray area. School authorities at TiZA know it's a gray area, and they are walking right up to and over that line."

1 comment:

Iftikhar Ahmad said...

Muslim youths are angry, frustrated and extremist because they have been mis-educated and de-educated by the British schooling. Muslim children are confused because they are being educated in a wrong place at a wrong time in state schools with non-Muslim monolingual teachers. They face lots of problems of growing up in two distinctive cultural traditions and value systems, which may come into conflict over issues such as the role of women in the society, and adherence to religious and cultural traditions. The conflicting demands made by home and schools on behaviour, loyalties and obligations can be a source of psychological conflict and tension in Muslim youngsters. There are also the issues of racial prejudice and discrimination to deal with, in education and employment. They have been victim of racism and bullying in all walks of life. According to DCSF, 56% of Pakistanis and 54% of Bangladeshi children has been victims of bullies. The first wave of Muslim migrants were happy to send their children to state schools, thinking their children would get a much better education. Than little by little, the overt and covert discrimination in the system turned them off. There are fifteen areas where Muslim parents find themselves offended by state schools.

The right to education in one’s own comfort zone is a fundamental and inalienable human right that should be available to all people irrespective of their ethnicity or religious background. Schools do not belong to state, they belong to parents. It is the parents’ choice to have faith schools for their children. Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is no place for a non-Muslim teacher or a child in a Muslim school. There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim children are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools. An ICM Poll of British Muslims showed that nearly half wanted their children to attend Muslim schools. There are only 143 Muslim schools. A state funded Muslim school in Birmingham has 220 pupils and more than 1000 applicants chasing just 60.

Majority of anti-Muslim stories are not about terrorism but about Muslim
culture--the hijab, Muslim schools, family life and religiosity. Muslims in the west ought to be recognised as a western community, not as an alien culture.
Iftikhar Ahmad