Islamic Academy Protested
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
More than a dozen people protested yesterday outside a private Islamic school in Fairfax County that critics say promotes religious intolerance and violence against people of other faiths.
The demonstration at the Islamic Saudi Academy on Route 1 was coordinated by the Traditional Values Coalition, a church lobbying group that accuses the school of using textbooks that teach children to kill. A recent study by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom found that some of the school's textbooks say it is permissible for Muslims to kill adulterers and converts from Islam.
"These children are being taught to hate," Andrea Lafferty, the coalition's executive director, said in an interview after the protest, during which demonstrators waved signs saying "Honk to Stop Islamic Terrorism" and "This Saudi School Is Anti-Semitic and Anti-Christian."
A woman who identified herself as the school's educational director but would not give her name declined to comment. Abdalla I. Al-Shabnan, the school's director general, said in an interview in January that students have never been taught to hate.
Al-Shabnan was arrested last week in an unrelated matter and charged with failing to report to authorities an allegation that a 5-year-old student had been sexually abused by a family member, Fairfax County police said yesterday. Virginia law requires that such reports be filed within 72 hours after an abuse allegation is discovered.
An affidavit for a warrant to search the school said Al-Shabnan acknowledged to police that he was aware of the allegation but said he did not believe the girl and thought she might have been trying to get attention. He was charged June 9 with failing to report the complaint and obstruction of justice; the affidavit said he ordered a written report of the allegation deleted from the school's computer.
Al-Shabnan, who faces up to 12 months in prison if convicted, was released on a personal recognizance bond but could not be located for comment yesterday. Court records said he did not have an attorney.
His arrest is the latest controversy for the school, which is funded by the Saudi Embassy. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors extended the school's lease for a year last month after Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) reviewed the academy's curriculum materials with the help of an Arabic translator. Hyland said he found no reason for serious concern.
Staff writer Tom Jackman contributed to this report.