Lease to Saudi Academy renewed

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Fairfax County supervisors voted unanimously last week to continue leasing property to a private Islamic school in Alexandria funded by the Saudi government that its critics say fosters intolerance.

The Islamic Saudi Academy leases its campus in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County for about $2.2 million a year. ISA serves about 900 students in grades K-12.

The vote by the Board of Supervisors extends ISAs lease by one year, through June 2009. The county has leased the land to ISA since 1989.

Last year the Fairfax lease to ISA faced scrutiny after a federal commission recommended in October that ISA be shut down. The school has been criticized for using textbooks which include harsh anti-Semitic and anti-Christian language and teachings.

The U.S. Commission on International Freedom urged the State Department to shut the school down unless it materially changed the textbooks to remove the hateful language. 

A 2006 report analyzing some Saudi textbooks from the 2005-2006 school year found that a ninth grade Saudi textbook on Hadith teaches teenagers in apocalyptic terms that violence towards Jews, Christians and other unbelievers is sanctioned by God, the report said. For example, the textbook reads, the hour [of judgment] will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.

Writer Andrew Cochran, a vocal and longtime critic of the Academy, wrote in his Counterrorism Blog Tuesday that, Apparently, the Board of Supervisors is satisfied that the textbooks were changed. It commissioned a report to translate the newest version of the textbooks, but the Board refuses to release the report. That secrecy is unacceptable in this instance, especially considering that the report was paid for by taxpayers dollars. Either the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors must release the report, or Congress should subpoena it and release it for them.

In its October report, the federal commission urged that the State Department take the necessary steps to shut down the academy unless it could prove that its curriculum was not intolerant. The terms of the countys lease with ISA allows the State Department the ability to terminate the lease if it so chooses.

While critics of the Saudi system say their textbooks promote hatred against Jews, Christians and Shiite Muslims, Academy officials have long contended that their curriculum is tolerant of all faiths, and that they have removed strong language from their texts that describes religious differences or intolerance. 
In its hearings Monday, opponents of extending the lease said that Fairfax County should have released its findings before voting on extending the lease.

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