Most Americans wouldn’t like it if they knew that a foreign government had built a school in the United States which teaches hatred of Americans and their country.  Indeed, most Americans wouldn’t like it if they knew a foreign government had built a school here that teaches hatred of anyone or anything.  Then again, most Americans don’t know the Saudi government runs two schools in Fairfax, Virginia, under the name Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA), and they certainly don’t know what that academy teaches.  But thanks to President George W. Bush, they may know that “Islam is a religion of peace.”  That raises the distinct possibility that, even if they knew about ISA, they wouldn’t much care.  No good American can oppose teaching “peace,” after all.

Of course, as anyone familiar with it knows, peace is not the Islamic Saudi Academy’s profession:  Teaching Islam is.  And what it teaches is of great concern to many observers, not least the myriad senators and congressman who want to shut the place down.  That didn’t stop the Fairfax County board of supervisors from approving the renewal of a lease for one campus last year and, for the other campus, a major expansion that residents of the area opposed on both practical and philosophical grounds.

The latter campus sits in the rolling Virginia countryside, on the former grounds of a Christian academy that had so much trouble with the county when it tried to expand that it sold the site to the Saudis.  As in Europe, Christianity is retreating before the onslaught of Islam.

The Saudi government bought the property in question, located on Popes Head Road, in 1984, and then purchased a piece of land in nearby Loudon County.  Protests by Loudon County residents in 2004 ended plans for a 3,500-student, 12-grade school, so the Saudis decided to expand the facility on Popes Head Road.  Saudi officials notified the locals in 2007.  The fight went on for some time, with opponents of the school also trying last year to stop the county from renewing the Saudi government’s lease on another campus near Alexandria, just a stone’s throw from George Washington’s Mount Vernon.  That effort failed, with then-chairman of the county board of supervisors Gerald Connolly (now a U.S. congressman) calling opponents bigots.  The county signed a $2.2 million lease on the property.  And thanks to an August vote by the county board of supervisors, which included a Republican’s last-minute switch in favor of the expansion, the school will add another 100,000-square-foot classroom building at the site on Popes Head Road.  The building will include a mosque, and the size of the student body will rise from about 600 to 1,200 students.

What should have been the weakest argument against the academy—worries over traffic—turned out to be the strongest.  Some people opposed the expansion, they said, not because they feared what kind of graduates would emerge, but because the two-lane road would be clogged with cars and school buses.  As one opponent put it, “I have no issues whatsoever with the religion that the people practice, their ethnicity . . . That is totally irrelevant.”  That argument was weak for a simple reason: If officials could have resolved the traffic problem, opponents would have lost any grounds for standing against the expansion.

A better argument came from Jim Lafferty, a former Reagan-administration official who runs the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force (VAST) and stated frankly that he does not want the school to expand because he considers it a madrassa—a Muslim religious school.  The academy teaches Wahhabism, a particularly virulent form of Islam found in Saudi Arabia.  The Saudis operate 19 such institutions around the world.

Though VAST used some practical arguments about traffic and zoning in its campaign against the school, Lafferty is more concerned about the school’s naked political ideology.  He believes the academy is the proverbial tip of the spear in the push to impose sharia in the United States.  “We think Sharia is a political ideology,” he says, echoing Chronicles’ former foreign-affairs editor Srdja Trifkovic, who argues that American authorities should treat Islam the way they used to treat communism: as a hostile and subversive political doctrine.  “Catholic schools don’t tell us we must abandon the constitution,” Lafferty says.  “They don’t insist that we restructure civil rights.  Under Sharia, only males who practice Islam have rights.”

The evidence that Lafferty and his allies marshaled in their losing battle included the school’s curriculum, textbooks, and a few of its more illustrious graduates.  Visitors to the school would know they were in alien territory when they saw that classroom maps, according to one report, do not feature Israel.

The textbooks are full of Islamic imprecations about Jews and infidels.  An analysis by the bipartisan U.S. Commission On International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) showed the books promoted a number of noxious and hateful doctrines.  “The most problematic texts involve passages that are not directly from the Koran but rather contain the Saudi government’s particular interpretation of Koranic and other Islamic texts,” the commission reported.  The textbooks “clearly exhort the readers to commit acts of violence.”

For instance, 12th-grade textbooks have taught that murdering apostates and adulterers is permissible, and that oppressing non-Wahhabi Muslims is acceptable because they are “polytheists.”  Students read that the “Jews conspired against Islam and its people,” and that taking the life and property of non-Muslims in non-Muslim countries is acceptable.  And not surprisingly, students learn to prosecute jihad: “Only through force and victory over the enemies is there security and repose,” one textbook states.  “Within martyrdom in the path of God (exalted and glorified is He) is a type of noble life-force that is not diminished by fear or poverty.”  And that’s just a small sample of objectionable material that somehow escaped the attention of the hate-watchers at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In 2007, the USCIRF recommended that Congress close the school until its curriculum and textbooks could be fully vetted; even liberal members of Congress agreed.  In 2007, a group of congressman, led by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), introduced a bill calling upon the State Department to enact the commission’s recommendations.  Wolf has penned seven letters—five to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and two to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the latest in March—calling for action.  He reminded Clinton that the Foreign Missions Act of 1982 obliges the State Department to monitor foreign missions in the United States, and that “[c]ontinued inaction on the part of the department is inexcusable.”  Wolf also observed that, while the academy says it has excised offensive material from textbooks, the Associated Press reported in March “that enough sensitive material remains to fuel critics who claim the books show intolerance toward those who do not follow strict interpretations of Islam.”  Wolf wants the department to convene a panel of experts “to definitively [sic] translate and interpret the textbooks and determine exactly what is being taught at ISA.”  To date, he has not received a “satisfactory reply.”  Apparently, those charged with running national security are not concerned that an arm of the Saudi government is operating a school in the United States whose students learn to hate and kill.  “This issue needs to be resolved,” Wolf said in March.

The State Department has a role to play in this controversy and needs to help resolve the issue.  If there is still a problem, let’s address it.  If not, let’s report that, too.  The bottom line is there needs to be resolution to this issue.  It’s time to settle this.


A bipartisan group of 12 senators agrees.  Led by John Kyl (R-AZ) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), they want the ISA closed until the textbook issue is resolved.

Whatever the disposition of the textbooks, one thing is certain.  The school’s graduates and employees have compiled résumés that would make Osama bin Laden proud.  Among them are Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, who was sentenced to life in prison for plotting with Al Qaeda to assassinate President George W. Bush.  At first he received a mere 30 years, but an appellate judge said the sentence was too lenient.  In July, Ali went to prison for life.  He was the valedictorian of his ISA class in 1999 and, according to investigative journalist Paul Sperry, voted “most likely to become a martyr.”

ISA principal Abdalla I. Al-Shabnan was convicted and fined for failing to report the suspected sexual abuse of a five-year-old student.  Instead of telling police, the principal told the parents to put the girl into therapy.  Police say he ordered a report on the abuse deleted from a school computer.

Ismail Elbarasse had been a comptroller at ISA for more than a dozen years when police collared him and his wife five years ago for videotaping the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  The same day he was arrested, he was named as an unindicted coconspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror-funding trial.  According to the Dallas Morning News, prosecutors unearthed documents in Elbarasse’s home connecting him to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim Brotherhood to Hamas, the ultimate recipient of the Holy Land Foundation’s funds.  One of the documents said the Muslim Brotherhood must pursue

a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.


In 1998, Elbarasse landed in jail for nine months for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating the funding of Hamas.  He shared a bank account with Mousi Abu Marzook, a man the Dallas Morning News called the “acknowledged political leader of Hamas.”

Given the textbooks and these two characters, the latter of whom is running free, it’s no wonder critics of the school are worried about its expansion.  Yet ISA may not have been able to expand were it not for Representative Connolly, who accused opponents of bigotry and, according to the Traditional Values Coalition, repeatedly shouted “slander” at them when they tried to report on the notorious curriculum.

Why did Connolly so vehemently defend Islam?  Examining federal campaign-contribution records, Sperry learned that Connolly accepted “thousands of dollars in donations from Saudi bagmen—including some whose homes and offices were raided after 9/11 on suspicion of terror financing.”  He also took money from a cofounder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, both unindicted coconspirators in the Hamas terrorfunding trial with deep connections to the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood.

And that brings us to the door of Esam Omeish.  Chronicles readers will remember Omeish, a surgeon who worked on the Pentagon victims after the September 11 attack.  In early 2007, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine appointed Omeish to a state commission studying immigration, but Omeish was forced to resign after a video was posted on YouTube that features him ranting about Jews and jihad.  Omeish has many connections to radical Islam, not least of which is his leadership in the mosque that prepped several of the September 11 hijackers for martyrdom.  According to Paul Sperry, an authority on the “Wahhabi Corridor” in Northern Virginia, the mosque is a “turnstile for terrorists.”  Moreover, Omeish used his house as collateral to get ISA’s Elbarrase out of jail after authorities caught him casing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Lafferty believes the academy “is engaged in activities which threaten the general welfare of residents of Fairfax County, America and Israel,” and he has several more cards to play.  Several Christian churches, he says, allege the county government gave the school more favorable treatment than their churches.  The academy and its American employees could also be breaking tax laws: “ISA is in a regulatory ‘Twilight Zone,’” Lafferty says.  Although the embassy of Saudi Arabia owns and operates the school, “it does not claim any privilege associated with diplomatic territory.  We cannot find any record of any taxes being paid or of any taxes deducted from the paychecks of American citizens there.”

Given the nature of the textbooks and the school’s bald support for jihad, Lafferty does not believe that a success in shutting the school would succumb to a challenge on First Amendment grounds.  “Hate speech such as the anti-American and anti-Semitic material we see in the texts currently in use at ISA does not come under the First Amendment’s definition of ‘protected’ speech.”  Courts may also rule that the Saudi government does not hold the same free-speech rights as a U.S. citizen.

Lafferty has been called a bigot, an Islamophobe, an Israel-lover.  He has received death threats by both telephone and e-mail.  VAST won’t find an ally in Fairfax County government until voters dramatically change the complexion of the board of supervisors; the board permitted county officials to promote via their e-mail a dinner sponsored by the ISA.  While such change seems unlikely in blue Northern Virginia, Lafferty says, “we are actively identifying candidates to run against Republicans and Democrats” because “candidates emerging to challenge members of the board of supervisors will increase the chance of some action by the Fairfax County government.”

A 15-minute backup and a few school buses on Popes Head Road just outside Washington, D.C., are the least of the problems ISA presents.  Contrary to the multicultural sentiments of the open-minded lady who opposed the school because of traffic, religion is relevant.  It isn’t just one reason to oppose the academy; it may be the only reason.  Yet getting Americans to understand this truth may be impossible in this age of indifferentism, when all too many Christians cannot explain why Islam is incompatible with the Christian conception of God and man and the political order that conception inspired.

However weak those Christians are, the Democratic Party is worse.  Consider not just Connolly, who accepts money from suspect Islamic sources, but Omeish.  Last year, the Democrats permitted him to run on their ticket for Virginia’s General Assembly despite the public record of his connections to the September 11 mosque and his YouTube fanaticism.  The party isn’t merely liberal.  It’s anti-American and anti-Christian, and permits outlanders and subversives to march as candidates under its banderole.  Then again, a Republican voted for the Islamic Saudi Academy’s expansion as well, so Democrats can’t take all the blame.