Why is Public Funding Going to a Muslim School? April 9, 2008

Why is Public Funding Going to a Muslim School?

Charter schools, like public schools, receive government money and must therefore stay out of the religion debate. That is to say there should be no proselytizing in the classroom one way or the other. The schools must remain secular.

Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) is a K-8 charter school in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. There’s not a single mention of Islam on the school’s website, not even on the description page.

Yet, the school is completely tearing down the wall of separation of state and mosque.

Katherine Kersten of the Star Tribune says that “TIZA is an Islamic school, funded by Minnesota taxpayers.

What does she mean by that?

TIZA has many characteristics that suggest a religious school. It shares the headquarters building of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, whose mission is “establishing Islam in Minnesota.” The building also houses a mosque. TIZA’s executive director, Asad Zaman, is a Muslim imam, or religious leader, and its sponsor is an organization called Islamic Relief.

Students pray daily, the cafeteria serves halal food – permissible under Islamic law — and “Islamic Studies” is offered at the end of the school day.

Some of that seems benign… Islamic students have a right to pray (if they choose) and the school can offer programs for a heavily Islamic student population.

But Kersten has a smoking gun: Amanda Getz was a substitute teacher at the school one day last month.

Getz has plenty of evidence that suggests TIZA is completely overstepping its bounds.

She gives us insight into how TIZA is a taxpayer-funded Islamic school.

Arriving on a Friday, the Muslim holy day, she says she was told that the day’s schedule included a “school assembly” in the gym after lunch.

Before the assembly, she says she was told, her duties would include taking her fifth-grade students to the bathroom, four at a time, to perform “their ritual washing.”

Afterward, Getz said, “teachers led the kids into the gym, where a man dressed in white with a white cap, who had been at the school all day,” was preparing to lead prayer. Beside him, another man “was prostrating himself in prayer on a carpet as the students entered.”

“The prayer I saw was not voluntary,” Getz said. “The kids were corralled by adults and required to go to the assembly where prayer occurred.”

Islamic Studies was also incorporated into the school day. “When I arrived, I was told ‘after school we have Islamic Studies,’ and I might have to stay for hall duty,” Getz said. “The teachers had written assignments on the blackboard for classes like math and social studies. Islamic Studies was the last one — the board said the kids were studying the Qu’ran. The students were told to copy it into their planner, along with everything else. That gave me the impression that Islamic Studies was a subject like any other.

After school, Getz’s fifth-graders stayed in their classroom and the man in white who had led prayer in the gym came in to teach Islamic Studies. TIZA has in effect extended the school day — buses leave only after Islamic Studies is over. Getz did not see evidence of other extra-curricular activity, except for a group of small children playing outside. Significantly, 77 percent of TIZA parents say that their “main reason for choosing TIZA … was because of after-school programs conducted by various non-profit organizations at the end of the school period in the school building,” according to a TIZA report. TIZA may be the only school in Minnesota with this distinction.

How does something like this happen?

While Zaman says the school has been inspected “numerous times” by the Minnesota Department of Education, the MDoE only documents three visits to the school in five years, none of which focused on the school’s religious practices.

Zaman says the prayers are student-led and voluntary. Getz certainly didn’t think that was the case.

Kersten writes:

… prayer at TIZA does not appear to be spontaneously initiated by students, but rather scheduled, organized and promoted by school authorities.

How long will it be until the state puts a stop to this?

Some reviews are already underway.

The ACLU of Minnesota has launched an investigation of TIZA, and the Minnesota Department of Education has also begun a review.

Kersten gives us a final bit of analysis:

TIZA’s operation as a public, taxpayer-funded school is troubling on several fronts. TIZA is skirting the law by operating what is essentially an Islamic school at taxpayer expense. The Department of Education has failed to provide the oversight necessary to catch these illegalities, and appears to lack the tools to do so. In addition, there’s a double standard at work here — if TIZA were a Christian school, it would likely be gone in a heartbeat.

TIZA is now being held up as a national model for a new kind of charter school. If it passes legal muster, Minnesota taxpayers may soon find themselves footing the bill for a separate system of education for Muslims.

This story needs to be spread — hell, it’s a topic on which atheists and Christians should all be able to agree.

It’d be nice if Muslim Congressmen Keith Ellison and Andre Carson spoke out against public funding of this school as well.

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • That is pretty disturbing, especially the fact that the buses do not leave at all until after Islamic Studies is over. It becomes pretty clear at that point that the school is shattering all separation of church and state barriers. I don’t think this would have gotten as much attention though if it were a Christian school. For every one school of another religion abusing its state funding on religion, there are probably a dozen Christian schools doing the same thing.

  • Katherine Kersten is hardly a secularist. She constantly complains about how god is being kept out of the public schools. She is good at trying to protect secularism when muslims are involved.

    That being said, I am glad to see an investigation into this. I have never been a big fan of charter schools, sometimes they are little more than publicly funded opportunities for a homeschool agenda. The charter school movement often masks weak curricula with a questionable focus. We have had paramilitary charter schools, we have had a run of poorly managed schools. Charter schools are like privately run prisons, many are run well but there is little monitoring to make sure that they actually stick to the benchmarks set by the state.

    If it takes Christians complaining about Muslim schools to shed light on the problem of public funding of religious schools, I’ll take it.

  • Justagirl

    Yes, like always. Let us force the Moslems to speak out, and if they don’t they must be agreeing with the terrorists! Blah blah blah! What if you are wrong? What if it is the children who are leading the prayer? Oh and honestly, I don’t care if they pray or not. Tax dollars fund so much other junk!!! INcluding our own f’in religious holidays! Why do we get to have established Christmas parties in school? Why must we do the pledge of allegiance? Why must we be brainwashed with all this secular junk? Is this not stupid? Our tax dollars are funding the brainwashing and rotting of brains of our children.

  • Norm

    Usually Kersten is just a religious right shill, but I read this article earlier today and found I finally agreed with her on something. However, I get the strong feeling that she would have stayed quiet if the school had a Christian focus.

  • The story also talks about the school lying about when they were holding exams so as to keep the newspaper from visiting. Can we begin using the phrase ‘Liars for Muhammad’ ?

  • Nobody’s used the M-word (madrassa) yet?

    For the record, I want to point out the cynical reality. Katherine Kersten is not a heroic crusader for church-state separation – she’s simply a right-wing Christian bigot who hates Muslims. Even a double standard is right half the time, so to speak.

  • That’s a great idea for a sitcom… “Minnesota Madrassa”.

  • Steven

    In Ontario, Canada we have two tax-supported school systems – public schools and Catholic schools. As far as I know, other denominations do not receive public funding and a provincial political party leader who recently campaigned with a platform to extend funding to other religious schools was roundly defeated. Even though I can choose which system my tax dollars support, I resent the fact that there are two public systems – one of which I can’t access unless I want to force my children to take religious courses – something I would never do.

  • TXatheist

    Just a piece of advice. As with any group there are nuts and I’ve made a few youtube videos condemning muslims and the nuts do threaten you. To all the good muslims, I’m not talking about you.

  • Brooke

    I never thought I’d agree with Kersten on anything (although the reasons behind the outcry are different). This is probably the first time she has had the ACLU on her side, too. She is one of those people that believes atheists and gays don’t live in her neighborhood.

    If TIZA were a Christian school that had an ACLU inquiry, she would be defending the school.

  • Mriana

    There’s not a single mention of Islam on the school’s website, not even on the description page.

    There are several tip off that it is not a typical “American Christian” school. 1. they teach Arabic and not Latin. Most, not all, Christian schools teach Latin and/or maybe Greek.


    Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy seeks to provide students with a learning environment that recognizes and appreciates the traditions, histories, civilizations and accomplishments of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

    Again, I think for some people this is a tip off that it’s not a typical school that most religious Americans would sent their kid too.

    3. Lastly there is in the upper left hand corner under their banner- Arabic, typical used for Islam.

    As my mother is so fond of saying, “It’s not Christian.” So, I have to ask myself the same question Hemant is asking, So why is the government that calls itself a Christian Nation funding a Madrasa? The thought is frightening. I would not want my sons or even my grandchildren brainwashed with what is in the Quran. I’ve read the Quran and it is more violent than the Bible, in fact, it encourages prejudice, hatred, violence, discrimination and alike. I would hate for any American child to be brainwashed with that crap.

    I think the ACLU should be fighting against this, not encouraging it, because it is using tax payers’ money to fund a religion far worse then Xianity or Judaism. Government should not be funding any religious school.

  • Man from MN

    The light of day will expose Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy for what it is.

    One common characteristic of Muslim charter schools is that they have trouble understanding the law on public school funding and religious teaching no matter where they are located.

    Google Muslim charter schools and see other taxpayer funded Muslim religious institutions facing exposure in Ohio, California, and Michigan.

    The many faces of Muslim allow it to be a religion, a culture, or a race depending on the circumstances. In the case of charter schools it’s a culture. Such that taxpayer funding can be obtained to enable the propagation of it as a religion. How very convenient.

    Its time to wake up America.

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