Virginia's Islamic Academy on Shaky Legal Ground
An investigation by Pajamas Media has found that more trouble may be on the horizon for the Islamic Saudi Academy and the Saudi Embassy.
PJM first reported on the academy --a school sponsored by the Saudi Embassy-- two weeks ago, when law enforcement authorities raided it looking for evidence that the school's director, Abdullah Al-Shabnan, had covered up sex abuse allegations by a 5-year old student. The raid occurred just three days after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors had renewed the school's lease despite evidence that the school continued to use textbooks promoting violence and religious hatred.
Since then Abdullah Al-Shabnan has been charged with failing to report the child abuse allegations and obstruction of justice. A protest was held last week in front of the academy and it received considerable local media coverage, including from the Washington Post. That coverage no doubt played a role earlier this week when in a stunning about-face the Fairfax Board of Supervisors sent a letter to the State Department asking them to determine whether the lease should be renewed or not in light of the report earlier this month by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that reviewed the academy's textbooks and found that incendiary and hateful passages had not been removed.
The school has issued a press release claiming that the passages have been "mistranslated and misinterpreted," and saying that the "textbooks are no longer at use at the Academy." That contradicts statements made last week by school officials to the media that textbooks will be rewritten and reissued before the beginning of school. Why would the textbooks need to be rewritten if those under scrutiny are no longer in use?
The textbooks are not the only elements of the school that don't hold up under scrutiny.
Virtually all of the establishment media press reports have wrongly claimed that the school operates independently of the embassy as a private entity. Even Tom Casey, the State Department's deputy spokesman, made this error during his June 24 daily press briefing:
QUESTION: I understand that you've received a letter from the -- from Fairfax County asking you whether you could give an opinion on the lease of the Saudi school in Alexandria and whether the county should extend that lease, which I am told it's worth $2.2 million a year. But -- just, I mean, do you expect to pronounce yourselves on that? Is that something that you --
MR. CASEY: Well, I think it's something we've just gotten. We'll certainly take a look at it and see what kind of response would be appropriate, but I -- you know, it's not something we've had a chance to really look through. As you know, this is a school that is incorporated and overseen through the county there. It's not an institution that we have any sort of formal role in accrediting or managing. But certainly, we'll take a look at the letter and if there's some thoughts or advice that we can offer, we'll certainly do it.
And State Department spokesman Nichole Thompson has also said:
This is a private school. It is not a part of the Saudi embassy. It is not part of a diplomatic mission.
These claims by State Department officials make clear their position that the Islamic Saudi Academy has maintained a separate corporate identity from the Saudi Embassy. But a review of the corporate records on file with the Virginia State Corporation Commission finds that the Islamic Saudi Academy’s corporate charter was terminated by the state on December 27, 2004. There is no indication from state records that the incorporation has been revived or renewed, and the last corporate report the school has filed with the state of Virginia that we could find was 2004 -- the same year its corporate charter was terminated. A check of corporations in neighboring District of Columbia and Maryland found nothing for the academy.