Wall of silence broken at state’s Muslim public school
By KATHERINE KERSTEN
Recently, I wrote about Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), a K-8 charter school in Inver Grove Heights. Charter schools are public schools and by law must not endorse or promote religion.
Evidence suggests, however, that TIZA is an Islamic school, funded by Minnesota taxpayers.
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.
Zaman maintains that TIZA is not a religious school. He declined, however, to allow me to visit the school to see for myself, “due to the hectic schedule for statewide testing.” But after I e-mailed him that the Minnesota Department of Education had told me that testing would not begin for several weeks, Zaman did not respond — even to urgent calls and e-mails seeking comment before my first column on TIZA.
Now, however, an eyewitness has stepped forward. Amanda Getz of Bloomington is a substitute teacher. She worked as a substitute in two fifth-grade classrooms at TIZA on Friday, March 14. Her experience suggests that school-sponsored religious activity plays an integral role at TIZA.
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.
Why does the Minnesota Department of Education allow this sort of religious activity at a public school? According to Zaman, the department inspects TIZA regularly — and has done so “numerous times” — to ensure that it is not a religious school.
But the department’s records document only three site visits to TIZA in five years — two in 2003-04 and one in 2007, according to Assistant Commissioner Morgan Brown. None of the visits focused specifically on religious practices.
For the rest of the article you can go HERE
Kersten requested a visit to the school to see for herself, that visit was declined by TIZA’s executive director, Asad Zaman, is a Muslim imam, or religious leader, and its sponsor is an organization called Islamic Relief.
According to the US Department of Education is a written statement it says:
The guidance clarifies the rights of students to pray in public schools. As stated in the guidance, “…the First Amendment forbids religious activity that is sponsored by the government but protects religious activity that is initiated by private individuals” such as students. Therefore, “[a]mong other things, students may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, and pray or study religious materials with fellow students during recess, the lunch hour, or other noninstructional time to the same extent that they may engage in nonreligious activities.” Public schools should not be hostile to the religious rights of their students and their families.
At the same time, school officials may not “compel students to participate in prayer or other religious activities.” Nor may teachers, school administrators and other school employees, when acting in their official capacities as representatives of the state, encourage or discourage prayer, or participate in such activities with students.
Students are allowed to pray, but the school is not allowed to force them nor “encourage” them to do so.
This makes the substitutes teacher’s witnessing the students being required to go to the prayer assembly and well as the school officials pushing them to do, illegal under the law.
Wild Thing’s comment……..
Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), named for the Muslim conquerer of Spain. General Tarek ibn Ziyad’s bloody battle marked the beginning of the Muslim rule of Spain in the eighth century. chiefly remembered for one incident in particular. Landing in Spain, he ordered the Muslim forces’ boats to be burned, and then told his soldiers: “Brothers in Islam! We now have the enemy in front of us and the deep sea behind us. We cannot return to our homes, because we have burnt our boats. We shall now either defeat the enemy and win or die a coward’s death by drowning in the sea. Who will follow me?” The soldiers, crying “Allahu akbar,” rushed ahead and defeated a vastly superior Spanish force.
Does the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy represent the same idea for those who founded it and now operate it?
….Thank you Lynn for sending this to me.